Drama Review: 99-nen no Ai ~ Japanese-Americans (TBS, 2010)

99 Years of Zzzzsolitude

by Ender’s Girl


The Cast:
Kusanagi Tsuyoshi, Matsuyama Kenichi, Nakama Yukie, Nakai Kiichi, Izumi Pinko, Kawashima Umika, Terashima Saki, Yachigusa Kaoru, Kamijo Tsunehiko, Kishi Keiko

In a Nutshell:
A family of Japanese immigrants struggle to survive in America in the years leading up to the Second World War, enduring bigotry and injustice – both on their farm, and later, in an internment camp – from an increasingly xenophobic society and its government.

(SpoilLert: It’s A WAR DRAMA, so it can’t possibly end well, can it?)

“But when we came out of camp, that’s when I first realized that being in camp, that being Japanese-American, was something shameful.”

– George Takei


This multi-generational saga begins when the founding patriarch leaves his hometown in search of a better life and a better future…

[*buzz* What is “One Hundred Years of Solitude”?]

…and he embarks on an epic journey across the ocean, where America beckons with the promise of land so green and bountiful, as far as the eye can see. And on this land he unexpectedly finds love…

[*buzz* What is Far and Away?]

…But he and his wife soon realize the hardships faced by migrant sharecroppers – the unfair wages, abusive landlords and wretched living conditions…

[*buzz* What is “The Grapes of Wrath”?]

…Still, the young couple persevere until they acquire their own farm and start to raise a family. But when war breaks out between America and Japan following the Pearl Harbor attacks, the family is forced off their land by the U.S. government and relocated to the Manzanar Internment Camp…

[*buzz* What is “Snow Falling on Cedars”?]

…And in this production, the lead actor appears in multiple roles…

[*buzzzzzz* What is Coming to America???????]

(LOL.) Er, sorry to disappoint the Gabriel Garcia-Marquez fans, the Tom+Nicole fans, the Steinbeck fans, the Ethan Hawke fans (lol) and most of all, the Eddie Murphy fans reading this blog, but the answer is “none of the above.”

When 99-nen no Ai (99 Years of Love) ~ Japanese-Americans aired for five consecutive nights in November of 2010, it wasn’t just touted as TBS’ 60th anniversary offering — a worthy milestone in itself — but as something more momentous, not only for the network but for the whole country. For this tanpatsu wasn’t just any historical drama, it was a drama about a particular subset of Nihonjin who lived in a land not their own, amid a people hostile to their race, and during one of the most harrowing periods in 20th-century history. By following the story of the fictional Hiramatsu family, 99-nen no Ai gives viewers a glimpse into the injustices suffered by the first-generation Japanese-American immigrants (called Issei) and their American-born children (or Nisei) on U.S. soil during the 1920s-1940s, the most egregious of which being their blanket labeling as “enemy aliens” during the Second World War (despite the Nisei being American citizens) and subsequent incarceration in concentration camps.

The account of the Japanese-American internment is indubitably one of the lesser known — or least talked about — chapters in U.S. history, perhaps because of the opprobrium it can still evoke. The government-sanctioned confinement of more than 100,000 Issei and Nisei during the Second World War may not have been as massive in scale as the Trail of Tears or America’s long, horrific chapter on black slavery, but the taste it leaves is no less bitter, made even more so by the element of disbelief at the hypocrisy and irony that something could be allowed on American soil, and to American citizens at that, while American soldiers were fighting overseas to rid the Free World of genocidal despots and their rampaging armies.

As the events of World War II move further away in our collective memory, it becomes all the more important to tell these kinds of stories for present and future generations, and to tell them again and again… “so that we may never forget.” So big props to TBS for its worthy efforts to dramatize these experiences of the Issei and Nisei. Due credit goes to the screenwriter for covering as much historical ground as possible – from the transoceanic migration of the Japanese sharecroppers, to their hardships as tenant-farmers beholden to white landowners, to the persecution of Issei and Nisei and their relocation to the camps, even the heroism of the Japanese-American soldiers in the War in Europe. At the same time, this production is careful not to justify Japan’s culpability in (literally) igniting the War in the Pacific through its policy of imperialism and aggression. (Although one may also say that 99-nen no Ai also largely ignores Japan’s own wartime atrocities that plunged the Asia-Pacific region into darkness and chaos.) At any rate, the drama’s thesis seems to be such: “Whatever Japan’s wrongdoing in the Second World War, the Japanese-Americans had nothing to do with it and thus did not deserve to be treated so unjustly by the U.S. government.”

But perhaps the network was too aware of the onus it bore – which was to faithfully chronicle Japan’s history and not trivialize the events depicted in 99-nen no Ai – that it failed to see the pitfalls that came with such an undertaking. It’s unfortunate that in spite of the laudable intentions behind and in front of the camera, this production does not exactly live up to the promise of Epic! TV Classic! National Treasure! status that the network was clearly gunning for. 99-nen no Ai appears far too conscious of its own historicity, and for much of its five episodes feels like a lumbering, didactic exercise instead of a genuinely entertaining and uplifting piece of storytelling. Good historical dramas primarily seek to entertain using a cleaver interweaving of personal stories with the backdrop of factual events; any edifying information or insight gained by the viewer ought to be in support of the storytelling. On the contrary, 99-nen no Ai seeks to instruct and moralize first, and entertain later – due in no small part to a screenplay crawling with hokey moments and facilely written *coughAmericancough* characters. (After airing my gripes to zooey, she hit the nail on the head by calling the two episodes she had seen “so corny, like a Hallmark movie.” Hahahahaha. So true.)

Like the title denotes, the story of the Hiramatsu clan begins in Japan a century before, in the hard, uncertain days following the Meiji Emperor’s death. The young patriarch Hiramatsu Chokichi (Kusanagi Tsuyoshi), the second son of a penurious sharecropper family, embarks for the U.S. along with many other Japanese farmers, all drawn to greener pastures by the promise that their hard work will be richly rewarded there. His stomach empty but his mind filled with lovely dreams of  a new life in America, Chokichi is willing to endure all things — beginning with the cramped squalor of the ship that will bring him to Seattle, Washington. But he gets his first taste of discrimination when a white store owner at the port of entry refuses him business, spitting out what will be the first of many overdone, overly enunciated deliveries coming from this drama’s gallery of hysterically hammy Caucasian actors (some of whom were actually American (!), lol): “We don’t. Sell. To Japs!!!”

Poor FOTB Chokichi gets a bigger and ruder awakening later when he and his friend, who has also brought his wife and two young children to America, pay a visit to his friend’s uncle, a much older Issei who had migrated two decades before and who lives in a ramshackle homestead on the outskirts of Seattle – not quite enjoying the fat of the land as was widely believed back in Japan. The disgruntled old farmer is quick to disabuse Chokichi and his friend of their naïve notions of America: the truth is there aren’t enough work opportunities for Japanese fieldhands, and those lucky to land jobs are overworked and underpaid compared to the white laborers. Life ain’t a bed of roses here in America, for it’s clear that ethnic minorities are at the bottom of the heap. (The scene in the old farmer’s kitchen, where the ojisan recites a litany of unfair labor practices and other discriminatory acts against Asian immigrants while a flabbergasted Chokichi and his friend look on, did NOT work for me because it smacked of lazy writing by way of narrative spoonfeeding. I felt like I was watching a high school play during Social Studies Week. WTF, the ornery ojisan even delivered a short lecture on the Russo-Japanese War! There was minimal change in the blocking as the ojisan’s tirade wore on with factoid after factoid, thus doing little to alleviate the static feel and pedagogical tone of the scene. In a word: Zzzzzz.)

Good thing that Kusanagi Tsuyoshi’s deft, understated performance makes this scene so much easier to watch. As the ojisan’s Welcome-to-America-NOT! spiel turns into a diatribe against racism and whatnot, so does Chokichi’s face ever so subtly shift from registering buoyant optimism to a creeping sense of disillusionment and dread. He also realizes he cannot rely on the ojisan’s hospitality – or lack of it – for long, for the farmer has made it clear that transient immigrants like Chokichi can expect from his family only the barest minimum in assistance: a barn to sleep in, and scraps from his dinner table. And yet Chokichi endures this with impeccable courtesy and dignity while struggling to hide his bitter disappointment. He understands the old farmer and is nevertheless grateful for the help extended him – no matter how stinting.

It becomes clear that being a stranger in a strange land, Chokichi has no choice but to strike out on his own, and thus we see his itinerant lifestyle for the next several years play out in short a montage showing him moving from job to job (oh a cannery! oh a farm! oh another farm!) against various backdrops of travelogue-pretty landscapes, with nothing but a blanket and a bindle to keep him company. Cue music: “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Where the Streets Have No Name.” (Curiously, the drama sidesteps the significant developments in this decade, particularly the First World War (1914-1918) and Japan’s increasing hegemony in East Asia. Not enough time, I suppose.)

And being the dutiful son that he is, Chokichi has all this time been remitting most of his measly earnings to his peasant family back home. Upon the urging of his friend (who has since left farming and now runs a small laundry shop in Seattle), Chokichi agrees to send for a “picture bride” from Japan. But in a twist of fate (or Providence, depending on how you see it), it isn’t the pretty lass in the photograph who meets Chokichi at the port of entry, but the girl’s younger – and much plainer – sister, Tomo (Imoto Ayako). Profusely apologetic, she relates to the baffled Chokichi how she traveled to America to keep the family honor after her sister ran off with her boyfriend (tsk tsk). But Tomo promises to repay Chokichi the betrothal money that he had sent, and which had long been spent by her own impoverished family.

