Riben Guizi – Devil’s Soldiers From Japan
Japan, 2000, 160 min. / 58 min.
Japan has employed a strategy of forgetting war crimes instead of investigating them. Kazuo Hara’s famous documentary The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On from 1987 is one of few that deals with the subject. The protagonist is a former soldier stationed in Asia in W.W.II, though he is mostly concerned about holding the Emperor responsible for the conditions offered the common Japanese soldier.
Therefore the documentary Riben Guizi by Minoru Matsui is a new and unique documentary. Its declared purpose is to shed light on war crimes committed by the Imperial Army and pass on the knowledge to future generations so that the crimes will never be repeated. Its long version includes 160 minutes of confessions from fourteen former soldiers who fought in China from 1931, when Japan invaded Manchuria, to 1945 when Japan was defeated. Interrupted only by short voiceover passages of general narration on how the war developed, you watch 160 minutes of confessions of gruesome actions committed against civilian Chinese, inhuman acts you can’t believe have happened. Gory films and violent animations pale beside their stories.