Prologue: last May, I and my fellow students had fun watching Goemon, a movie that directed by Kazuaki Kiriya. As returned, I asked them (they are junior high school students) to make a small review. I compiled our writing here. My students' writing gave more consideration to the synopsis along with their general comments of the technical issues like music and graphic. My role for their writing was to edit and combine their works to avoid you reading the same thing. I also decided to separate my part which was more to specific to historical and other issues. E n j o y!
Goemon: between beauty and madness
by Ansor & Yunabi
Once upon a time, there was a man named Ishikawa Goemon, whom known as a great thief. One day, on a festival day, he went to a lord's house to steal gold to be given to the poor people. When he was in the room, while gathering the gold, he found a blue box. He ran out before the guards found him. He hid himself and saw his map from Sarutobi Sasuke but the map was confusing. The guards kept looking for him and he ran outside until he reached a roof where under it, people were gathered for the festival. He spread the gold and the people cheered for him, "That's Goemon!". Goemon satisfied to empty his gold pocket and took the box. He opened it. It was empty. Goemon threw it and a boy got it. But the guards now reached the roof and Goemon, using his rope, jumped away and screamed, "The number one thief......!"
By the morning Sasuke came to Goemon. Sasuke told him about a box that was looked by an officer and caused the family that was suspected on hiding it to be executed. The story intrigued Goemon to find the boy who got it. The boy, Koheita, lived in a slum with his mother. Goemon found him there, but he was late. Koheita’s mother had been killed because of the blue box. So what was the secret of that blue box?
The graphic was very dramatic. It was an absurdity of computer graphic that placed into the movie. The sound effect was good; though there were moments where the background sound was too loud that I (Yunabi) could not concentrate on the story. This movie might even better if it had a 3D version. The music worked well and fit the movie. It gave you the calm, peaceful, yet a thrilling sound.
I (Ansor) like the movie. It had a nice, sad, and interesting part that I admired. This movie, in Yunabi’s opinion, had a feeling of RPG with the touch of comedy. Overall, Yunabi gave 3.5 over 4 stars.
Oh, for a moral message, Yunabi thought that if you want to “steal”, take a safe stuff, because you never know that the thing you take may driven you into an un-expected situation. :D But anyway, if you really steal something, you already choose to risk your life!
NOTE: The article below contains of spoiler as this is for advance reader or those who already watching Goemon. Most of the topics here are comparing the story from Kiriya’s view and its differences toward the real history. However, I put specific note to tell the reader where the spoiler is started.
It was interesting for me to watch this movie. Kiriya Kazuaki was well known for his ‘Casshern’ and I could not resist myself not to compare his movies. Casshern, though a very intriguing from moral side, was a slow story telling. It took too much on panorama and emphasis the graphic design. But in Goemon, Kiriya was proven more mature. He created a tight story, a tight screenplay; and for sure, no more wasting scenes.
Historically, Goemon was a Robin Hood in Japan in Toyotomi regime. There was no clear information about him, as long as I researched in the Internet. It was said that he and his entire family were boiled after he failed to assassin Toyotomi. And that was the Goemon-buro (Goemon bath) term came from. The movie took Goemon, along with true historical names and events but Kiriya mixed into an ‘alternate history of Japan’. Based on Kiriya’s version, Goemon’s act would lead Japan into The Battle of Sekigahara. This event was one of the most ‘spectacular’ moment where thousands men, separated into 2 groups, battling in SekigaharaKiriya was quite nice not to let non-Japanese trapped in confusion about history as you could enjoy it with only focus on the story. However, it will be good for you to understand the historical events because it could enrich your imagination and knowledge.
