Lurkers' Retreat

ADV Films
VHSRS/001D Dub

Cert  PG

Rail of the Star

This story, based on events around the end of the Second World War, centres around Chieko, one of two daughters to a family of Japanese merchants living and working in North Korea. As events unfold, and first the Japanese war effort faulters, then collapses, then Korea is occupied in turn by the Russians and Americans, the whole business affects her and her sister, Michiyo, as they suddenly turn from oppressors to oppressed and they have to take desperate measures to escape the Russian forces.

The story does not go into detail on the subject of the Korean experience of Japanese rule, though ethnic brutality and even the "comfort women" make a token appearance. However, this should only be viewed as a cursory look at Korea in the 1940's prior to the Korean conflict. It was seen through a small girls' eyes and as such is innocent and free of the heavier implications that history would show you if you were to look. The story is far lighter than Grave of the Fireflies but still manages to jerk a tear or two from this cynical old reviewer as the realities of war on what effectively is the non-military side of the conflict (at no time does this film involve itself directly with the conflict itself) as illness hits.

There aren't many of these in the west, possibly because the idea of a take on the war by a defeated nation causes too many conflicts of its own. Personally, my interest in such films as this or The Cockpit which involves itself more directly with the actual conflict is that these show war from another angle seldom explored by the more closed minded who believe that Japan (and indeed Germany) should keep quiet. If anything, it goes toward the overall view that I have that in a war there are no winners, and no aggressor nation can claim to be whiter than white.

Politics aside, if taken as a story in its own right, it is good. In fact it is very touching, let down only by a patchy musical track that at times was inappropriate and repetitive. The art work was well done and the dub was of usual ADV quality (take it or leave it!) This is not a film for the average anime fan, but if you are a fan who likes a good story and isn't obsessed by fights, mecha or sailor-fuku, this will suit you down to the ground!

[4 stars]

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