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Film / The Emperor in August

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The Emperor in August is a 2015 film from Japan directed by Masato Harada.

It is the story of the Japanese government and military high command in the last days of World War II. The story starts in April 1945, with Emperor Hirohito calling on Admiral Kantaro Suzuki to form a new government. Japan is sinking to its knees under the hammer blows of the American armed forces, but there is still a broad determination in the officer corps to fight to the bitter end. Hirohito, who is already looking for a way out but has to worry about a coup from below, appoints his old friend and former Grand Chamberlain, Suzuki, as Prime Minister. Suzuki's job is to prepare the military for surrender. Suzuki then installs General Korechika Anami, a man that he trusts, in the key position of Army Minister.

The first third or so of the film sketches out April to August. Much of what is left of Tokyo is destroyed in another firebombing in May. The Allies send out the Potsdam Declaration in July, spelling out surrender terms, but the Japanese government hesitates. Then the last two-thirds of the film covers August 8-15, 1945. After the Americans drop two nuclear bombs on Japan and the Soviets enter the war on August 8, Hirohito tells his cabinet that he has decided to surrender immediately. Sure enough, the Emperor, Suzuki, and Anami have to face a coup.

The Japanese title of this film actually translates out to Japan's Longest Day. It is a Shout-Out to 1967 film Japan's Longest Day, another movie that dramatized these same events.


  • Armor-Piercing Response: General Tojo tries to talk the emperor into fighting on by appealing to Hirohito's interest in marine biology, making an awkward analogy to the horned turban. Hirohito shoots back that Napoleon spent the first part of his career working for the glory of France, but then started selfishly grabbing power for himself and did great harm to France. Tojo then tries a little Shutting Up Now, and plays no further part in the resistance to surrender.
  • As You Know: Suzuki's history is spelled out for the audience when he is greeted by a courtier saying "Admiral, you served His Majesty for seven years as Grand Chamberlain."
  • Audible Sharpness: This happens when swords are drawn as Hatanaka is murdering General Mori, just after midnight on August 15.
  • Cherry Blossoms: Suzuki is being driven down a road lined with cherry trees. He watches the blossoms falling and murmurs that "There will be no more cherry blossoms if we fight at home." Cherry blossoms are symbolic of Japan of course, and Suzuki is fully aware that with nukes dropping from the sky and the Americans gearing up for a full-scale invasion, Japan may soon be wiped off the earth.
  • Cool Old Guy: Suzuki is 77 years old, stooped, and hard of hearing. He also survived being shot four times by an assassin in the 1930s, and isn't ashamed to brag about it. He is quietly determined to fulfill the Emperor's wishes, even if it gets him killed.
  • Cut Phone Lines: More or less. The rebels invade the radio station and try to make a broadcast on the morning of August 15, calling for continued restistance. A woman at the radio station opens all the circuit breakers, cutting the power so that the radio message can't go out.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hatanaka and the other leaders of the coup shoot themselves on the morning of August 15, after failing to stop Hirohito's broadcast.
  • General Ripper: The Japanese war effort had been run by General Rippers for a while and there are still a lot of them who want to keep fighting, even if it means the entire nation of Japan is destroyed. One wild-eyed officer tells Anami that Japan can win if it employs 20 million people—one fifth of the entire population—as kamikaze.
  • Historical Domain Character: All of them, this being a story of true events.
  • Hopeless War: World War II for Japan by 1945. The Navy has been sunk, what's left of the Air Force can't stop American planes from laying the country to waste, and the Army has been reduced to mobilizing the civilian population, male and female, and arming them with spears. The doves in the government like Suzuki are desperate to surrender while there is something of Japan left to save.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: Anami is startled to see young Japanese women, teenaged girls, going through military drill. Worse, they're drilling with spears.
  • Manly Tears: There's a lot of weeping after Hirohito tells his Cabinet that he's decided on surrendering immediately, starting with Suzuki and including the Emperor himself.
  • The Mutiny: Major Hatanaka leads a desperate last-minute rebellion, a would-be coup that hopes to seize control of the Emperor and prevent his surrender broadcast from going out.
  • Open-Door Opening: The first shot of the film shows a door opening and a scowling Hideki Tojo entering a conference room. Tojo, who was removed as Prime Minister the previous summer but who still has a lot of influence, is insisting that a war hawk be appointed Army Minister.
  • Seppuku: Gen. Anami, having refused to support the coup and thus allowing Hirohito's surrender broadcast to go out, commits ritual suicide on the morning of August 15.
  • Spinning Paper: Le Monde and the Washington Post pop up onscreen to note the death of Hitler.
  • Split Screen: A split screen effect shows Stock Footage of bombs falling from American planes and the firestorms below.