Never have I seen a movie this relatable, this mesmerizing and thought-provoking.
I was watching an anime recently that, kind of strange, a harem anime that talks about something deep, deep about the soul of a people, and the customs and culture of a race and a nation.
I picked up this movie, The Last Samurai, to try to untangle what it is seemed to be foggy and messy.
To a westerner, no one has ever experienced the Western Democracy Revolution in the East Asia. But as an Asian, as a Chinese that understands fairly about our history in the past centuries, I could deeply relate to the situation that Japanese had one century ago. As Japan was reformed and rebuilt by Westerners in the 18th and 19th century, whereas China was more or less influenced by the western cultures but not entirely changed.
The Last Samurai has been dressing a theme throughout the film–honor. It is what brings Japanese together in the old times, it is what makes them disciplined and what makes them peaceful and harmonious. A spirit that transcends into samurais’, ronins’ and to the people’s minds.
I admire, the chivalry, which is honor in the essence, in Middle Ages. How defeat means defeat, and that we cherish victory. And having a good heart against evils in life, and helping others in general.
This is basically, what has brought me here so far that, to me, having honor is what a basic human being should do.
However, in my country. This is totally not the case. There is no honor, zero honor, inside China. No one respects honor, let alone having one or caring one.
Recent times scholars like to criticize on the Chinese not having any spiritual beliefs, stating that ’tis the reason that the nationals don’t understand laws and simply not abide anything.
It’s partially correct. But the deeper root of these problems is that Chinese have forgotten who they are and who they were.
It’s almost painful, to revisit the history of this country. How the past few centuries have shaped the country and let the people stray away from their origins.
I personally think that, the East Asian nations, Japan, Korea, China, countries that share the same cultural ancestry, had experienced the same feeling and memories in the time of Western Democracy Revolution.
Japan, at the time when there was uprisings of samurais and others, they understand the importance of firearms. Just like the old dynasty of Ming in China, which also prefers firearms over traditional melee weapons.
These East Asian nations had shared a same experience when they were facing the shell rain, the gunfire, while they were using their swords and arrows to try to defeat what is seemed a “mockery”.
They failed, definitely, and failed pretty hard. These warriors understand how firearm is going to destroy their civilizations if they do not compromise with what these gun owners wish for. Thus, Japan had entered Meiji Restoration. The domestic campaign that overthrows almost completely the old ways of Japan. Government starts to encourage citizens to learn and imitate from western civilizations, from food, dresses, houses to transportation, military and others.
In the film, I had a very mesmerizing moment that how the son of Katsumoto was cut his hair by the new police, the new protectors of the country. Before, samurais had been the protectors, the police of the country, now, laws, constitution has become the one and only for the country.
His hair is stripped by the surrounding policemen, the cry of him is really sadden. This small event draws the departure of samurais, the departure of Bushido. Japan is entering a whole new age, all old die, and come all new.
In 1910s, the Western Revolution had hit China. The old and ancient empire was crumbling to fall, but this Qing Dynasty, not exactly a Han Dynasty, was eliminated by the new firebornes. A new China came.
In this time, there was also, this extremely similar case with Japan. How the government deals with the old and new. The new national government of China orders that everyone needs to cut off their plaits–an old and corrupted tradition from the Qing Dynasty for all Chinese.
But, we do can see something, something old has died in the process. Just like the samurai. The last and hopeless cry for survival, there isn’t much, difference between the samurai, and the old nationals of China. I don’t want to expand on the sheep of China, how they react and whatnot. Some did act against the new transformation.
But I think this is where the brilliance or persistence of Japan comes in. They kept the Bushido, the spirit of samurais, the way of life. Unlike China, there are things long lost in the country, long lost.
Learning from this sociological point of view of society, how people perceive jobs, positions, power and wealth, is drastically different than how Japanese view them.
My friend once had told me this, Japan works under honor. How everyone respects each other and their jobs–a garbage cleaner would have his own respect and honor from others.
I’ve seen this cashier went out of a convenient store and cleaned up the garbage cans outside. There’s actually no obligation that one worker in a store needs to clean garbage cans outside of the store. They technically belong to the city, the garbage cycling service. But they clean them anyways. And I think the reason would be simple, you just want a store to look good, inside and outside. There’s not much obligations, or responsibilities throwing around. It’s just, respect, honor. Whether you’re a trash cleaner, or a cashier sitting in a store, you all can do what you think is the best for the community or the organization.
If people can start to adapt this kind of mindset, the unsettling of a society would be lowered down distinctively. How people think of a job, the prestige, the education of someone. If you simply pay some respect to the person, it’s all good.
Is this a United States problem? No. I think it’s kind of universal. At least, in China, no, people never really respect each other, let alone to respect jobs, education etc.
The costumes in The Last Samurai are stunningly impressive. They made me admire samurai, and yeah the armor of a samurai. They look so elegant and uninhibited. They represent the figure of Oni (ghost in essence), this fearsome figure goes throughout the history of Japan. Really, really mesmerizing armors and plates and helmets.
On music. Hans Zimmer, this man is so incredible. I really love how he composed for this movie, everything feels so generic and original to the Japanese traditional music. And so peaceful and quiet, that makes you desire what Japan has to offer.
This movie is really one of a kind. I’d give it 9/10. One that would makes you want to go to Japan.