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Film / Purple Sunset

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Purple Sunset (Chinese: 紫日; pinyin: Zĭrì) is a 2001 Chinese film written and directed by Feng Xiaoning. Feng also acted as the film's cinematographer.

Purple Sunset is an anti-war film set in August 1945, at the time when the Japanese were in the throes of defeat during World War II and losing control of mainland China. The film won Best Special Effects at the Huabiao Awards and Best Cinematography at the Golden Rooster Award. It was also voted Best Feature by the audience during the 2001 Hawaii International Film Festival.


Purple Sunset provides the following tropes:

  • Anachronism Stew: Historians point out the APC used by the Soviets in the film was not yet placed into Red Army service as of August 1945.
  • Ate His Gun: After the Emperor's surrender was announced, one Japanese soldier swallows the barrel of his Type 99 bolt action rifle and uses his toe to pull the trigger.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The APC the Soviets ride on is more of an armored truck.
  • Bad Boss: The Japanese air wing commander lies to his subordinates that he would die alongside them, and instead shoots them down if they try to do a water landing.
  • Bayonet Ya: The Japanese mount a bayonet charge on the Soviet troops that got lost in the woods. The rifle bayonet is also the weapon of Akiyoko in which Yang later takes.
  • Big Good: Yang abhors killing no matter how evil the Japanese were. This is one of the reasons why he did not kill Akiyoko and instead took her along so they could get out of the forest. However, in the climax, he does fight the Japanese for self-defense.
  • Bittersweet Ending: As a Foregone Conclusion, we all know Japan was on its path to defeat by the Allies. On the character level, Yang and Nadja manage to survive the events of August Storm and live into their elderlies but Akiyoko and countless comrades lives have been lost, including Yang's grandmother and possibly most of his family and friends.
    • Yang surviving into the 21st Century means that he had to live through the second phase of the Chinese Civil War, The Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
  • Car Fu: How the Japanese officer meets his demise.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Nadja's PPSh-41 which is her primary weapon throughout the film.
    • Yang also uses it to chop wood in the Manchurian forest.
    • When being threatened by a wild tiger, Yang struggles to turn off the safety and once he does, it sprays bullets all over the place thus scaring the tiger.
    • In the final battle, Yang uses the submachine gun against the Japanese.
  • Chekhov's Skill: As a distraught Akiyoko attempts to murder Nadja and Yang with the PPSh-41, it does not fire as Yang unloaded the gun's drum magazine offscreen.
  • Cool Plane: The Red Air Force's La-7 and the Imperial Japanese's Mitsubishi A6M Zero definitely counts at this time of the war.
  • Cool Boat: The U.S. Navy's Lexington-class aircraft carrier, heavily implied to be the USS Saratoga (CV-3) note .
  • Curbstomp Battle: The Soviet T-34 tanks and the La-7 fighter planes easily defeat the meager Japanese defenses of Manchuria.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: What the Japanese do to one of the prisoners of war. See There Is No Kill Like Overkill below. Also doubles as NightmareFuel.
  • Determinator:
    • The Japanese in general. They were determined to fight to the death if it meant saving Japan from Allied invasion.
    • The Japanese Officer who charges at an armored vehicle driven by Nadja only armed with a katana no less!
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Averted. Yang was rescued by Soviet soldiers without shoes so they give him a pair of boots.
  • Driven to Suicide: What many Japanese soldiers and Japanese civilians in Manchuria did when it was announced on radio of the Emperor's unconditional surrender to the Allies. Teenage boys were position into the air force to be used as Kamikaze pilots against American warships.
    • Akiyoko's classmate commits suicide after being cornered by the Soviet tank soldier.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The whole film revolves around a Chinese farmer, a Soviet lieutenant, and a Japanese school girl who have to put aside their differences in order to survive being lost in the Manchurian forest. Has a share of heartwarming, funny, and tear-jerker moments.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Akiyoko's okiagari-koboshi musical doll falls out of her hand as she is mistakenly shot and killed by an overzealosu Japanese officer.
    • The same doll is taken by Yang to serve as a memory of his journey in the Manchurian forest; it is the same doll we see an elderly Yang grasps while he is interviewed by a journalist in Present Day.
  • The '40s