Tomo certainly isn’t what Chokichi was expecting, and though the instant physical attraction isn’t there (on Chokichi’s end at least; Tomo is clearly smitten with the dude from the get-go, lol) he recognizes something in the young lady that goes beyond looks or refinement. He insists on marrying her not out of pity but respect (and partly because it was the honorable, gentlemanly thing to do), and quickly realizes his instincts about her were right all along: in plain, pragmatic, ever-smiling Tomo, Chokichi finds a kindred spirit, someone hardworking and unassuming like him – not a wilting flower to be sheltered and placed on a shelf. In Tomo he finds an equal, a partner and a co-laborer. Above all it is her good, earnest heart that captures his, and he soon grows to love her.

The newlyweds are leased a small croft by the old farmer ojisan, who in the past decade or so since Chokichi last saw him has seen the fortunes of his farm rise – enough to earn him a measure of prestige within the Japanese-American association. He needs a caretaker for his newly acquired farmland, and Chokichi and his new bride are just the ones for the job. It turns out that the croft is no more than a barren patch of earth with a tiny rundown shed (with no kitchen, and no bathroom – shudders!) as their home. You see the mixed emotions passing through Chokichi and Tomo’s faces when the ojisan canters off on his horse after giving them the “keys to the kingdom.” The couple are grateful for the tenancy, but feel a little overwhelmed by the challenges that surely lay ahead. (There’s a beautiful sunset shot of Chokichi and Tomo embraced in silhouette as he comforts her in front of their new home. Nice.) But knowing they have each other to lean on gives them the strength to roll up their sleeves and buckle down to the backbreaking work before them – felling trees, sawing lumber, plowing the dusty earth – day in and day out, while subsisting on the meager returns of the farm. Watching the montage of their labors certainly jacked up my respect for all the small-scale farmers out there – especially those who lived on the frontier.

It’s pretty obvious that my favorite characters in the drama are Young Chokichi and Young Tomo. The comfortable chemistry between Tsuyoshi and Imoto Ayako is an added fillip to the actors’ strong performances, and how I wish they had figured in more scenes together. Chokichi and Tomo’s joy deepens when they are blessed with a son, whom they name Ichiro. And the fortunes of their small family go on a roller-coaster ride when they experience both the Good Side and <dun-dun-duuuunnnn> the Bad Side of America, both personified by characters in the drama.

The Good America, the benevolent, munificent, I-will-reward-you-RICHLY!!!-and-make-your-wildest-dreams-come-true-if-you-work-hard-and-are-nice-to-others! side of America, is embodied by Catherine, a widow living on a neighboring farm who has made it her morning habit to drive by the Hiramatsu homestead in her buggy to gawk at the strange little Orientals who work like bees and whose idea of “play time!!!” is, um, working like bees. (I couldn’t find a good photo of Catherine, but she reminds me of the woman from the painting American Gothic crossed with Widow Tweed from The Fox and the Hound.*remembers Tod and Copper and sniffles* So I’ll just call Catherine “Widow Tweed” from hereon.) Her daily ritual is admittedly kind of creepy, but Chokichi and Tomo interpret this as non-aggressive behavior (lol) and reach out to Widow Tweed through a daily tribute peace offering of fresh produce from their farm. Moved by the strange little Orientals’ kindness, not to mention their industriousness and, um, cute displays of affection, Widow Tweed tells Chokichi and Tomo that she is bequeathing her land to them. (Yay!)

But OHNOES WHAT IS THIS????? Let’s not forget there is Bad America, personified by <dun-dun-duuunnnn> James aka the Ku Klux KLone Ranger, who gallops across the Pacific Northwest stamping out undesirable Asians on his chestnut bay while emitting a terrible laugh that can shame any self-respecting cartoon supervillain. (Heigh-ho Silver, away! The Lone Ranger rides again!) James also happens to covet Widow Tweed’s land and would rather get drawn and quartered by his own cattle than see American soil come under the possession of <heaven forbid> non-Americans. So if I had to describe James/Lone Ranger in one world? Easy: “LMFAO.” Sharing the blame for the FAILness of this character are the over-the-top “actor” who played him, and the writer of 99-nen no Ai for giving the character such groan-inducing lines as “I want you. OFF. MY. LAND! Go back to your OWN country! THIS is American soil!” There’s a scene where, as if to punctuate his vitriol-laced slurs, James sharply reigns in his horse at the crest of a hill so that it rears back on its hind legs!!! Rider glowers at trembling Asians below while horse neighs ominously. Viewer goes LMFAO.

This is the main issue I have with the American characters in this drama. It’s bad enough that the writer just had to dichotomize the entire U.S. populace into either warm, charity-minded motherly types OR evil intolerant racist pigs. There’s nothing in between. No gray-area characters that feel like real persons. Making things worse is the casting of sundry white people (spot the Eastern Europeans! Lol) who liked to deliver their lines as if they already knew that their work would be shown in a country where English was not commonly spoken. So I guess we’re supposed to thank the white cast members for being kind enough to SPEEEAK. SOOO. CLEEEARLYYYY, lol.

But despite wave after wave of adversity (e.g. their new house is set on fire one night by – GUESS WHO. Uh, Widow Tweed? GUESS AGAIN! Lulz), the young Hiramatsu couple stand their ground, working ceaselessly on Widow Tweed’s land until the farm flourishes – just as their own family grows. Fast-forward twenty years: first-born Ichiro (well hello again, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi! lol) is gentle, bookish and reserved, and prioritizes finishing college over running the farm — despite Papa Chokichi’s (Nakai Kiichi) desire that Ichiro inherit the family business. Whereas the more temperamental Jiro (Matsuyama Kenichi), a strapping lad, cares little for school and is a true farmer’s son, devoting his days to “growing things” and overseeing farm operations. (I swear, there’s even a scene where Jiro digs up a radish from the soil and takes a huge bite into it – organic produce at its rawest. Eeww.) And he goes around in overalls and a straw hat like, EVERYWHERE, just in case you forget that he has a! green! thumb! Matsuyama Kenichi is a talented and intuitive actor (more on him later), but every time he came on screen, “The Farmer in the Dell” started playing in my head, alternating with “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Hahahaha

Bilbo Jiro (voiceover): “A rather unfair observation, as we have also developed a keen interest in the brewing of ales, and the smoking of pipe-weed. But where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet, and good tilled earth. For all Hobbits Hiramatsus share a love of things that grow.”

(from LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring)

Rounding off the Hiramatsu brood are Chokichi and Tomo’s two daughters, the teenage Shizu (Terashima Saki) and the tweener Sachie (Kawashima Umika). The actors playing Papa Chokichi and Mama Tomo bear a serviceable resemblance to their younger counterparts and are able to maintain a believeble degree of continuity to the characters’ younger selves. At the same time we can see on their sun-browned, weather-beaten faces how life in America has seasoned and toughened them over the years. Both still maintain their Japanese citizenship and are barred from legally owning property; but their four children, having been born on the farm, are American citizens, and thus stand to reap the gains that Chokichi and Tomo dreamed up and have tirelessly fought for.

Papa Chokichi wants Ichiro to find a nice sturdy Japanese lass to help propagate their sturdy peasant stock, but it turns out Ichiro has other plans. He gets himself a bluestocking girlfriend – and oh look, it’s Yankumi!!! The daughter of a diplomat stationed in the U.S., Yankumi’s character Shinobu meets Ichiro at the university, and being the only Asians on campus, the twosome immediately hit it off. (He’s bookish, she’s bookish! He’s a gentle soul, she’s a gentle soul! He’s a lover not a fighter, she’s a lover not a fighter! Etc! etc!) I know Nakama Yukie is one of the biggest TV stars in Japan, but throughout most of 99-nen no Ai I was wishing her character had never come to America. I wanted to like her but never could. Yankumi and Tsuyoshi have zippo chemistry despite the screenwriter’s attempts to sensationalize their affaire de couer: He rescues her from a gang of nasty white college boys – ohnoes! He takes her home, but Papa Chokichi doesn’t like her – ohnoes! Because she can’t tell a cultivator from a chisel plow – ohnoes! And because her culturati family would rather discuss the Manchurian Incident at tea parties than something so vulgar as livestock and cabbages – ohnoes!

Oooh, and love triangle alert — you know who else likes Yankumi? Jiro!!! (The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell…) Tsk tsk, but poor boy-o never had a shot in hell – for so devoted is Yankumi to Ichiro that when her diplomat otosan gets recalled home and she and her family board the last Japan-bound ship out of Seattle, the minute Yankumi is alone in her cabin she JUMPS OFF the OCEAN LINER and SWIMS BACK TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST — because she wants to BE WITH ICHIRO. <wait for it> HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. But at least she has the presence of mind to ZIPLOCK HER PASSPORT AND TIE IT TO A STRING before bailing. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. She miraculously survives the sharks and the undertow and the – oh, I dunno, vortex created by the ship’s giant rudder or whatnot – and FINDS HER WAY TO DRY LAND. Wow. Wow. Wow. What can I say — LOVE makes you STRONG!!! (LOL)

You’d think Ichiro would MARRY Yankumi the second he finds her bedraggled, seaweed-covered self camped out in the Hiramatsu barn munching on stolen turnips – but no. But you don’t feel any passion or urgency in their love. No snogging sessions behind the stable doors (with poor Jiro on the other side, crying), no quickie rolls in the hay (with poor Jiro hidden in the rafters, peeping), no lusty romps in the cabbage patch (with poor Jiro in the adjacent lettuce bed… erm, never mind, lol). Their relationship is just so… neuter. So Arashi-happy. In a word: Zzzzz. Now, had Yankumi played BOTH Ichiro and Jiro at the same time – like Julia Ormond did with Aidan Quinn and Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall – THAT would’ve at least been interesting to watch, hahaha.

