If making a decent movie required only good intentions, then "Pray for Japan" would be off and running. As it is, though, this muddled collage of random impressions and personal histories, emerging from last year's destruction of the Tohoku coastline by the earthquake and tsunami, doesn't document a tragedy so much as repeat a mantra.
Specifically, "live tough" and soldier on. Adopting a soothing, self-abnegating tone - Everyone works together! Food for all or no food for anyone! - consistent with its title, this relentlessly inspirational ode to human resilience soon morphs into a repetitive, if well-deserved, high-five to volunteerism.
Filming over six weeks in Ishinomaki, once the region's largest coastal city, Stu Levy, the American founder of the beleaguered manga publishing house Tokyopop, interrupts his own volunteer efforts to capture the struggles of others. Cloyingly sentimental poetry by Ryoichi Wago (read by Kyoka Suzuki) peppers the childlike narrative, while paintings of cherry blossoms float serenely in the background.
Virtually ignoring footage of the actual disaster, Mr. Levy commits to an onward-and-upward thrust that glosses over logistics and anything remotely unsavory. Everyone is either a saint (an admirable school principal tirelessly rounding up his students) or a victim (a musician who lost four family members); everyone has hope and a positive attitude.
But these exhausted survivors with their shattered lives need a lot more than prayer and platitudes, and Mr. Levy might have scared up more cash had he shown more hardship. (The film's proceeds will go to the nonprofit JEN, a relief organization.) Natural disasters might bring out the best in people but not necessarily in filmmakers.
Tochigi prefectural police said Thursday that they are questioning a man in his 30s over the murder of a 7-year-old girl in December 2005. Japanese media quoted police as saying that the man, who was arrested for dealing in fake brand-name goods, has hinted at his involvement in the murder. (Japan Today )
People enjoy viewing the 15-meter snow walls of the Yuki no Otani (Great Snow Valley), along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route that passes through the Northern Japan Alps to link Toyama and Nagano prefectures. (The Japan News )
Tokyo prosecutors plan to look into whether a man, who has been arrested for allegedly vandalizing copies of Anne Frank's diary, is mentally competent to be held criminally responsible for his actions, informed sources said Wednesday. (Jiji Press )