Japanese nationalism and divinity are promulgated as ham-fisted propaganda in a dreadful martial arts film. The Cherry Bushido whitewashes past atrocities in response to current geopolitical threats. The premise has a warrior “chosen” by God to defend Japan from attacks in the real and astral world. Everyone who disagrees with the protagonists’ dogma are cowards being controlled by an evil demon. Japan does face security challenges from its authoritarian neighbors. But the idea that the country is beyond reproach hearkens back to a dangerous ethnocentric ideology.
Shizuka Yamato (Yoshiko Sengen) is a university student worried about her country. The Republic of Sodorrah launches missiles towards Japan and continually breaches its territorial waters. Shizuka and her family watch news reports of politicians fumbling through the crisis. Shizuka has nightmares of Japan being destroyed in a nuclear assault. She writes an opinion piece in a local newspaper arguing for Japan to defend itself. Do not depend on the United States or foreign allies for help.
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Shizuka is a gifted fighter in the samurai arts. She easily defeats challengers in a fake movie audition. Shizuka is introduced to Satoshi Takayama (Hiroaki Tanaki), a leader in the Japan Salvation Conference. God has deemed her a righteous savior fated to save Japan. She must learn to astral project. Then lead a JSC team into the spirit world to defeat the Great Demon of Hades. Meanwhile, the Japanese government struggles to handle a Sodorrah missile launch.
The Cherry Bushido Runs Long
The Cherry Bushido caught me completely off guard. I watched expecting to see a martial arts fantasy about a female samurai. The Japanese ultra-nationalism, religious extremism, terrible action, and poor visual effects were a massive disappointment. The achingly long two-hour runtime felt like sitting through a re-education class.
The Republic of Sodorrah is a combination of China and North Korea. The film depicts Sodorrah visually on multiple maps as China. They build island outposts, do not respect Pacific nations sea rights, and engage in mass imprisonment. The missile launches reflect North Korea’s nuclear aggression. These are legitimate and serious security concerns for Japan. It makes sense for the country to bolster defensive capabilities.
The Cherry Bushido treads forthright into oppression with its handling of dissenters. These people are depicted as weak appeasers willingly under the control of an evil spirit. Shizuka and her JSC cohorts parade through Japan’s streets decrying the fake media. It’s a right-wing playbook that reeks of fascism. Their way is the true path. Everyone else capitulates to an unholy aggressor. Shizuka is no different from any religious zealot proclaiming divine guidance. These scenes are alarming.
I had major issues with the handling of Japanese World War II soldiers. They are portrayed as heroes who fought valiantly for their country. You can respect your ancestors’ sacrifice. But not mentioning or taking any responsibility for Japan’s horrific war crimes is unconscionable. The Rape of Nanking, the sexual slavery of comfort women, and the brutal treatment of POWs can never be glossed over.
Japan is a fantastic country with an amazing culture and people. There’s nothing wrong with wanting it stronger. Current events continue to prove that the powerful subjugate the weak. The Cherry Bushido is a poor vehicle for Japanese patriotism. Its use of religion is especially disturbing.
The Cherry Bushido is a Japanese film (愛国女子-紅武士道) dubbed in English. It is produced by IRH Press Co., Ari Production, and New Star Production. The Cherry Bushido will have a select theatrical release on March 11th from Freestyle Releasing.
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Julian Roman has been with Movieweb for nearly twenty years. An avid film buff, he feels lucky to have interviewed and written extensively about Hollywood’s greatest talents. In his spare time he plays guitar, treasures good company, and always seeks new adventures.
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