The news of Imperial Japan’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy is not welcomed by most Japanese-Americans. A Nihonjin visitor laments to the Hiramatsus, “Japan’s militarization is stifling. It no longer has an atmosphere of peace.” (Again, this is the drama’s way of distancing itself from anything that may be construed as a pro-war stance.) In short, the Japanese-Americans are living on a powder keg and it’s… uh, giving off sparks. Then Pearl Harbor is bombed – and the domestic anti-Japanese backlash reaches fever pitch in a tsunami of boycotts, hate crimes, and finally – Roosevelt’s signing of E.O. 9066, which authorizes the government to crack down on Japanese-Americans and force them off their properties and into “relocation camps,” where they will live under tight guard until the close of the War.

Papa Chokichi and other respected figures in the Japanese-American association suspected of aiding the Japan’s spy network (although the history books say that for some Issei, the charges were actually true) are personally arrested by the Feds and placed under maximum security at an undisclosed location. Forced to abandon their farm (and guess who’s plotting a takeover? James!!!), Mama Tomo, Ichiro, Jiro and Yankumi find themselves herded into trains and taken first to a racetrack, then to hastily constructed barracks at the Manzanar Internment Camp in California. The daughters Shizu and Sachi were earlier sent home to Japan to live with Papa Chokichi’s relatives. (More on the two later.)

Still, it’s amazing how the Manzanar inmates make the most of their situation. Ichiro and Yankumi volunteer as instructors at the school (and lemme guess what Yankumi must be teaching… Math!!! If Akanishi Jin were a Japanese-American – well, he’s practically a first-generation immigrant anyway, lol – something tells me he wouldn’t last a day in Manzanar without his preshus hamburgers and fries, tsk). Meanwhile, Mr. Agriculture 1942 (Jiro) and the other prisoners work to cultivate the desert terrain of Manzanar into thriving, well-irrigated vegetable gardens.

Then Ichiro does the unthinkable and signs up for the Army – the U.S. Army. Well, at least he doesn’t forget to marry Yankumi before leaving Manzanar. They have 5 days of bedded – er, wedded bliss, plus another week or so when Ichiro is granted furlough after his training and before he gets shipped off to war. (On their honeymoon in Seattle, Chokichi and Yankumi are given a rough time inside restaurants and hotels with a “No Japs and pets allowed” policy. But just when they’re about to sleep on a park bench, a Caucasian Fairy Godmother materializes bearing tidings of great joy – and leads them to an Asian-friendly B&B, oh wow. I would’ve been moved by this sequence had the whole thing not been another grand showcase of hammy actors dichotomized into Bad America vs. Good America. Sheesh.)

But Episode 4 is when the story picks up steam: Ichiro joins the 442nd Infantry Regiment, mostly made up of Japanese-Americans who volunteered despite having family members still living in the various internment camps. I found this story arc so engaging because (1) prior to watching 99-nen no Ai I had no idea that such a combat unit existed, or that the 442nd was in fact the most highly decorated regiment for its size in the history of the U.S. military; and (2) I love war dramas of all shapes and sizes (World War II dramas in particular!) because it’s times like these that bring out both the best and the worst in human beings, the noble and the monstrous.

This is also where the production finally earns its stripes as a bona fide “epic war drama.” Not only are the location shots vividly rendered – from the forests of “France” to the Okinawa caves – but the training and battle sequences are filmed on an impressive scale and are able to capture to a striking degree of verisimilitude the bloody hellishness (literally) of war. It ain’t Band of Brothers or The Pacific, but — come on. (The one glaring exception could be seen in closeups of Tsuyoshi’s face during key scenes. The makeup artist obviously thought we’d be too stupid to tell the difference between artificial blood and poster paint daubed haphazardly on Tsu’s skin – and you can actually see the brush strokes, LMFAO. So who’s stupid now, hah?)

Amping up the viewer’s emotional investment in the 442nd Infantry is the regiment’s selection by the powers that be (or rather, the brass that be) to rescue a beleaguered Army battalion holed up in Biffontaine, France. (Watching this sequence reminded me of the “Bastogne” episode of my mostest favoritest war drama Band of Brothers – and in a good way.) And having to break through heavily manned German lines to reach the so-called “Lost Battalion,” and to then hold their ground until reinforcements arrive, pretty much spells “suicide mission” for the Japanese-American soldiers.

This episode of 99-nen no Ai draws striking parallels to the 1989 film Glory, about one of the first Army regiments wholly composed of African-Americans who fought for the Union during the U.S. Civil War. Like the black soldiers, newly freed slaves all, the Japanese-Americans stepped up to the plate to fight for a government that had legislated injustice against their families on the sole basis of race, and to fight (and die) alongside white soldiers who had helped perpetuate the terrible lie that “all races may have been created equal, but some races are more equal than others.”

And like the black soldiers in Glory, the Japanese-American infantrymen of the 442nd also suffered grievous losses during the siege of Biffontaine, which would become their most famous battle. Perhaps these Japanese-American soldiers displayed the gung-ho intrepidity for which they would later be honored because they only wanted to prove that they were true patriots undeserving of any racist slur hurled their way. Perhaps they were only trying to live by their unit motto, “Go for broke!” – which had become their own “Banzai!” of sorts — even as they lay dying on the grimy slush-covered French countryside, thinking of their families who were still in the camps. Whatever the reason, these soldiers of the 442nd served their country well, although the gratitude and recognition from white America would not be accorded them till much later. To borrow from the Bard, these gripping stories are “such (epic) stuff that (History) is made on,” ne?

Back in Nihon, Ichiro’s sisters Shizu and Sachie are battling a different kind of enemy: loneliness and separation (Shizu is taken in by an aunt in Hiroshima, while Sachie is sent to live with another aunt in Okinawa), social rejection and bullying at school, and hunger and deprivation at the hands of abusive relatives. This story arc is also highly engrossing because as a viewer you can’t not feel for these two sisters as they suffer the horrors of war that all civilians experience – regardless of which side of the conflict they’re on. At the same time you question the wisdom of uprooting these young girls from their county of birth and sending them into such a volatile and risky situation with no assured favorable outcome. But you also understand that like so many Issei fathers, Papa Chokichi made his judgment call in good faith, fully believing that any hardships Shizu and Sachiko would face in Japan were the lesser evil compared to the threat posed by America’s growing lynch-mob culture. (There’s a scene where oniisan Ichiro rescues Shizu from a gang rape attempt outside the Hiramatsu farm, and the raw and honest aftermath where the shaken siblings draw comfort from each other – “We won’t be protected by Japan or America… we have to learn to take care of our own selves” – will break your heart to pieces.)

It turns out that the internment camps in America would have been a far better deal than the tragic ordeal awaiting the girls in Japan. In the intertwined stories of Shizu and Sachie you feel the overshadowing helplessness and isolation that echo the 1988 anime classic Hotaru no Haka, and you can’t help but rail at how war SUCKS, war is HELL, for all sides involved – but for the innocent civilians most of all. But you’ll also cheer loudly for Sachie as she learns to stand up to an oppressive aunt and assert her rights at home, refusing to play the victim or the martyr. Sachi’s spark of determination, courage and resourcefulness reminded me in so many ways of my own grandmother, who was Sachie’s age during the Second World War, and whose remarkable wartime story was chronicled by my mother (a writer by profession – yes, the kind that gets paid and stuff, lol) in a tribute essay published in one of our national broadsheets. Here’s an excerpt:

Life was a daily balancing act on the knife’s edge, and to survive, one had to cross it carefully without drawing blood. It was this same tightrope that my mother walked as she negotiated the demands of friendship and allegiance, mercy and justice, war and peace, that daily confronted her — complex issues for a child! Yet perhaps only a child could see rightly. Only a child would be brave and true enough to cut through the absurdity of war and decide in her heart that killing another human being was evil no matter what side of the war one was on, and that though an enemy was an enemy, once he assumed a human face and a familiar name, he ceased to be one.

(Read the full article here)

When the War finally ends, two major Japanese cities are nothing but ashes and rubble. And two Hiramatsu family members are dead – one killed in action, the other by his own hand – while a third family member, sick from radiation poisoning, will be dead in two years. It’s now up to Jiro to take responsibility for his family – or what’s left of it – as they slowly pick up the pieces of their shattered world. At least the news that Yankumi – er, Shinobu is carrying Ichiro’s son gives them hope that all is not completely lost. But the War has also driven a wedge within the family in more ways than one. So embittered is Sachie by her wartime trauma that she refuses to be reunited with her family in America. A providential encounter with a kind couple (Osugi Ren and Takahata Atsuko, in small but notable roles) who have lost their own sons in the War paves the way for Sachie and Shizu’s adoption and new life in Japan.

It takes 70 years before Sachie (Kishi Keiko), now 81, returns to Japan to be finally reunited with her surviving brother Jiro (Kamijo Tsunehiko) and sister-in-law Shinobu (Yachigusa Kaoru), who were able to win back the Hiramatsu farm and restore it to full productivity after the War. (Now why the heck didn’t Jiro and Shinobu just GET MARRIED anyway? To honor Ichiro’s memory? Not very realistic if they spent all those decades living platonically under the same roof. And most of all I just wanted Jiro to find his own bloody happiness – but he never married out of duty to his dead oniisan’s widow and child, LIKE, HOW SAD IS THAT.)

