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Literature / Rising Sun

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Rising Sun is a 1992 internationally best-selling novel by Michael Crichton about a murder in the Los Angeles headquarters of Nakamoto, a fictional Japanese corporation. The book was published by Alfred A. Knopf. It was adapted into a not-so-warmly received film in 1993 which starred Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, Harvey Keitel, and Mako.

Although a detective/murder mystery novel at first glance, Rising Sun deals with the controversial subject of Japanese-American relations, and questions the premise that foreign direct investment in the high-technology sectors of the United States is beneficial. Throughout the book, differences between the Japanese and Western mindsets are highlighted, especially in the areas of business strategy and corporate culture.

This Novel contains examples of:

  • Abandon the Disabled: Theresa Asakuma was born with a deformed hand, and was shunned by her neighbors and relatives in Japan; she came to America to escape this discrimination.
  • Author Filibuster: A staple Crichton trope. In this case, Captain John Connor is more than happy to educate Lieutenant Peter J. Smith on the vast cultural differences between Japan and America, as well as the various underhanded business tactics Japan uses to maintain their technological edge over America. This takes up a portion of the book because the author is trying to get his stance on Japanese-American relations across.
  • Big Bad: The Japanese in general, but Masao Ishiguro is the one of immediate concern to Smith and Connor.
  • Boring, but Practical: Connor summarizes the difference between the Japanese and American approaches to business as a game of baseball where every American player tries to hit a home run and sometimes succeeds, while every Japanese player deliberately hits a single and moves his team steadily around the bases.
  • But Not Too Foreign: For once, a Western version.
    • The Japanese-American coroner complains about a representative from the Nakamoto corporation being pushy, demanding, and haughty. When Smith asks why the Japanese would treat their own so badly, the coroner says it's because he was born abroad - he might as well be a foreigner, by Japanese standards.
    • Theresa (Jingo in the film) is half-black, half-Japanese, and is all too happy to side with the Americans out of pure spite from the horrendous upbringing she suffered in Japan, as racist kids in a fairly enclosed and traditional village would torment her, as well as her extended family shunning her and her mother.
  • The Conspiracy: A call girl is murdered to frame a Senator who opposes the sale of an American high-tech firm to a Japanese corporation, and then the tapes of him "killing" her (he actually only knocks her unconscious and the Big Bad does the real dirty work) are altered to frame yet another character who opposed this Japanese corporation.
  • Conspiracy Thriller: A new variant - the conspiracy technothriller.
  • Disney Villain Death: At the end of the book, Ishiguro throws himself off a 46th-floor balcony after it is exposed that he was the murderer all along.
  • Dirty Cop: Smith split a bribe with Graham from a rich domestic abuser, justifying it as trying to support his pregnant wife. It bites him in the ass during the story, as it turns out to be the reason the Japanese government offered him the high-paying and prestigious Special Services Liaison status despite not speaking a word of Japanese - it meant that he could be blackmailed into silence in cases such as this. Connor insists that Smith's case is not unique - that not only does every other SSL in the LAPD have similar events in their pasts, but that Japanese corporations make a point of gathering dirt on police officers, justifying it by seeing corrupt individuals as indicative of a corrupt nation.
  • Domestic Abuse: Eddie Sakamura initially comes across as this.
  • Driven to Suicide: First, Morton shoots himself to death because he thinks that his political career will be over once news of the killing gets out. Then, Ishiguro, the real Big Bad who framed Morton, jumps off of a 46-story balcony at the end, knowing he would be shunned for the rest of his life in Japan even if he wasn't arrested.
  • Enhance Button: A realistic example. An audio-video wizard is able to expose a doctored videotape by examining in detail, pointing out the airbrushing and extra shadows. She is unable to magically restore lost information, but she is able to reconstruct the face of a witness who happens to have an un-doctored copy of the tape.
  • Failed Future Forecast: The major theme of the story is how the unscrupulous Japanese are buying out America and dominating the world economy. But both the book and the movie became immediately dated after the Japanese economy entered a serious decline in the early '90s and entered the "Lost Decade," from which Japan had only just started to rebound from in 2015. Crichton's stern warnings about Japan taking over the world now seem moot, if not downright alarmist.
  • Going Native:
    • Connor ended up doing this after spending time in Japan, which helps him and Smith navigate the murder investigation.
    • Theresa (Jingo in the film) was tormented by children in the small, conservative Japanese town she grew up in. Since she arrived in America, she has taken it up as her new homeland and despises the Japanese.
  • Inscrutable Oriental: Several times, Crichton stresses that the Japanese are completely incompatible, alien, and hostile by Western standards.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: This is the central theme of the story, and it's hard to miss. Japanese culture is repeatedly portrayed as a threat to America.
  • Of the People: Connor admits he is torn by his experiences; he often looks like the smartest person in the room next to xenophobic cops like Graham, loves Japan and deeply admires its culture, but admits that even his best Japanese friends never really forgive him for not being Japanese.
  • Oh, Crap!: Once Connor, Smith, and Jingo prove Ishiguro's involvement in the murder in front of the Nakamoto conference room, the Nakamoto executives reflexively back away from Ishiguro and a calm Yoshida-san.
  • Straw Character: The Japanese are portrayed as racist, misogynistic, ultraconservative, and secretly plotting to take over the world.
  • Tour Guide Detective: The murder investigation of the story was used to examine Japanese-US relations in the late 80s, and provide an opportunity for several author tracts about Japan Takes Over the World throughout the story.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Theresa is not only half-black and half-Japanese, but she's also of Burakumin note  descent and is physically crippled, missing a hand from a birth defect — both of which are very impure by Japanese standards.
  • Yellow Peril: A more modern example. The story portrays Japanese culture as more practical, effective, and elegant than American culture and very bigoted and ruthless. The story argues that we should be afraid of Japan taking over, so we should learn from them.

