Is it right for Unbroken to be banned in Japan?

Written by Naoki Nomura

Last year a potential Academy Award winning Hollywood film sparked great controversy across the world. Unbroken is a film based on a true story about a former Olympic athlete, Louis Zamperini, and his life threatening experiences behind Japanese prison camp fences. Although some say the movie is an exceptional film, others have been angered by what they claim is misleading information the movie presented. Japanese nationalists collected over 8000 signatures toward banning the movie and potentially suing the director as well. This first movie directed by Angelina Jolie has attractedf a lot of attention.

A very conservative nation, Japan has always stopped short of admitting to the accusations of committing war time atrocities made against it. It is a well known fact that the Imperial Japanese army destroyed a large portion of their wartime records as soon as the war ended. Due to this, other countries have been very skeptical of Japan’s version of its imperial past. So when a movie like Unbroken, which shatters the official Japanese version of the war is released, a widespread negative reaction to the movie ensued. From public announcements on social media to petitions outside theatres, Unbroken generated opposition, making this movie virtually impossible to screen in Japanese theatres. Hiromichi Moteki, Secretary General of the nationalistic pressure group the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, has claimed that the movie was “pure fabrication”, saying

“ If there is no verification of the things he (Mutsuhiro Watanabe) said, then anyone can make such claims. This movie has no credibility and is immoral”

– (Mail Online).

On the other hand, the movie has also given rise to voices calling on Japan to acknowledge its wartime atrocities. Angered activists in Hollywood have told the Japanese to “ take responsibility for their own acts” (Mail Online). Mindy Kotler, director of Asian Policy Point, told Newsweek that there is “plenty of eyewitness and forensic evidence of Japanese cannibalism of prisoners as well of fellow soldiers” (Mail Online). She then added, “It is one thing to question the memories of illiterate women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military. It is quite another to question the memory of a white male Olympian who was a disciple of Billy Graham” Mail Online).

With both sides heating up the debate, Miyavi, the actor who played the role of Mutsuhiro Watanabe shared his thoughts with the world.

“Torturing, killing, it’s tough, but the message of this film is really meaningful to everyone, even to Japanese people. I was scared, but even my family, or my children, will receive Louis’ strength and his attitude toward life”

(Mail Online).

Unbroken may be a film with a lot of controversial scenes, but it portrays a clear message of our responsibility as the next generation to never repeat this kind of shameful past. Unbroken is a great action-packed and heartwarming film that should not be banned anywhere in the world. However, despite it being a highly anticipated film, Unbroken generally received only lukewarm reviews. We hope Japan will come to humbly embrace this movie.


Hall, John. “Racist’ Angelina Jolie Should Be Banned from Japan”.  Mail Online:  Associated Newspapers.  Date             Published 09 Dec. 2014.  Date accessed 23 Apr. 2015.  Google>Unbroken Banned>second link