Michael Crichton’s characterization of Japanese businessmen as cold, heartless bottom-liners in Rising Sun did nothing to promote goodwill between the U.S. and Japan. But what about America bashing in Japanese movies? After decades without much anti-American sentiment in their movies, the Japanese began to turn a critical eye on the U.S. in the ’80s, as the following films attest. *THE BUSHIDO BLADE (1980, HBO) Target: Ugly, unwelcome explorers. Vehicle: A routine martial-arts adventure that takes a pretty dim view of Commodore Perry (Richard Boone) and his historic 1853 mission to open Japan. Depiction of Yanks: Arrogant, materialistic, vulgar, and unhygienic, they spend leisure time watching racist minstrel shows. The nominal sympathetic lead (Frank Converse) only becomes a hero when he accepts the ancient wisdom of the samurai.
*MACARTHUR’S CHILDREN (1985, Pacific Arts) Target: Postwar American occupation. Vehicle: U.S. troops take control of a Japanese village at the end of World War II, dismantling traditional Japanese culture. Depiction of Yanks: Soldiers are overzealous agents of social disruption and humiliation.
*TAMPOPO (1986, Republic) Target: American crudity. Vehicle: An artsy comedy that has something to do with food and sex. Depiction of Yanks: A fat, bald American makes a pig of himself while scarfing up a plateful of noodles.
*BLACK RAIN (1988, Fox Lorber) Target: A-bomb-dropping Americans. Vehicle: A deeply disturbing drama about a Hiroshima family grappling with encroaching radiation sickness and the emotional scars of the atomic holocaust. Depiction of Yanks: In one scene, the film suggests that America’s use of A-bombs was completely unnecessary. -David Everitt