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.
Police in Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, admitted Wednesday that they mistakenly arrested a woman in her 20s over her suspected involvement in a blackmail case which occurred in January of this year. (Japan Today )
Tokyo High Court ordered the state and a former Maritime Self-Defense Force officer on Wednesday to pay 73 million yen in compensation for the 2004 suicide of a junior crewman of an MSDF destroyer after bullying by the officer. (Jiji Press )
The Imperial Household Agency announced this week that it has received over 100,000 applications from individuals seeking to participate in the first ever public opening of parts of the Imperial Palace. (Japan Today )
A former judge from the Ministry of Justice is alleged to have installed a camera inside a women's toilet inside a ministry building in Kasumigaseki, people with knowledge of the matter announced on Monday, reports Sports Nippon (Apr. 22). (Tokyo Reporter )
Police in Fuso, Aichi Prefecture, said Sunday they have arrested an unemployed 38-year-old man for attempted murder after he broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend and stabbed her and her parents. (Japan Today )