It’s this aspect that proves to be the drama’s biggest minus: the “reminiscing” done by present-day Sachie, Jiro and Shinobu that serves as the narrative backbone crosscutting the drama. First of all, their reunion scenes at the baseball stadium and the hotel lobby weren’t convincing. At all. I found it hard to believe that Jiro (and Shinobu) never made an effort to search for the two girls after the war. Even if Sachie intentionally broke off contact with the Hiramatsus, were there no government agencies or humanitarian organizations that helped loved ones find each other in the peacetime years? Even the death of Shizu would have been registered somewhere and had Jiro launched any effort to seek her it would’ve been a matter of time before Shizu’s death record turned up. But in their “reunion” scene Jiro and Shinobu find out about Shizu’s death for the very first time – and their reactions don’t register pain and sorrow to any convincing degree. This entire modern-day arc just left me cold. Left me very, very cold.

Never mind that the actors playing Jiro, Shinobu and Sachie look more like sprightly sexagenarians than octogenarians (Sachie) and nonagenarians (Jiro and Shinobu). Never mind that that the actress playing Sachie is soooo self-conscious and doesn’t seem to understand that her character is supposed to be rehashing the most painful experiences of her life that she’s kept bottled up all these decades. Instead she recounts her wartime traumas as if they were last week’s trip to the zoo. The dynamics of the three elderly Hiramatsus don’t hit home because their reminiscing sessions feel so artificial, so bogged down by belabored dialogue that overexplains things — like the time Sachie tells the viewers Jiro and Shinobu, “When I was eleven, I was abandoned by my parents and sent to Japan…” — AS IF the two didn’t know this already, lol.

And it doesn’t help ONE BIT that Shinobu’s great-grandson Michael Takuya (“Michael Takuya”??? lol whut), played by Imai Yuki (this creepy kid actor who unfortunately has appeared in way too much stuff; it’s time to think of another life direction, sweetie) gets summoned by his elders to recite “The Legend of Chokichi and Ichiro” (wholly from memory!!!) – all for the edification of Sachie’s impertinently ignorant young grandson, who apparently knows diddlysquat about his own forebears and is in sore need of a history lecture or two. So all the present-day characters are really just expository vectors that provide a running recap of the past 99 years of their clan’s history. And they do this more for the benefit of the viewer, who’s obviously too stupid to piece the story together on his own. This kind of stilted narration makes 99-nen no Ai feel more like a bad ripoff of a History Channel documentary than the living, breathing dramatization of a family’s personal journey – no thanks to the manipulative screenwriter who seems to have forgotten how actual human beings behave and converse in real-life situations. *giant rolleyes*

And don’t even get me started on the LMFAO-ness of the highly spurious “American accents” sported by the characters who *supposedly* grew up in the U.S. — Ichiro, Jiro, Sachie, Michael Takuya, etc. I understand that most of the Japanese actors on the show probably don’t speak a lick of Engrish, but really — a little more effort, people? Yes? Yes? Okay? Maybe the production could have at least hired a dialect coach to make sure the English dialogue was delivered with a leeetle more credibility, ne? Yes? Yes? Okay? Lol.

The problematic storytelling in 99-nen no Ai hits rock-bottom when both the modern-day arc and the World War II arc get “resolved” in such a pat, feel-good manner. At the close of the World War II arc, the Hiramatsus come home to find their property in a sorry, fallow state, no thanks to <dun-dun-duuuuun> James (!!!), who by now is old and gimpy but still refuses (!!!) to sell the land back to his mortal Asian enemies – UNTIL he learns that Ichiro served in the 442nd, the same regiment that famously rescued the Texas battalion in France, because <dun-dun-duuuun> surprise, surprise, James is ALSO FROM TEXAS!!! (From the Lone Ranger to James Walker: Texas Ranger, oh how you’ve come a long way, Jimmy! LMFAO) Moved to repentant tears, James gives the farm back to the Hiramatsus and vows to be “uh bettuh man.” So Jiro pushes aside dark thoughts of turning his redneck neighbor into sushi, and finally makes his peace with James. Everybody happy!!!

At the close of the modern-day arc, it’s revealed that one of Ichiro and Shinobu’s grandkids has been consorting! with! the Enemy! (read: she snagged an Eemrrrican boyfriend) and Granny Shinobu will have none of it (!!!). Granny Sachie, who in the space of a few days has experienced an epic epiphany of her own, reproaches her oneechan on the dangers of falling into the same racist trap that had caused their family so much suffering. The following morning, Shinobu realizes that she shouldn’t judge her granddaughter’s beau on the color of his skin but rather on the content of his bank account – er, character. I meant content of his character. Moved to tears, Granny Shinobu and Rebel Granddaughter kiss ‘n’ make up before Chokichi, Tomo and Ichiro’s graves. Everybody happy!

That said, it comes as no surprise that the best scenes 99-nen no Ai are those with no dialogue. My favorite scene is in Episode 2, showing Ichiro inside the vestibule of their farmhouse, with his parents on the porch discussing Shinobu and her family’s impending return to Japan (obviously Papa Chokichi is eager to get the girl out of his pomaded hair). Ichiro listens in silence for a few minutes, knowing full well the implications for his personal happiness. Deciding he’s heard enough, he pads over to the foot of the stairs — but stops when Jiro abruptly emerges from the darkened hallway, his face indicating that he, too, has heard everything. The brothers exchange a look that speaks volumes (and stabs little needles through your heart).

There’s an even briefer — but equally powerful — scene in Ep. 4 where Ichiro and his father Chokichi find themselves alone in the Hiramatsu quarters at Manzanar. Papa Chokichi has just been transferred to Manzanar from his internment camp only to find out that Ichiro will be leaving for combat training in a few days. Wordlessly the two men stare at each other, then cap the moment in a quick but fierce bear hug. (This time the little needles found their way to my eyes, squeezing out tears along the way.)

Ultimately it’s the strong performances from the Japanese World War II cast – especially Kusanagi Tsuyoshi, Matsuyama Kenichi, Kawashima Umika as Sachie, and the actors playing Chokichi and Tomo – that help alleviate the mind-numbing, eye-rolling effects of the lamentable writing and laughable Caucasian acting — but just barely. 99-nen no Ai might’ve actually been a standout and a keeper given a less self-conscious (and self-important) script and a more convincing supporting cast. But instead we are left with this ponderous family/war saga whose titular 99 years feel, more than anything, like a life sentence meted on hapless viewers instead of the sweeping tragic-romantic epic we had all hoped it to be.

Grade
Artistic & technical merit: B-
Entertainment value: C+
Overall: B-

***
Photo credits: dramacrazy.net, japanprobe.com, la.us.emb-japan.go.jp, linearseat.org, listal.com, seichan1188.livejournal.com, tinhte.vn, wn.com

***
On a related note, Lea Salonga and George Takei are set to star in a new musical play Allegiance, about a Japanese-American family living in a Wyoming internment camp during the War. The production will have its U.S. premiere this year, with a Broadway run scheduled for 2012 to mark the 70thanniversary of the internment camps. (Source)

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52 Comments on “Drama Review: 99-nen no Ai ~ Japanese-Americans (TBS, 2010)”

  1. Una Says:

    After having read your very entertaining rendition of the dorama, I guess I will only watch the parts with Tsuyoshi in it, most especially the WW2 parts.
    OMG! You almost killed me with the Caucasian actors thing.
    Strange how our views change, right? A couple of years ago I would have never thought that a) I would almost only exclusively watch East Asian doramas and movies and b) make a distinction between actors (be it Korean or Japanese) and Caucasian actors LOL – Now if I could find a way to turn this so obvious Scottish-Germano woman into a Japanese, that would be wonderful😉

    Thanks for your write up🙂 As always kudos to you🙂

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Una!!! Thanks for dropping by!😀 Hahaha I dunno about this review being entertaining — but if you thought it so, sankyouu very much! — ‘coz writing it was half as fun as writing my other reviews. Watching the drama was even less so. This 5-hour special took me over a week to finish, on-off. I did it for Tsuyopon, hahaha. What can I say — I love that guy!😛 (Btw I’m seriously looking forward to that Ninkyo Helper SP!!!!!!!)

      You started watching East Asian stuff just a few years ago? Wow, from your activity on the LJ comms I always thought you’d been in the fandom for at least a decade! I mean you’re practically SMAP Central, lol. Pretty high learning curve then😉

  2. zooey Says:

    Excellent review! I had a feeling that 99~nen no Ai would soon find its way into this blog as soon as you mentioned it last month.🙂

    It pains me to say this but this series didn’t really live up to the hype or even managed to meet my expectations…and despite complaining to you about the hammy feel and execution of it all, let me just say for the record that there a few Hallmark movies that I actually liked…this one just happened to fall under the shamelessly corny-preachy category that I don’t like.

    It’s this aspect that proves to be the drama’s biggest minus: the “reminiscing” done by present-day Sachie, Jiro and Shinobu that serves as the narrative backbone crosscutting the drama. First of all, their reunion scenes at the baseball stadium and the hotel lobby weren’t convincing. At all.

    I guess this is the part that really threw me off. The old characters + the grandchildren + the photo album + the mandatory flashback to set up the story just didn’t work. This sequence really sucked. It was utter torture, it had me reaching for the mouse to jump to the next section.

    Really enjoyed reading your review. Couldn’t help but laugh at the outrageous parts you highlighted. Have to agree that there were parts of the production that were lacking and prone to stereotypes. I mean case in point is MatsuKen’s outfit—(The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell…)LMAO. I didn’t really get why he had to wear overalls and a straw hat all the time. Even first gen Chokichi didn’t go around looking like a character from “The Grapes of Wrath”. And I guess you already know my distaste for foreign actors in such productions, they’re just lousy, period.

