The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On: Fighting to Console the Innocent Souls

In Hara’s documentary, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, Kenzo Okuzaki investigates the mysterious deaths of his fellow soldiers that occurred after the Pacific War officially ended. In order to console the souls who died during the war, Kenzo embarks on a mission to discover what truly happened to these innocent soldiers. Throughout the documentary, he interviews the former military officers who were deemed responsible for the killing and cannibalism of their own men. Although Okuzaki interviews multiple superiors, he never discovers the honest truth because they are hesitant to disclose the events that actually occurred. After completing his investigations, Okuzaki is convinced undoubtedly that the superiors committed horrible atrocities. As a veteran of war who advocates justice, Okuzaki desires to reveal the officer’s inhumanity and hopes that by doing so, the dead can rest in peace and war will forever be prevented.

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Okuzaki’s emotions display his passion to fight for justice and pay his respects to his fellow soldiers.

Throughout the documentary, there was a distinct parallelism between Minamata: The Victims and Their World and The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On. In both documentaries, social movement, awareness, and change are desired. At the beginning of Hara’s documentary, the audience discovers this notion of social awareness as Okuzaki sits in his car and shouts out to the public. As he explains how he is conducting a memorial service to console the souls who died during the Pacific War, he spreads his beliefs to others and displays his passion for fighting for justice. Just as Noriaki attempts to advocate change and raise awareness in his Minamata documentary, Okuzaki’s unremitting desire to remain involved in these unresolved atrocities displays this same objective. As both works attempt to increase social consciousness, they illustrate this notion of a manifesto. Okuzaki’s persistence and attempt to involve others by spreading his knowledge on the streets parallels the manifesto’s function in Battleship Potemkin and The Factory Ship. As Okuzaki persistently continues to seek answers from the officials, he demonstrates that his manifesto, or declaration of intentions, involves revealing the military’s brutality and consoling the innocent dead.

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A victim’s mother struggles with the death of her son.

Similarly, in both Hara and Noriaki’s documentaries, the audience discovers the victim’s perspective. As both directors observe the victim’s families and how either the Minamata disease or the military officer’s inhumanity has affected their lives, an emotional connection is established between the audience and the victims themselves. This connection develops a sense of sympathy and allows the audience to experience an accurate account of the their feelings. In The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, Hara includes the various reactions and emotions of these families as a means of depicting how they continue to struggle and remember the cruelty and violence that took place. For instance, this screenshot zooms in on the mother of an executed Japanese soldier as she wipes the tears off her face. This emotional segment demonstrates Hara’s objective to display how the deaths continue to affect their relatives lives, even years after the war. The inclusion of these emotional scenes adds to the “realness” of the documentary because it presents an accurate account of how these individuals struggled.

Furthermore, throughout the documentary, Hara illustrates some of Nichol’s ideas discussed in his article, “Why Are Ethical Issues Central to Documentary Filmmaking?” As an example, Okuzaki travels to Japanese style homes that are depicted as recognizably familiar. These familiar house settings add to this notion of familiarity, which ultimately provides a basis for belief and convinces the audience that the documentary must in fact be a real account of history. To further relate to Nichol’s discoveries, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On displays how social actors may often times modify their actions and behavior because they are aware that they are being filmed. This is evident during the scene when one of the executioners is questioned about Yoshisawa’s murder. The executioner states that he will only reveal the truth to the relatives in a private setting. As this man refuses to elaborate on the situation, he demonstrates Nichol’s idea. In this case, this social actor modifies his behavior and restricts his speech because the camera examines his every move.

Clearly then, in many ways The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On connects to the various works and concepts we have investigated in this course.

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