The Film contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: When confronted by a bodyguard at Sakamura's estate who informs Connor he is a black belt, Connor's response: "But of course, you are, dear", is a direct reference or homage to a famous exchange in Diamonds Are Forever between James Bond and Plenty O'Toole:
    Plenty O'Toole: Hi, I'm Plenty.
    James Bond: But of course you are.
  • Adaptation Distillation: To make the film more politically correct, writer/director Phillip Kaufman made the main villain an American — Bob Richmond, who was only a minor character in the book. Unlike Ishiguro in the book, he doesn't commit suicide and runs off, only to get drowned in wet concrete by Eddie Sakamura's friends in retaliation.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Bob Richmond, who was just a minor character in the novel, is revealed to be the murderer in this movie.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: A bouncer warns Connor that he's a "black belt." Connor just hits him in the throat and walks by.
  • Big Bad: Different than who it was in the book — Bob Richmond.
  • Body Sushi: One rather blatant Fanservice scene in the movie has Eddie doing this to one of two girls in a threesome.
  • But Not Too Foreign: In the film, Ishihara recounts how the U.S. government blocked the sale of a major corporation to the Japanese out of concern over "foreign ownership," then turned around and sold that same major corporation to the French.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When threatened by a hulking bouncer, Connor hits him in the throat before the guy knows it's coming and walks by.
  • Cool Car: Eddie's Vector W8, an American supercar. Sadly, it gets wrecked during a brief chase.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The film treats Bob Richmond, the lone white employee of a Japanese company, as a traitor. He's ultimately revealed to be the killer.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Richmond gets drowned and buried in wet concrete.
  • Driven to Suicide: Averted for Ishiguro (renamed Ishihara) in the film, in which the Nakamoto Corporation demotes him and permanently puts him in a cubicle back in Japan. Connor explains how this is effectively a Fate Worse than Death for Ishiguro. Played straight for the company's head of security, who the police mistake for Eddie as he was driving his car during the escape.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original novel, Richmond is a minor character who survives the events of the plot. Here, he's changed to be the Big Bad and gets karmically drowned in wet concrete at the end of the film.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: The film has Connor and Web get into a gratuitous karate fight with some Japanese mooks. This was probably why Wesley Snipes was cast.
  • Fate Worse than Death: After his involvement in the murder is exposed, Ishihara is disgraced and demoted to a lowly desk job back in Japan, which Connor explains amounts to this. In the book, his character just killed himself to avoid this.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Not played for laughs. When Graham and Smith rush in to arrest Eddie, one of his two completely nude molls leaps on Smith punching and kicking him; not very effectively, but Eddie escapes because of it.
  • Interrogation Flashback: The story unfolds via the interrogation of Lieutenant Web, concerning his handling of the murder at the Nakamoto Corporation and his involvement with Connor. It is shown through a series of flashbacks from Web's POV.
  • Meaningful Name: Jingo, as in "jingoism."
  • Mighty Whitey: Connor is a white man who fully understands Japanese culture and can use it against the Japanese. He's essentially portrayed as the best of both worlds.
  • Race Lift: In the book, the main character was Peter Smith, a white male. Here, he's a black man named "Web" Smith, played by Wesley Snipes.
  • Red Herring: Three times in the film:
    • Eddie Sakamura had a volatile relationship with Cheryl, but he did not kill her.
    • Senator Morton had sex with Cheryl and indulged her erotic asphyxiation, but he did not kill her either.
    • Neither did Ishihara, who covered for the real killer to protect the company.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: Blatantly done for Fanservice, Graham and Smith rush in to arrest Eddie while he's with two women.
  • Yellow Peril: The plot is centered on contemporary American fears of Japanese business usurping American dominance.