As a key to watch Goemon, you must understand that this movie took place at the end of Sengoku Period (Warring States Period). Like The Romance of Three Kingdoms from China, Japan was divided into states before Oda Nobunaga had risen for power. Both Oda, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu were the most important people that changed the fate of Japan. Oda died on 1582, killed by Akechi Mitsuhide. As his best vassal, Hashiba Hideyoshi replaced Oda. Under Toyotomi, Japan was closed to foreign. This was the period where Christian was banned. His ambition was to conquer China through Korea. It was failed in the end, and Toyotomi died in Korea on 1598. Tokugawa raised his power, opposing with Ishida Mitsunari – a man from Toyotomi’s side. There was a political situation to question whether Tokugawa Ieyasu could be relied on as a supporter of the Toyotomi government, whose nominal lord was the child Toyotomi Hideyori. Rumors started to spread stating that Ieyasu, at that point the only surviving ally of Oda Nobunaga, would take over Hideyoshi's legacy just as Nobunaga's was taken. Both parties later looked for allies and final battle was took place at Sekigahara. This was an event to clean path for Tokugawa to become shogun.
As additional knowledge, when Toyotomi got his power, he became a protector to Chacha. Chacha was a niece to Oda. Her mother was a sister of Oda and later married to Azai Nagamasa. Chacha, later became concubine and second wife to Toyotomi. She was the mother of Hideyori. After Toyotomi Hedeyoshi’s death, Chacha and Hideyori moved to Osaka Castle and plotted to get back Toyotomi’s power. In 1614 and 1615, Tokugawa attacked Osaka Castle. Chacha and Hideyori committed suicide and this ended the Tokugawa clan.
Note: This is where the true spoiler starts…
If you already watched Goemon, you could see where Kiriya put his twist on Chacha’s role. Against the actual history, here, Chacha had connection to Goemon. Yes, she was forced to be Toyotomi’s concubine (I do not know whether in actual history she was forced or not), but behind that, she was allied with Ieyasu to kill him. In this alternate history, Chacha did not give a birth to Hideyori and the battle of Sekigahara was pure rivalry between Ieyasu and Ishida.
Kirigakure Saizou was the second character that also gave the twist. He and Sarutobi Sasuke existence were questioned. According to the legend, both Saizou and Sasuke served Sanada Yukimura as Sanada Ten Braves – a group of ninja who guarded Sanada. Interestingly, Kiriya put both of them as no connection to Sanada.
In the movie, Saizou served Ishida as his ninja. He never mentioned Sanada. Instead, he was a student to Hattori Hanzo. Hattori was an actual person in history and he was a ninja who served Tokugawa. I had no idea why Kiriya put him totally opposite to history, unless this was a freedom for him to play with the history.
Meanwhile, Sasuke was placed as a mere peasant who previously chasing Goemon but ended up serving him. His only connection to Sanada was his monolog when he walked with Koheita and mentioned his dream to be a samurai like Sanada. In the true history, it was said that Sanada served Ieyasu at the beginning of Sekigahara Battle, but later he served Toyotomi. If we followed this theory, then it was logic to see Sasuke was wearing Ieyasu troop’s uniform in the movie. It was possible that he was placed under Sanada’s troop and this might be the only direct connection between Sanada and Sasuke.
Talking about Ishida Mitsunari, I saw his role in this movie quite epic. I did not really sure that in reality Ishida was a real antagonist. He was rigid, according to history. His loyalty to Toyotomi was not questioned. After losing the Sekigahara Battle, he fled and later was executed. Again, Kiriya flipped the history. His version of Ishida and how he died were totally opposite.
Kiriya’s version of Japan history was a twist of each event in the last stage of Sengoku Period. He left only little part of originality, probably because he respected the original characters: Oda – the charismatic person, Toyotomi – the monkey (and we still see his dramatic playful character), and Tokugawa – the calm and tactical person. Other than these 3 persons, Kiriya flipped everything and gave us a new point of view, a fresh panorama of Japanese history.
However, even though he looked very wild on giving this alternate history, Kiriya stayed with the values of humanity. The war was only bringing disaster. Friendship might end with sacrifice. A leader might become greedy. Politic just brought misery for peasant. I am agree with my student; at the end, we must sit and think of our action because whatever we decide, it will create history..
As a tribute to this movie, I also work on its music score but... it will take times because the music is highly hard to transcribe :D Seriously, it's hard...
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