  • The Greatest History Never Told: One of the few non-documentary works set during World War II to focus on the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Imperial Japanese Army have a strict code of Bushido. Because at the time of the Soviet Invasion of Manchuria on August 9, 1945, Japanese situation was already grim so they resorted to suicide tactics such as strapping hand grenades to their bodies and rolling on the underneath of tanks, the infamous Banzai charge and Kamikaze attacks against U.S. Navy warships. Upon Japan's surrender, many soldiers took their own lives distraught after hearing of the news.
  • Idiot Ball: What could have drove the Japanese officer into charging an armored vehicle only armed with a katana?
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Horribly averted as a a young Japanese boy touches a hand grenade during the suicide montage, killing him and everyone near him. The death was offscreen.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Japanese officers are seen with a katana on their belt as in Real Life. One Japanese officer uses it as a futile attempt on Nadja's armored vehicle.
  • Last Villain Stand: Since the film is set where Japan is about to be defeated by the Allies, they mount a desperate Last Stand on the defense of the Home Islands.
  • Knife Nut: Yang's main Weapon of Choice is the rifle bayonet taken from Akiyoko.
  • More Dakka: The PPSh-41 and the Type 11 LMG are the primary machine guns seen in the film.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Nadja goes skinny dipping in a nearby lake when it was announced on the radio that Japan surrendered to the allies.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Yang has one wherein he tries to save Akiyoko from drowning in a bog using the stock of the PPSh-41 submachine gun. Just as Akiyoko grabs it, she shoots both Yang and Nadja. Yang quickly snaps out of this nightmare rather quickly.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Gotta give credit to the Japanese who are willing to charge against Soviet tanks armed with grenades and do a Banzai charge.
    • Yang's grandmother does not show any signs of fear as she is about to be bayonetted by a hesistant Japanese soldier.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: The Japanese Army, many many times, most of which involve executing Chinese civilians for no other reason than For the Evulz.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The group's reaction after the Soviet tank soldier is killed by a mine, realizing that they just entered the mine field.
    • Akiyoko and Yang's reaction when a tiger appears out of nowhere and threatens to attack them.
    • Nadja's reaction when Yang accidentally sets off a Japanese Type 97 grenade.
    • The trio once they realize the fuel from a crashed A6M Zero plane is causing the field to burn around them.
  • Outrun the Fireball: The trio attempt to run from a trail of fire caused by a crashed Japanese fighter plane.
  • Rare Guns: Quite a few are shown used by the Japanese.
    • Among the weapons the Japanese Army are seen using is the rare Type 11 Light Machine gun, a weapon that, by August 1945, was already out of production and supplanted by the far more reliable Type 96 and Type 99 Light Machine guns.
    • Also featured prominently is the Type 92 Heavy Machine gun, the standard-issue heavy machine gun for the Imperial Japanese military.
  • Riding into the Sunset: While not riding into the sunset, the ending shot shows Japanese soldiers throwing away their weapons in a backdrop of a purple sunset.
  • Taking You with Me: Once the Japanese defenders realize that their anti-tank howitzers and light tanks are no match for the mighty Soviet T-34, the soldiers do a Zerg Rush against the Soviet tanks armed with grenades in an effort to get to the underbelly of thank. Many are cutdown by the machine guns but a few make it and successfully disable some T-34 tanks.
    • The Kamikaze pilots, mainly composed of high school boys, attempt to hit an American aircraft carrier. Two pilots successfully do it.
  • Scenery Porn: Establishing shots of the forest in different colors because of the fall season undoubtedly shows how beautiful Manchuria is.
  • Tank Goodness: The mighty T-34 easily destroys the Japanese light tanks in the early stages of the invasion.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: When Yang was forced to bury bodies of dead Chinese soldiers or communist guerrillas, he finds one still alive among the pile. The Japanese proceed to place the wounded person in a sack, douse him with fuel, and burn him alive. They then strap grenades to the sack and throw it to river, laughing maniacally as it explodes.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In climax, the peaceful Chinese farmer Yang commandeers Nadja's PPSh-41 as he guns down several Japanese soldiers while riding an APC commandeered by Nadja.
  • Turn of the Millennium: The Present Day scenes involving an elderly Yang being interviewed by a Chinese journalist and an elderly Nadja visiting a World War II memorial in Moscow is set in August 2000, 65 years after the Soviet Invasion of Manchuria.
    • A foreword later states that the elderly Yang later visited the same forest on September 2, 2001.
  • War Is Hell: The main theme of the film.


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