    I also couldn’t stand the love story between Tsuyoshi and Yankumi. It just wasn’t engaging enough, and you’re right about them having zero chemistry. I’ll make sure to finish this series though since you got me all curious about the scene where Yankumi jumps off an ocean liner and swims to shore. Seriously? Hahahahahahaha! Man, that’s a scene from an Aljur Abrenica-Cris Bernal movie!

    Truth be told, I was looking forward to watching the WWII episodes. I figured things would get better story-wise once Tsuyo gets away from the confines of their farm. It’s just sad that the first 2-3 episodes were such a struggle to watch. Have this series in my old computer and since its motherboard crashed, it took me another 2 months to pick it apart and retrieve the hard drive. That’s how underwhelmed I was to continue on, but let’s see… I might just summon the patience to give this another shot. Thanks for the review.🙂

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      zooey! Hahahaha I know you were the first to know about my 99 gripes vs. that drama.😀 And yeah, I get what you mean about the Hallmark movies that can be heartwarming and wholesome without being preachy & corny. Or take the film adaptation of The Joy Luck Club, which did a terrific job at crosscutting between the past and present time lines so that the mothers’ personal stories were a natural outflowing of memories rekindled during the space of one farewell & mahjong party. And the tone was never moralizing even if I was crying buckets all the way to the end.🙂 (Ooohhh I’m suddenly recalling the perfidious, ultra-hot Russell Wong! hehehe)

      LOL @ “MatsuKen” >> I didn’t know he merited this portmanteau (isn’t this usually reserved for Jpop peeps?), but I luffit!🙂

      “The old characters + the grandchildren + the photo album + the mandatory flashback to set up the story just didn’t work. This sequence really sucked. It was utter torture, it had me reaching for the mouse to jump to the next section.” << Hahahaha! OMG yes! When the oldies and the kiddies started to gather in the living room with the photo albums and stuff I was like, ARE YOU SERIOUS??? THERE'S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS!!!! hahahaha. The story would've fared better without the stilted narration. @__@

      Re Yankumi: OHYESSS! It really happened! I actually had to replay the scene to be sure of what I was seeing, hahaha. And ROFL @ Aljur-Cris movie!!! (Don't tell me you went to see their latest movie, the one with the hokey title, that bombed at the tills?) I was originally thinking along the lines of a KC-Richard movie ('coz recently they were showing their 2nd movie on cable, the one where he's a pilot and she runs after his plane on the tarmac IN HER WEDDING GOWN!!! and the plane takes off and she's crying thinking she's lost him forever but OH-EHM-GEE there he is behind her on tarmac!!! just like that Sharon-Gabby movie!!! hahaha) but I think your Aljur-Cris reference trumps 'em all!😀 (Speaking of Aljur, the boy may not seem to have much between the ears but I recently saw him at the Anvil Awards where he was the, um, Anvil Man. Tall and lean and really toned body. Cuter in person too. Way cuter. Heh heh heh)

      • zooey Says:

        Yeah, I saw that one on video, the one shot in Bohol. It wasn’t a bad film, it actually had a story if only they didn’t force a happy ending to it. If I remember correctly, Aljur’s character was already on a ship headed back to Manila when Cris (who was supposed to be wed to Baron Geisler) went all runaway bride and chased after him on a fishing boat. And you guessed it, Aljur jumped ship. Really, they couldn’t just see each other again in Manila? Couldn’t Cris take a plane and wait for Aljur at the pier? (*shakes head in disbelief)

        Lol on the Richard-KC movie, believe it or not, it’s actually better than their first offering. Masmasaklap yun, I swear. Super Sharon-Gabby wannabes! Too bad KC doesn’t have the same mass appeal.

        (Speaking of Aljur, the boy may not seem to have much between the ears but I recently saw him at the Anvil Awards where he was the, um, Anvil Man. Tall and lean and really toned body. Cuter in person too. Way cuter. Heh heh heh)

        Couldn’t agree with you more. He comes off like such a doofus. Super showbiz sumagot ng questions. His only saving grace is that Machete diet.

        OH, let me get back on topic for a bit. You know I’ve been reading the comments listed under this post and though they’ve raised a valid point (like how the children of Japanese immigrants joined the war because they considered themselves Americans), I can’t help but wonder about the real purpose or message behind this mini-series. Is it to remind the coming generations of their history even though the said experience really belongs to Japanese-Americans per se? Is it to remind the world that they suffered as well and were discriminated against? I know there are books that speak of this particular episode but I don’t think the people over at TBS were in a position to effectively portray and hammer in this often overlooked section in American history. I really don’t know what to make of it.

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          lmao @ “Machete diet” ahahahaha. Wood shavings and sawdust, I presume?🙂

          ***
          You’re right that TBS (or any Nihonjin network for that matter) wasn’t exactly in the best position to portray the Japanese-American narrative, considering the Japanese-Americans were more American than Japanese. The script clearly betrayed how poorly researched the drama was, and going by the recriminatory tone of some scenes, the whole exercise was probably more of a cathartic protest against the hardships experienced by the J-Americans as perceived by the Japanese based in Japan, than an honest effort to tell the same story through the eyes of those who were actually there.

  3. Jane Yamazaki Says:

    My objections to the movie are somewhat different than the reviewers. My biggest problem was that the portrayal of Japanese Americans and their experience is really sooo wrong. Really incorrect and doing disservice to the Japanese American experience. According to this movie, Japanese Americans were just Japanese living in the US. They continue to speak Japanese (English only sparingly, when necessary, and then very badly) and they are able, somehow miraculously, to pass this Japanese speaking ability down, let me count, 4 generations! No way!

    Even Nisei (those born in the US) hardly spoke Japanese and they grew up in American schools speaking English, and spoke English to each other. (My Nisei in-laws NEVER spoke Japanese at home and I have numerous aunts and uncles who never spoke Japanese to each other.) Why are these Nisei/Sansei/Yonsei speaking Japanese after living in the US for 50 years?

    Another issue is the portrayal of the college experience of Nisei as being alone and under siege in colleges. Many Japanese Americans went on to college and yes, there was discrimination, but there were other Japanese americans there and they had a community of students– sometimes it was church groups, sometimes it was JACL-type organizations–but the experience of the hero who goes to U of Wash in Seattle is like that of a foreigner alone in the US, not like the Nisei AMERICAN going to college.

    Which brings me to the real issue here: Japanese Americans (Nisei, yes, but even more especially) believe they are Americans of Japanese descent, NOT Japanese who happen to reside and thrive in the US. When the hero decides to enlist, he does so, not to make his parents proud or to uphold Japanese honor, but because he wants to assert/prove his Americanness. He IS an American. And it is just awful that this story as portrayed in Japan ignores this.

    PS And why would the Issei father commit suicide in the camps? In my experience, those Issei who held strong pro-Japan views went back to Japan on the repatriate boat. (As did one set of my husband’s grandparents… None of the children accompanied them because …. their life was as Americans.) The fact that, in the story, there was no place for the parents to go to, (although they had sent their daughters back to the dishonorable/venial family home for SAFETY!!) may explain their staying in the camps, but it does not make any sense that they think Japan will win or that they have not made the commitment to life in the US, meaning they must accept and honor their children’s Americanness.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hi Jane!😀 Thanks for taking the time to share your views on this drama as well as your inside perspective on the Japanese-American experience. You pinpointed all the reasons why the 2nd, 3rd and 4th-gen Japanese-American characters in 99-nen no Ai didn’t feel authentic at all, which in the end hugely contributed to why the drama failed to work on so many levels. (And I learned more about the Nisei and Issei way of life just from reading your comment than from watching all 5 episodes of the tanpatsu, lol. :-)) Putting myself in the producers’ shoes I understand why the characters spoke Nihonggo 99.9 % of the time — this was a Japanese production intended for Japanese audiences, and the cast (including the major stars, who were the main draw of the show) simply weren’t English speakers. But you’re right, that doesn’t excuse the show’s inability to create an atmosphere of realism and believability. That said, I wish this had been a Hollywood-produced drama instead, since 99 % of the story is set in America anyway.

      • Yoneko kaneko Says:

        Don’t you know the difference between “Senzen issei and Sengo issei”? Senzen issei no Nihon heno Keitou buri wo shirazushite, shittayouna koto wo ittehoshiku naine. Doushite Papa Chokichi ga jiketsu Shota Kano imisura wakaranai tte….Chigau sensibility no viewer ni nani iwaretemo “betsuni….” dakedo ne. Lol! Nihon no dorama ga mitainara, nihongo benkyou shitekara nihonjin no sensibility wo minitsuketekara denaoshite kina.
        betsuni kono dorama wa, America Jin muke in tukurarete naino.
        anatatachi no “riso” no tame ni tukuraretanja nainndakara.
        To the-heavily-relying-on-the- subtitle and the translators: lol!
        Sankyuu.

    • mcc Says:

      Are you kidding? Why would you expect a drama made for Japanese tv, aired exclusively in Japan, with Japanese actors, and Japanese writers … … to speak English ?
      Of course they spoke Japanese throughout the whole series.
      When you watch Memoirs of a Geisha, do you think it means Japanese all magically spoke English in the 20th century? Or you just accept that the movie takes place in English because it’s intended for an English-speaking audience ?

      On the issue of Japanese-Americans identification of Nationality, I thought the series covered it extremely well. In fact, I feel it did the exact opposite of what you claimed. Making it abundantly clear that particularly those born in America identified strongly as Americans first.
      I’m not even sure where you got the idea about “fighting for America to uphold Japanese Honor” from ??? You seem to be projecting a lot of things into it that weren’t there.
      That said, you also seem to be trying to make a rhetorical point. We know from history that some immigrants did have some loyalty or feeling to Japan. You seem to be taking a dogmatic stance of black and white, when there were many shades of gray — particularly given the circumstances once they were de facto non-citizens having all their property stolen and interred as prisoners.
      I thought the drama covered this dilemma rather admirably. Particularly the episodes about the loyalty statements.

      It’s not a “classic drama”, comparisons to Hallmark and History Channel are apt — though I don’t think the overall acting was nearly as bad as the History Channel.
      It’s not one I will watch again, but it is one that I’m glad to have watched all the way through.

      I’m kinda disappointed you didn’t mention the parade scene. That was the one that got me.

      Oh, and I love Nakama Yukie — probably the same way the blogger here loves Kimutaku. Their relationship was understated and comfortable… it wasn’t passionate in a Jonnys sense I guess, but that would’ve been totally out of place for the tone of the drama.

  4. Jenny Says:

    I admit I only watched the first ep and then gave up realising that this wasn’t a drama for me.
    The story seemed quite ambitious and I can understand the plan they had or what they intended but it didn’t really work out like that.
    After watching documentaries about japanese-americans and internment camps I did find it a bit odd how they described japanese-americans. Majority of the second generation kids didn’t speak any japanese at all or even feel like japanese.
    Tsuyoshi is a great actor but even he didn’t save this for me and somehow I’m not such a Nakama Yukie fan anymore simply because she’s always stuck playing a similar character(even though I love Gokusen, only the first season)
    Snow falling on cedars was a good movie, it even has little Suzuki Anne in it now she’s all grown up.
    They should have had George Takei do a part, he’s fluent in japanese and maybe could have saved a bit of the dorama.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Don’t worry, you really didn’t miss much! ^^;; Yeah, I was rolling my eyes every time the Nisei characters “spoke” English — esp. when Tsuyoshi was trying to save Yankumi from the college kids.🙂 To be truly authentic the producers should’ve gotten real Japanese-American actors who could speak a little Nihonggo — but with an accent, which would have been much more believable anyway. You mentioned George Takei — yeah, spot on. Or someone like Pat Morita (R.I.P.) from the ’80s Karate Kid movies — he was also a prisoner at one of the camps. Come to think of it, only Mizushima Hiro would’ve made a credible Japanese-American, hahahaha. But oh yeah, he’s RETIRED now.😛

      • Jenny Says:

        I’m glad about that. It’s just annoying to spend so much time on a dorama that you hope would improve and then it doesn’t.
        That’s true and there are so many japanese-american actors that they could have used or then japanese actors who speak better english. Like Yuki Kudo, she speaks fluent english(okay she lives in LA but never had a big break in Hollywood) or someone like Tamlyn Tomita from Karate Kid II.
        Hiro’s english is excellent, watched Beck with him and the actress who portrayed his sister Shiori Kutsuna grew up in Australia so she had this cute aussie accent even though she was suppose to be from New York ^^
        Oh, Hiro pleaso come back!! (Technically he isn’t retired, he left his agency and started his own with Ayaka but it seems he is concentrating on writing and directing for the moment)

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          “Oh, Hiro pleaso come back!!” << LOL!😀 Yeah, he's one of the few J-actors who can convincingly play a character who's actually lived stateside, so I second the motion — Hiro please come back! (His English is excellent indeed — didn't he learn it at a Swiss boarding school or something? Kewl if he did! =P)

  5. jicks Says:

    Had no intentions of watching this before I read this post, now after your review… I have even less intentions, lol.

    LOVE how you referred to Yankumi as, well, Yankumi throughout the post. Let’s hope she doesn’t come back as a teacher in her next life, lol.

    Oh, & your stab at Jinny boy- *clap clap* *tosses French fries up in air like confetti* xDD As each day goes by, I’m thinking more & more the boy is just an American in a Japanese body after all… with an Engrish tongue lol.

    I’d also like to say that I was trying to think of one Asian made series that featured decent Caucasian acting… but failed ><; I can't remember what series or movie it was but I do recall reading about a crew from some Asian production needing a couple of Caucasians so they just threw in some of their Caucasian friends i.e. randoms. No wonder the acting is so often questionable.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Yeah, I dunno why I’ve never really been a huge Nakama Yukie fan. While watching her work I can never seem to drum up anything more intense than mild annoyance (at worst) or mild admiration (at best). Weird. Maybe I just haven’t seen her in the right project? I’ve always wanted to see that World War II movie she made with Nakai, mebbe I could start there, heh. @_-@

      Hey, Jin’s new solo album/single is supposed to be out this month — is it already? Haven’t checked my LJ news feed in weeks…

      About the Caucasian acting, the only standout to my recollection was that burly American dude (or was he an Aussie?) who played the trade envoy who squared off with KimuTaku in Change. I LOL’d at his performance — in a good way! I wish he came out in more Jdoramas, lol😀

      • jicks Says:

        ^I think the dude was American from memory🙂 But yah, he was pretty funny😀😀

        Re Jin’s “new” solo stuff-
        Eternal was released a few days ago & I’m pretty sure it went straight to the top of the charts *suppresses joy(!!!)* The song obviously isn’t new but I’ve always liked it because it is quite beautiful *gags on double sausage hot dog* I think Jin & Pi did a duet of it together at PiPi’s Short But Sweet Solo Concert a while back. You should check it out, Yamapi was oozing with EEE-Motion lol.

        It’s Jin’s US stuff (i.e. ENGRISH??? >_>;;;)

        • jicks Says:

          (Something went wrong with my comment! Please add/fix, pretty please! I will give you all my Miura Haruma pictures! xPP Er, on second thoughts… Here is the rest of what I tried to say:)
          ***
          It’s Jin’s US stuff (i.e. ENGRISH) that is getting me a little… apprehensive, only because you know & I know it’s not his native tongue! Hopefully this upcoming song with Jason Derulo will be better than, say Bi’s collab with Omarion lol (bring on the PV baby, bring on the PV! Jin’s gonna rock it, I know! I’m anticipating alot of, ahem, women to be involved… >_>;;;)

          • Ender's Girl Says:

            Lol I didn’t have the heart to completely “fix” your comment ‘coz that woulda meant deleting that bit about Miura’s piccies, hahaha😀

            What you said about Jin’s new solo had me in stitches!!!😛 Imma hafta check out Eternal (including that upcoming collab with Jason Whatsis). Am also tickled pink by the thought of JinJin and PiPi making bootifyul moozik twogedder — kinda their very own Special Happiness, hahaha. (LMFAO @ YamaPi trying to squeeze a few bloody droplets of “EEE-Motion” from the vast gaping blankness of his pretty mug. But all I’m getting are flashbacks of his “crying on the phone” scene from Buzzer Beat x__O)

  6. EPS Says:

    Hi, been a lurker for some time. And a fan. You’re writing is hilarious, couldn’t really stop laughing whenever I read your posts.

    Anyway, I’m not really a fan of this kind of drama/movie/special and I was thinking pass after skimming through the review but the Yankumi scene had me do a double take and now I’m thinking, maybe I’ll see this just to see how fun the scene is. Haha.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hey there, thank you for (finally ^^;) dropping me a line!😀 You’re always welcome in this corner of the blogosphere. =) The Yankumi scene is found near the end of Episode 2, I think. Of course we never really see her jump off the deck of the ocean liner, but in one scene she’s tying up her little Ziplock bag, and in the next scene she’s being washed ashore (LMAO) with the same Ziplock bag, so if you do the math…😀

  7. gaijin mark Says:

    Hi EG!! I’m up thru episode 4 of this and like JDorama member “Wynter” I am just anal enough that once I start something I HAVE TO finish it!!

    When I first heard about this drama I was optimistic. I was hoping it would be a Japanese version of the movie “Avalon” (the Barry Levinson one, not the sci-fi one). Unfortunately as you so aptly pointed out in your review, it ain’t even close. This thing has more holes in it than a porcupines underwear!!

    The only place I can see where our opinions might differ is that I liked Pinko Izumi as Tomo, especially in the Manazanar episodes. Also, I would have preferred it if they had had Kiichi Nakai play the young Chokichi just would have made more sense to me. But aside from that, geez, when I go to Dodgers games this summer and run into any Japanese tourists, I think I better have a sign around my neck saying, “I’m not James!!”

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hey g-mark! Hehe, congratulations on making it to the final episode!😛 (And since you say you’re so anal about finishing what you start, then I hope you never run the misfortune of pushing the play button on, say, Kurosagi or something! Shudders!)

      “This thing has more holes in it than a porcupines underwear!!” << LMAO could not have put it better!😀 Just shows that in any production there's so much that rides on the quality of the writing — or lack thereof.

      Wait, did I say I disliked Izumi Pinko as Mama Tomo? I actually mentioned her in the cast members who gave strong performances.😉 About Nakai Kiichi playing young Chokichi, I agree that would've made more sense — since the other supporting actors (like Chokichi's besto friend, and the grand old landlord) weren't replaced by older actors as the time line progressed. My only reservation would be that young Chokichi was my favorite character and I would've wanted Tsuyoshi to essay the role. ^^;; However, had they made Nakai Kiichi play young Chokichi then Izumi Pinko would've had to play young Tomo — which would've been more of stretch seeing as Izumi Pinko looked much older than Nakai Kiichi to begin with (I just checked their birth dates and she's 14 years older! :O).

      “when I go to Dodgers games this summer and run into any Japanese tourists, I think I better have a sign around my neck saying, “I’m not James!!”” << Hahaha! Just make sure you don't go around on a horse brandishing a whip.😛 Speaking of MLB, I never realized how big a star Suzuki Ichiro is until just recently. I don't really follow baseball, but since the last two Jdramas that I watched were Kisarazu and H2, my understanding and appreciation for the sport have gone up a few notches. ^^;;

  8. gaijin mark Says:

    Well, I did finish it. And the scene after they’ve gotten the farm back when they’re standing on the hill, sure enough, Matsuyama’s wearing his trusty straw hat. I wanted to yell, “TAKE THAT STUPID HAT OFF!!!” I wonder if he wore it to Tomo’s funeral?
    All in all, a pretty disappointing drama.

    If you want to see something good that deals with the Japanese Internment camps, I would recommend the movie “Come See the Paradise”.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hey man, thanks for the rec ^^;; I just googled the movie. Does sound epic and romantic in all the right ways. Plus, I’ve always liked Tamlyn Tomita (esp. in Joy Luck Club… and Karate Kid II, heh), and I’m sure it would be quite refreshing to have a Nisei character who speaks English like a walkin’-talkin’ American.😉

      “sure enough, Matsuyama’s wearing his trusty straw hat. I wanted to yell, “TAKE THAT STUPID HAT OFF!!!” I wonder if he wore it to Tomo’s funeral?” << ROFLLL!!!!😀😀😀 Hmmm, I don't seem to recall if Old Jiro still walked around in that hat. I know he was wearing those silly overalls, though =P

  9. 2bx2b Says:

    I thought I felt something being sucked out of my brain while I was watching ’99 Years’…I assumed it was the drama, but now I’m pretty sure it was you, taking everything I was thinking and putting it in your review. How did you do that?

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hahaha! It wuzznt me, I swear it wuzznt me!!! (Do you hear the receding hoofbeats and distant whickering of a horse?) It was James who did it!!! It was James!!!😀

  10. cynthia Says:

    I’m half Shin-Nisei and half Japanese-American Yonsei. Reading this blog and the comments themselves are really ignorant. I’m VERY aware of the differences between past (and present-day) Japan and the Japanese-Americans in the United States. Here are my arguments.

    1. They used Japanese actors/actresses to ATTRACT the Japanese audience so that they would be AWARE of what the Issei and Nisei went through during the 20th century. If they used local JA actors who are not known in Japan, the Japanese would not be interested in watching. This is all “MARKETING your product to your TARGET AUDIENCE.” Use famous people = attract more attention. Simple as that.

    2. The drama is supposed to tell a story. I thought it was WELL DONE and caught a lot of small details that I never thought the production would’ve caught. Kudos to TBS! They don’t need more romance chemistry or whatever they need. If they do, then you’re going to get another Pearl Harbor movie out of this series. So for you Japanese-crazed fans of Asian dramas, stop being so ignorant and making fun of this drama. Many Japanese-Americans have seen this and they love it. They appreciate Japan for acknowledging their hardships they went through. I personally am have stronger ties to Japan more than majority of Japanese-Americans. I would thank the producers for doing their HW and shooting an amazing production. It helped me reassure of my own identity.

    3. To many of you, y’all might think certain events portrayed are impossible. Before you start thinking certain scenes are ridiculous, I’ve heard so many stories that I would not doubt that certain events did happen. For example, whoever thought Chokichi committing suicide in the camps was dumb. Just for the record, I don’t doubt that it happened.

    4. The Japanese speaking Japanese-American families DO exist. Not to the fluency extent but mine are pretty close. That’s such a small stupid concern for people to point out. The whole point of the drama is for the Japanese audience to understand the Japanese-American history. Thus, they use spoken Japanese.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Thank you for the edifying inputs! It isn’t everyday that we meet someone with first-hand knowledge of the Japanese-American narrative, so your comments are greatly appreciated.🙂

  11. Bogol Says:

    Hi! I just finished watching 99-nen no Ai and by looking what the Internet offers about it I stumbled across your page. Great, funny writing! Especially when you keep refering to Shinobu as “Yankumi” Yeah, I felt like this all the time. Gokusen was the first show I saw Yukie Nakama in and she will always be Yankumi to me.

    I do agree to most of your points. Although it was so terribly sappy I needed to see all episodes right til the end. It made me cry several times and what do you want more from a good show.

    Love your page, keep posting!

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      “Gokusen was the first show I saw Yukie Nakama in and she will always be Yankumi to me.” << Hi-five!!!😀 So that's you, me, and 987374737 other dorama fans, lolll

      But thanks for dropping by. Hope to see you around!🙂

  12. Ken Says:

    Dear Cynthia-
    I share your background, experience, and perspective.
    The critical comments lack far more insight than the writers and producers of this program.
    I have only seen Episode 1, which was broadcast tonight at UTB in Los Angeles.
    As a yonsei nikkei-jin, it was EXTREMELY difficult for me to uncover my family history and story. Many of my good friends are similar in that they are Japanese Americans but have not been able to uncover their family’s story. The nisei and sansei were scared and scarred by Executive Order 9066 and subsequent racism.
    To this day, the Japanese American community is subject of discriminatory behavior by groups of individuals and government.

    This program deserves praise for moving into production.

  13. gaijin mark Says:

    Ohhhh Nooooo!! They started showing this last night on the local Japanese station here in L.A.!!

    It’s pretty chopped up though, with a LOT of CM’s. I think they’re trying to turn a 5 episode drama into a 10 episode drama.

    I just hope the next time I go down to Little Tokyo I don’t see straw hats and overalls for sale in anything of the stores!! Ohhhh Noooo!!

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      “I think they’re trying to turn a 5 episode drama into a 10 episode drama.” << You mean… this WASN'T a 10-episode drama? But it felt… it felt like… can.not.compute… @_________@

      Btw that last bit you wrote about seeing straw hats and overalls at LittleTokyo? LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOO😀

      • gaijin mark Says:

        Now they’re putting a disclaimer before every episode:

        “Because this was originally broadcast in Japan, the dialogue is primarily in Japanese.

        Also, some events are historically incorrect.”

        That last line had me rolling on the floor!!

  14. Wesley Wong Says:

    I didn’t watch this show but I enjoyed reading your review. I find it difficult to comprehend the willingness of the Nisei to fight for a country that had essentially rejected them on the basis of their race. Despite being born and raised in America, despite being American citizens and culturally American, the Nisei were never accepted as “true Americans” by the mainstream. They were regarded as outsiders, as Asians and as everything opposite to the concept of “an American” as it existed at that time and which can still be seen today. In other words, despite their desire to integrate and become “American”, they were never given the chance by American society which only extended this privilege to those of European descent. Despite the fact that the Nisei were American citizens and had done nothing warranting suspicion of anti-american activities, their rights and freedom were blatantly violated by the American Government. The same treatment of internment and persecution was not applied to American citizens of German and Italian descent. The difference was that Germans and Italians, especially Americanised ones, were more readily accepted into the melting pot and were accordingly considered true Americans by the mainstream. As true Americans, they were expected to fight alongside other Americans against Hitler and Mussolini. They were considered Americans first and foremost despite the fact that their ancestors came from Germany or Italy. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the Nisei units were never deployed to the Pacific Theatre to fight against the Japanese. Perhaps this reflects society’s view of the Nisei as inherently un-American and as such inclined to sympathise with the Empire of Japan. If I was in the shoes of the Nisei I would never affirm allegiance to or fight for a country that treats me like crap on the basis of my race and which would never accept me as a true citizen.

    I love it how you point out the hypocrisy of America’s crusading mission to rid the world of all evil and injustice while some of the biggest human rights abuses were occuring in her backyard. Americans were quick to condemn Hitler’s Nuremberg laws but the irony was that America had its own set of Nuremberg laws (a la the Jim Crow Laws) decades before Nazi Germany which were still in effect at the time. Americans were quick to display outrage over the Bataan Death March and other Japanese war crimes but what about their very own “Trail of Tears” against the American Indians and terrible war crimes against the Filipino people during the Philippine American War? What about the terrible war crimes America and her Allies committed against Japanese soldiers and civilians? Numerous accounts and reports indicate that the murder of surrendered soldiers and mutilation of corpses were frequent practices against Japanese soldiers. Furthermore, studies and reports indicate that occurrences of rape by Allied soldiers were extremely high during the aftermath of the Battle of Okinawa and during the Occupation of Japan. While America has done many good things, I’m amazed at the amount of ignorant people who regard America as the proverbial good guy incapable of no wrong. However, I can understand why such ignorance exists given the fact that American and Allied atrocities and war crimes during WW2 have, until recently, largely been ignored and covered up because they were detrimental to their “good guy incapable of no wrong” image. Yeah, I guess Americans and other “Allied” Nationals have a right to be angry at the Japanese but they should at least drop that holier than thou attitude that they’ve been wearing on their sleeves for so long.

    • Wesley Wong Says:

      Additionally, it is hypocritical for the Western Powers to condemn Japanese Imperialism without first acknowleging their own culpability in creating a world where imperialism was a perfectly acceptable method of advancing national interests at the expense of weaker nations. The Western Powers were the founding fathers of imperialism and at the onset of the Second World War, they had no plans to give their colonial subjects independence (America was the sole exception with the Philippines. However, that does not change the fact that America had acquired The Philippines, after a brutal war, for economic and strategic purposes (i.e. strengthening her position in the region) with altruism being secondary i.e. merely an excuse/justification.

      Over the course of their long misrule, the colonials lived like kings while exploiting the locals and treating them like second class citizens. The colonials imposed unfair taxes (without representation) and plundered the colonies’ natural wealth. It doesn’t take a genius to surmise that the vast majority of wealth obtained from the colonies went back to Britain, France, and the Netherlands at the expense of the exploited locals. It is no surprise that the colonies were poverty stricken dumps when the Western Powers finally packed up and left.

      The attack on Pearl Harbor was essentially a preventive strike against America who would have attacked Japan in the event that she attacked the oil rich Dutch East Indies. This leads to the question: What gives America and the Western Powers the moral right to object to the Japanese merely mirroring what the Western Powers had done about a century earlier? If America was so against Japanese Imperialism in Asia, why didn’t she also make a decent effort to pressure the British, Dutch, and French into giving their colonies independence or at least self governance?

      Decolonisation was a phenomenon largely brought about by the war which essentially exposed the hypocrisy of the Western Powers and as such forced them to rethink their attitude toward colonialism. If the Japanese had no right to conquer and exploit other nations then what right did the Western Powers have to do the same? Ironically, it is arguable that the Japanese inadvertedly assisted the cause of freedom and decolonisation by attacking the Western Powers’ colonies and thus forcing the Western Powers to finally face the issue of their own hypocrisy regarding imperialism and colonialism.

      It is unfortunate that the Japanese wasted their chance of being genuine liberators of Asia. Instead of acting with a sense of altruism, they acted out of greed. Like the Western Powers, their primary motivation was greed, prestige and other forms of self interest. Nevertheless, the Western Powers have no right to condemn the Japanese without first acknowleging their own culpability in creating a world where imperialism was the bread and butter of international relations. When Japan emerged from three hundred years of isolation, this was the modern world that she was exposed to. The Western Powers had recently conquered South Asia and virtually all of South East Asia and had coerced China and Japan into signing unequal treaties through the use of actual and threatened force. From her own experience, the “Young Japan” quickly learned that imperialism was a fact of life and perfectly acceptable in this “new and modern world” that she had just been opened up to.

      • Ender's Girl Says:

        Excellent historical commentary, thanks for sharing with the other readers of this review.🙂

        Just to add to this, I’m grateful to America and the West for upholding democracy and free enterprise (as opposed to authoritarianism and communism — who wants those? certainly not I), but imperialism under any guise or name (or by any country) has never been and will never be a sound and just policy.😦

  15. Hiro Says:

    I have to agree with your assessment as well. I am Sansei (3rd generation) and was dismayed by the unrealistic portrayals of the 2nd/3rd/4th generations. I do personally know alot of Tule Lake internees and though they do speak Japanese, they only went there to keep the family together. They all stayed in the states after the way and many returned to farming in the San Joaquin valley. I also grewup with former MIS and 442 veterans – a bunch of tough as nails, grumpy old men! However, they are the pride and joy of the community for what they did to further the image of Japanese Americans. We owe them much for their sacrifices during this horrible time in history.

    If you ever want to meet these folks, go to a Obon festival in Sacramento, Florin, Stockton, Cortez (Modesto), or Fresno and you will see many folks who lived and breathed the true Nisei experience of WWII.

    Lastly, the screenwriter for this drama is famous for her long-drawn out series. She also wrote the NHK Special Anniversary series about the Brazilian Japanese Experience “Haru to Natsu”, which has many parallel stories to 99 Years of Love.

    • gaijin mark Says:

      Or, if anybody is ever in L.A., I would reccomend going to the “Go For Broke National Monument”. It’s in Little Tokyo just up the street from the Japanese American National Museum. The thing is, former members of the 442nd/100th RCT act as docents at the monument. I’ve gone a couple times and even though these guys are all in their 80’s now, they’ve still got that something that tells you, “When these guys were in the prime they must have be something!”

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Yikes, I just hope none of the former internees and vets in your circle of acquaintance got to watch 99-nen no Ai…😀 Not very likely since (as gaijinmark said in a previous comment) the tanpatsu was shown on one of your local channels a short while back, so they probably saw it anyway. @__@

      Re Hashida Sugako, I’m not familiar with her other works (lucky me), but will be certain to avoid that Brazilian-Japanese special like a grubby pair of overalls. (A note on the cast: not Izumi Pinko again??? lol. But had this drama been made a few years later, casting Kuroki Meisa would’ve been right on the money as she’s reportedly a quarter Latin American.)

  16. Martin Kubota Says:

    In spite of all the criticism of this film, I thought the issues brought
    out were good ones, and was an attempt to explain the history
    of the Japanese who immigrated to the U.S. The sad part of all
    this, is that the Japanese Americans don’t have the clout to
    produce a film of their own history in the U.S.

    As a Sansei, 3rd generation JA in the U.S., I liked this film,
    because it was the first time, I have seen a film about my
    own heritage and I’m almost 62. It took the Japanese to
    produce this film because hollywood doesn’t see profit in
    an Asian cast film. Since the Chinese or should I say
    Taiwanese are making inroads into the entertainment industry,
    they would be the ones to portray JAs, if a movie about the
    internment and the 442 were to ever to be made. JAs have
    not really been able to make much headway in the entertainment
    industry. What does that tell you about prejudice and discrimination
    against Asians since WWII ended. The best story about the
    lack of support for an Asian actor is the Bruce Lee story, back in
    the 70s.

    I’m glad this film was produced, so that all current living JAs
    can get an insight into their own history. I would bet that
    most JAs living now are so Americanized or as some people
    say, “White washed.” that they don’t care about their past
    and the sacrifices that were made by their ancestors.
    Maybe this film will remind them about their roots.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hi, thanks for taking the time to comment here.🙂 I hope the new Broadway musical Allegiance reignites public interest and awareness regarding the internment camps. If it gets a new generation of Americans talking and asking questions about the Japanese-American wartime experience, that would be a significant step forward, I think.🙂

  17. Martin Kubota Says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think most Americans care, especially younger Japanese Americans. Most have assimulated into
    American society and take for granted the freedoms they have
    Most people are concerned about their futures more than
    what has happeded in the past. But then again, if you don’t
    know where you have been, then how can you be so sure
    that you know where you are going.

  18. Hiro Says:

    Japan must have alot of interest in Japanese Americans now as a result of 99 Years of Love. Just last weekend, I saw on TV Japan (Satellite) a 2-hour documentary by legendary actor Ken Watanabe that talks about Norman Mineta (former Sec of Transportation)’s experiences during interment camp and his efforts to get redressed passed and fight discrimination against Muslims post-9/11. I was pleasantly surprised that Mineta could still speak a little Japanese, given all his years in Congress and DC. This show was called “Amerika wo iku”. Hopefully, somebody will put it up on Youtube or elsewhere with subs. In any event, I was really surprised and quite happy that people in Japan are actually taking an interest in Japanese American experience and history. First time ever!


  19. I am currently watching the series and getting great value. I am a Japanese American born in Japan to a Japanese mother and American G.I. father. I agree with Martin’ Kubota’s statements. I am an actor, painter and video producer. I also have enjoyed watching “Carnation’ and ‘Ohimsa’, TV dramas. From my experience with my Japanese relatives in mostly Northern Japan, and even my American relatives, although not perfect in their depictins, these programs have helped me understand the emotionality and historical aspects of wartimes in Japan. These are subjects not freely and openly discussed, and at least new conversations will be had because of them.

  20. JR Says:

    I just watched this program on NHK, showing here in Ca (Dec 2011) and was moved by it, very much so. It gives a reasonably accurate depiction of how this particular time in history, truly changed humanity. It changed it for the worse initially, but over time it gave rise to the powers of belief, honor and overcoming adversity during the most horrifying experiences imaginable, globally… I actually felt like a whole chunk of missing knowledge was just given to me, to try and comprehend as to why human beings can became so heartless. It was not just the fighting on the battlefields that violently incarcerated the souls of human history. It tore apart the nucleus of families in the most insidious of ways… I am at a loss for more words suddenly because I am still numb. The people that made this film and how they presented it, (in my opinion) put more than a story to music and scenery. They aligned a portion of legitimacy during the darkest days on red alert.

  21. Martin Kubota Says:

    It’s Martin Kubota again. As a follow up to my previous comments,
    I just wanted to inform anyone reading these comments that
    I’m planning to produce an independent major motion picture of the JA internment and the 442 RCT. Of course, this is a monumental undertaking and I’ll need all the help I can get. Anyone
    interested in participating in this project can contact me at
    gfb442fanclub@yahoo.com. I’m asking all person who believe in
    freedom under the US Constitution to participate. That especially
    includes all those Americans of JA ancestry.
    A lot of people doing a little bit can accomplish a lot. This may be the first time in history that a major motion picture can be produced with the help of the public. The subject matter is unique and should not be buried away in the history books, but should be told to the entire world. Keep in mind that it’s been more than 65 years since
    WWII has ended, and no major motion picture about the JA internment and the true story of the 442 RCT has never been made.
    The 442 RCT, the GREATEST fighting military unit in the history of
    the US, that most Americans never heard of. Disappointing to say
    the least.
    Hollywood makes every other kind of war movie, but where’s the
    story of the JA internment and the 442 RCT? Is it because they
    are Americans of JA ancestry? I bet if the 442 RCT were Caucasians the whole world would know about it.

  22. VICTOR LOPEZ Says:

    I have viewed this dvd and is highly recommemded for viewing by the gerneral public.


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