Japan, Our Homeland
|Japan, Our Homeland|
|Directed by||Akio Nishizawa|
|Screenplay by||Akio Nishizawa|
|Story by||Akio Nishizawa|
|Music by||Makoto Kuriya|
|Edited by||Sōji Goto|
Japan, Our Homeland (ふるさと-JAPAN Furusato Japan) (officially capitalised as JAPAN, Our Homeland) is a Japanese animated film directed by Akio Nishizawa and his second long feature film effort, after his 2004 release Nitaboh, the Shamisen Master. It premiered in 2006 (film festival in Lyon, France), being released theatrically in 2007 in Japan. The film was produced at the animation studio WAO World.
Plot with background
The film is based on an original story by director Nishizawa, who spent his childhood in the setting of the film. The film takes place in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Kiba, where Nishizawa (born in 1942) was a freshman in junior high school in 1956, the year in which the film takes place.
Japan, Our Homeland describes the life in a class of schoolchildren in 6th grade, in an elementary school in Kiba, downtown Tokyo. The year is 1956, some ten years after the end of the Second World War, and people struggle getting by. A telephone at home is still considered a luxury, and the teachers at school are concerned and sometimes with what kind of future will await their pupils. The effects of juvenile deliquency are felt within the whole family, and people still mourn their beloved ones gone missing after the war.
In this environment, the school competes for the local choir competition, led by their own musical teacher, Ms. Sakamoto. This competition is seen as one form of bringing pride and togetherness for the school and the local community.
The film starts with a new pupil, Shizu, transferring to the school from her hometown Kobe. The film ends with her in a central position, but in another sort of way. At the end of the film, there is a public announcement about Japan finally being able to become a member of the United Nations, the announcer mentioning the word for their homeland in the international language of English – Japan. Their country is to enter a new era, hopefully one of prosperity.
- Naoya Sekine as Akira Yanagisawa, class deputy and a bright kid. Afraid of going against the will of the group.
- Maika Kawagushi as Shizu Miyanaga, transfer student from Kobe. Has studied piano and song for some time. Clever but risking to be an outsider in her new class.
- Subaru Kimura as Gonji "Gon" Abe, a childhood friend of Akira. Sturdily built and the leader of the gang of boys.
- Sayaka Hanamura as Ms. Rieko Sakamoto, a new teacher at school. Teaching music.
- Seigo Kuwabara as Yoshio Kawabata, a schoolboy, member of the boy gang.
- Tetsuya Kannami as Kazuteru "Teru" Yoshimura, a schoolboy, member of the boy gang.
- Kengo Kumagai as Hiroshi "Hakase" Sugiura, a learned schoolboy, member of the boy gang.
- Eri Osonoe as Yayoi Tajima, a schoolgirl.
- Nana Takada as Hikaru Goto, a schoolgirl.
- Kurumi Honta as Kimiyo Arima, a schoolgirl.
- Yasuo Iwata as Mr. Ikeno, the school president.
- Yogi Ueda as Mr. Akiyama, a school teacher.
- Masaki Terasoma as Mr. Takii, a school teacher.
- Masaskazu Suzuki as Masaki Sakamoto, Ms. Sakamoto's brother. Seven years her senior and a moral mentor to her. Disappeared during World War II, as an airforce pilot.
- Takaya Hashi as Genji Yanagisawa, Akiras' father. Hard-working carpenter.
- Hikari Yono as Fukuko Yanasigawa, Akira's mother.
- Rumi Nakamura as Kazuko Yanagisawa, Akira's elder sister.
- Kanon Nagashima as Reiko Yanagisawa, Akira's younger sister.
- Ikkyu Juku as Shizu's father
- Keiko Sonoda as Shizu's mother
- Yasuko Hatori as Owner of Miki stationery store
- Eri Saito as Mrs. Aoki, Akira's neighbour.
- Sayuri Sadaoka as Mrs. Shimazu, the landlady, often lending (not always happily) her telephone to the Yanagawas.
- Yuko Kobayashi as Announcer at the choir competition
- 12 December 2003 – The production team meets for the first time. They try to visualise Japan in 1956 and talk about the late Yasujirō Ozu, whose films often depict this very era. Coincidentally, the centenary of the birth of Ozu is celebrated this very day.
- 7 & 20 February 2004 – Development of some of the main characters of the story.
- 20 February 2004 – Meeting with Mr. Tsutomu Aragai, slated to sing the opening theme of the film.
- End of March to July 2004 – Production of storyboards. 1,000 frames of storyboard produced, for a 90 minute long theatrical film.
- 23 & 25 July 2004 – Recording of Doyo, Japanese traditional children's song.
- 23 & 25 July 2004 – Creation of animation cels are under way. Some 30 animators are to produce 50,000 hand-drawn cels, based upon the 1,050 storyboard frames.
- April 2005 – Colour selection, deciding the colours for the characters' skin tone and clothes, as well as for the sky and other landscape colours.
- 13–15 October 2005 – The process of photographing all the hand-drawn cels. What remains is the mixing of the film with the sound of voices and the orchestra.
- 18–25 October 2005 – Recording of the music for the film.
- November 2005 – Recording of the dubbing of all the characters' voices.
The first public screening of the film was at the Asian Connection (Festival de Cinéma Asiatique) in November 2006. The festival was held 7–13 November in Lyon, France. Then it had already been pre-screened at the film market of the 11th Pusan International Film Festival the month before. On 7 April 2007, the film debuted as a roadshow in 10 cities across Japan.
The film has been released on DVD or similarly in:
- France (3 September 2008, as La Chorale, Kazé Éd., EAN: 3700091012988)
- Germany (by Kazé Germany)
- Italy (by ADC Group)
- Poland (15 May 2008, as Japonia – moja ojcyzna)
- Taiwan (by Mighty Media Co., Ltd)
Awards and nominations
The film won the Junior Jury Award (Prix du Jeune Public) as well as the Public Award for Best Animated Film (Prix du Public du Film d'Animation) at the 12th Festival du Film Asiatique de Lyon. The prizes were awarded at 12 November 2006.
- Post-occupation Japan
- My Neighbor Totoro (also depicting Japan in the 1950s)
- Mai Mai Miracle (see above)
- Only Yesterday (another slice-of-life post-war anime about coming of age)
- From up on Poppy Hill (see above)
- Note: This was the day of the awards ceremony. The first screening went ahead between 7 and 12 November.
- Profile. Akio Nishizawa's World. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- "Interview with the Director." Furusatojapan.com. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- "The 31st year of the Show Era (1956)." Furusatojapan.com. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- "Characters." Furusatojapan.com. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- "Production Notes Index." Furusatojapan.com. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- "The 12th Lyon Asian Film Festival." Furusatojapan.com. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- Official website – main page. Furusatojapan.com. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- Manga-news.com. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- Filmweb.pl. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
- "JAPAN, Our Homeland - Movie.". Jsdvd.com, 26 February 2009. Retrieved 2012-09-08.