JAPAN AT WAR, 1931-1945
The Kwantung Army to SiberiaI found this book rather irritating. It is obscenely expensive, with a $65 list price for the hardcover and near $40 for the e-book! But more than that, it doesn't really tell the story I expected to read, about the 600,000 Japanese soldiers swept into Stalin's Gulag in the aftermath of his brief entry into the Pacific War. Instead, the author concentrates on three Japanese intellectuals who later became notable as a painter, a poet, and a philosophher. Really, who cares how the intellectual turns out? It's the other 599,997 that I would like to read about. There is also an annoying (and possibly related) fondness for the Soviet theory, as opposed to how it worked in practice. Stalin's Russia, the author says, was a betrayal of "the ideals of a just, new society." What, the society of Lenin? Of Marx? No, I don't think so. Stalin was the logical outgrowth of Marxism, as was Mao, as were Castro and Ho and Pol Pot.
Only in the book's final chapter do we read the true accounting: "some 10 percent of those internees -- over sixty thousand of the more than six hundred thousand held -- had perished in the camps." That was the nature of the Gulag, as the Gulag was the nature of Communism or indeed any totalitarian creed. And note that the Japanese prisoners were lucky: most of them labored for just a few years, compared to the twenty years that was demanded of most of Stalin's slaves.
The Wind RisesThe Wind Rises is an animated feature of the life of Horikoshi Jiro, designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero of the Second World War. Says the publicity for the American release: "Not only will [director Hayao] Miyazaki's love of flight be the center of a film for the first time since Porco Rosso, but his extraordinary ability to find the human stories within larger dramas will, we're sure, make this an animation event. Watch the four-minute Japanese trailer below!"
Blue skies! -- Dan Ford