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YMMV / Sayonara

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  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Miyoshi Umeki is the sixth billed cast member but she became the first Asian actress to win an Academy Award.
  • Fair for Its Day: Japan is portrayed as a land of geishas, Takarazuka, kabuki, bunraku, pagoda, arched bridges, and cherry blossoms; Japanese women as delicate doll-like creatures who exist to scrub their husbands' backs — demure lotus blossom stereotype right out the wazoo. Still, when it came to sympathetic portrayals of Japan and interracial relationships in 1957, the pickings were pretty slim.
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  • Genius Bonus: The middle of the movie has a scene set during the Tanabata festival. Tanabata honors two legendary Star-Crossed Lovers who married quickly but were forced apart. Sure enough after this scene Kelly is reassigned back to America.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In real life Marlon Brando would later have an interracial relationship - with Vietnamese actress France Nuyen - that ended with infidelity on his part.
    • Hana-ogi references the bombing of Kobe during World War II. Grave of the Fireflies would later show just how bad said bombing was.
  • He Really Can Act: Red Buttons was mainly known for his comedy work and musicals on Broadway. This foray into drama saw him winning an Oscar for his performance as Kelly.
  • Heartwarming Moments:
    • Gruver stands at the bottom of the bridge as the Matso-Bashi dancers cross every day, just to see Hana-ogi. One day he tests her by hiding behind a tree as they go by. He can see Hana-ogi looking around, wondering where he is - confirming that she is interested in him.
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    • Hana-ogi's speech where she reveals a) she speaks fluent English and b) she grew up hating Americans because of the war, but has abandoned that hatred and knows that Gruver is a good man.
    • Gruver gets a growing Big Brother Instinct towards Katsumi. Initially not approving of the marriage, he soon warms to her and in the scene mentioned under Tear Jerker - he tries to cheer her up. What's more is that Hana-ogi says Katsumi vouched for him and told her he was a good person.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Miyoshi Umeki is introduced as a bride-to-be whose picture is shown to another character. Her next Hollywood film Flower Drum Song has her being a picture bride as a plot point.
  • Narm Charm: Marlon Brando's southern accent teeters on the edge of being ridiculous but still works. Word of God says he had this reaction when he first heard it too.
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  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The film pulls no punches when it comes to the anti-racism moral and is all the more effective for it.
  • Stoic Woobie: The universe keeps conspiring to make Kelly's life difficult but he never complains.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • The Reveal that Katsumi had been planning to get surgery on her eyes to look more "American". She even thought Kelly would be happy! It's the only time in the movie that she cries.
    • Kelly and Katsumi coming home from a night out to discover that the military has boarded up their house and labelled it "off-limits".
    • To say nothing of Gruver's discovery that Kelly and Katsumi died in a suicide pact rather than be separated.
  • Values Dissonance: When Kelly discovers that Katsumi was planning to get surgery, he grabs her by the hand and throws her into the room. For a character who is meant to be 100% sympathetic, this would not fly today.
  • The Woobie:
    • Katsumi just fell in love with an American man and all she wants is to be a good wife - but the universe keeps putting her through the Trauma Conga Line.
    • Hana-ogi likewise is revealed to have been sold into the Matso-Bashi because her family were poor - and thus she feels great loyalty to them. She's even willing to abandon her relationship with Gruver because of it.

Example of: