Children of Japan (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #314 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Educational]

Considering the year this was made, 1941, I at first thought it was a WWII propaganda film. But no, this is a charming children’s educational film made just before the war about life in Japan. We follow two siblings, Taro and Yukiko, as they go through their day with their family, at school, and going to a cherry blossom festival. It looks pretty realistic, though in simplified form, about Japanese life at the time, and everything seems peaceful and well-ordered. Look at all those strange but nice people from another culture, children! Don’t be afraid––they may seem different to us, but deep down they’re really like you and me. How quickly that would change! In fact, I wonder if this film got any showing in classrooms at all, considering how quickly its tolerant message became outdated. I could swear I saw the scene of Japanese boys practicing fencing at school in a later propaganda film. Here, it’s shown as another charming Japanese cultural practice, but in the other film it was shown as proof of Japanese indoctrination of children in military values. Overall, this is an interesting snapshot of our attitudes towards the Japanese just before we went to war with them.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *** (gets an extra star for the fact that it just begs for msting about Godzilla). Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ***.

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