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Tokyo File 212
Directed by Dorrell and Stuart McGowan
Cast: Florence Marley as Steffi Novak
Robert Peyton as Jim Carter
Katsuhiko Haida as Taro Matsudo
Reiko Otani as Namiko
Satoshi Nakamura as Mr. Oyama
VCI Entertainment, 1951, 84 min., Video

Jim Carter, an American Army intelligence agent, visits Japan undercover as a journalist to try to disrupt a Communist group that is trying to assist North Korea during the Korean War. Tokyo File 212 was filmed entirely on location in Japan during the American occupation, and many Japanese had production and acting roles. The movie has many interesting shots including street scenes, nightlife, train stations, Haneda Airport, a charcoal-powered car, a geisha song, a street festival, and the Takarazuka Revue at the Imperial Theater. The video's back cover states "the clichés come thick and fast in this story of Japan's underground in post WWII." Despite this drawback, a few implausible actions by certain characters, and some stiff dialogue in places, the film does have a fairly fast-paced plot and a surprise ending.

An American agent named Jim Carter comes to Japan to try to find his former college classmate, Taro Matsudo, who has become mixed up in Communist agitation. Taro's father, a high-level Japanese government official, explains to Jim that his son became very confused when his kamikaze pilot training was cut short by the announcement of the war's end. Jim gets assistance from Steffi Novak, whose sister is being held prisoner by the North Koreans, and he also enlists the help of Namiko, a dancer in the Takarazuka Revue who has loved Taro for many years despite his shady behavior after the war's end. In the end, Taro commits a quick-thinking act of suicide that saves Jim, Steffi, and his father and brings down the the local Communist group boss named Mr. Oyama.

A laughably unrealistic four-minute flashback scene portrays Taro's education to become a kamikaze pilot. The 25 or so students in the kamikaze class watch US Navy films of kamikaze attacks that were not even released until after the end of WWII. Taro's father describes his son's kamikaze training, although it is unclear how he found out since they have been estranged ever since the war's end (22:15 - 26:15):

That shows how he has changed, but I can understand it for I watched the change take place, not only toward you but toward me and everything else that was once important to him. You see, Taro was trained to be a kamikaze pilot. Day after day, hour after hour, he sat in a classroom studying just one subject, how to die—not how to die in the manner expected of a soldier, but how to commit suicide.

In planes loaded with high explosives, they were trained to hurl themselves into battle with only one thought in mind: to reach their objective. That their own lives would be forfeited wasn't important since they were taught that self-destruction was the only real glory. It was a fantastic training but deadly thorough. Nothing was overlooked which would play on their emotion and obtain the desired result.

The movie's flight students appear to have completed their training to be kamikaze pilots without ever stepping out of the classroom. The young men at the kamikaze school look like robots who have been brainwashed. Taro fearfully watches the film clips of kamikaze aircraft crashing into ships, but then he and the other students jump up and yell like children in a delayed reaction after an aircraft carrier erupts in flames and smoke due to a kamikaze crash. Taro's father continues his description of the far-fetched school:

When an ordinary student graduates, he is given a diploma. When a kamikaze student graduates, he is given funeral rites, which enshrine him as a Japanese god. Fingernail clippings and locks of hair were placed in the envelopes as symbolic remains of the living dead, and they drank a portion of sacred wine to give them immortality. After that, they were ready for their first mission and their last. But Taro found it unnecessary to complete the rites. Japan had surrendered.

At the announcement of surrender, Taro throws his wine glass and breaks it on the table (real kamikaze pilots would have drunk sake or water from small sake cups rather than wine glasses), and he leaves the classroom in a daze. His father explains to Jim that Taro never came home after that day and that he had no idea where he was until he had seen his picture one day in the newspaper.

The actions of the characters of both Taro and Namiko have unclear motives. The film never mentions why Taro ended up in the kamikaze training school, since it seems like he would have mixed feelings if he had attended an American university. He seems to be much too old to be training as a pilot, since Japanese WWII pilots usually were in their late teens or early twenties, but the actor who plays Taro was 40 years old. The movie never explains why Taro remained depressed and in confusion for over five years after the end of the war and then somehow got involved with Communist activities.

Namiko portrays a sweet innocent woman who loves Taro, but it seems quite strange that she has kept so committed to him for many years even though he has not reciprocated in any way since his days in training as a kamikaze pilot. The following speech by Namiko to Taro sounds more like propaganda for the accomplishments of American occupation forces than the words from a woman in love:

Please, Taro, you think we are blind, but it is you who cannot see. In the old Japan, did the farmer ever own his land? Could the worker demand fair treatment? Was the voice of the lowest as strong as that of the highest? Those things are good, Taro. Why would you destroy them?

Tokyo File 212's many scenes in Japan under American occupation make it interesting from just an historical perspective, but this B movie has enough plot and humorous moments (some unintentional like the kamikaze pilot school) to make it an enjoyable watch.

Graduation ceremony at kamikaze pilot school