9 Great East Asian War Films

9 Great East Asian War Films

Culturally enriching and cinematically masterful, these films depict both war and East Asian cultures in a truthful and authentic light.
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Several weeks ago, I decided to challenge myself to write more of my weekly articles here at Odyssey about cinema. After all, it is what I am studying here at Towson University and what I want to pursue as a career. And so after writing several articles, I decided that I wanted to be a bit ambitious and to make a bid to also be a writer for cinema website Taste of Cinema. After a short back-and-forth with their managing editor, the messages stopped, so I believe it is safe to say that I was not qualified to work with them.

The bad news? I wasn't hired. The good news? I now get to share with you all the first article I would have wrote for them if I had been hired. So, without further ado, I present to you nine great East-Asian war films which I firmly believe to be both culturally enriching and cinematically masterful.

1. "Red Cliff"

Set on the eve of the Three Kingdoms Period in ancient China, "Red Cliff" depicts the legendary Battle of Red Cliff, and the events which led up to it. Like the Revolutionary War to an American, the Three Kingdoms Period is to a Chinese. Poetic, compelling, and mesmerizing, "Red Cliff" offers audiences a vivid look of the event that changed Chinese history forever.

2. "Assembly"

A fairly recent war film set during the Chinese Civil War, "Assembly" follows the story of a Communist company as they struggle to hold out against superior Nationalist forces. Surprisingly neutral and not having showing any anti-Nationalist or pro-Communist messages in any of the film, "Assembly" respects all those who fought in the war and sees it as a tragic event where brothers of the same nation were unfortunately ordered to fight one another.

3. "The Warlords"

Another Chinese epic war film, "The Warlords" does not take place in ancient China but during the deadly Boxer Rebellion where the weakening Qing Dynasty waged a desperate war against a pro-Christian and anti-foreigner faction known as the Boxers. A brutal and honest depiction of the tragedies of war and the dangers of ambition, "The Warlords" offers audiences an unforgettable experience in a dark and harrowing period of Chinese history.

4. "71 Into The Fire"

Featuring a powerful performance by Korean pop star TOP, "71 Into the Fire" focuses on the true story of seventy-one South Korean student soldiers who fought to the last man in a desperate struggle to defend a strategic position against overwhelming North Korean forces. Depressingly tragic, "71 Into The Fire" remembers those who lost their lives during the war, especially the young student-soldiers who fought and died for their country.

5. "The Admiral: Roaring Currents"

Based on the true battle of the Battle of Myeongnyang, "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" tells of the titanic battle where 13 ships of the Korean Navy went up against 330 ship of the opposing Japanese fleet—and won. A inspirational tale of courage, fortitude, and patriotism, "The Admiral" is not only as exciting as the modern blockbuster, it is also as heartfelt as an indie.

6. "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War"

Similar to "71 Into The Fire," for its setting in the Korean War, "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War," is more of a film about the horrors of war and the immense damage it does on both the mind and the soul. While all films on this list have graphic scenes of violence, "Tae Guk Gi" has a gratuitous amount, which is purposefully included to give depth to the fruitless and senseless conflict very commonly known as "The Forgotten War."

7. "Yamato"

The biggest and most powerful battleship ever constructed, "Yamato" is a non-linear story that follows a woman's attempt of scattering her father's ashes at sea where the battleship he served on during World War II, Yamato, tragically sunk. More than a military and technological achievement for the Japanese, the battleship Yamato was a symbol of the nation itself. A story of camaraderie, sacrifice, and ultimately remembrance, "Yamato" is an emotional and electrifying experience.

8. "Letters From Iwo Jima"

A companion piece to "Flags Of Our Fathers," "Letters From Iwo Jima" tells of the Japanese side of the iconic Battle of Iwo Jima. Set in the final days of World War II on a small volcanic island, the story follows General Tadamicihi Kuribayashi and his efforts to fend off the invading American forces for as long as possible in an impossible battle. Humanizing, gripping, and beautiful, "Letters From Iwo Jima" sheds light on the good and evil found on all sides of every conflict.

9. "For Those We Love"

Seen by some as a right-wing militaristic and revisionist film, "For Those We Love" is a controversial film that follows a group of kamikaze pilots from the day they are recruited to the day where they attempt to fly their fuel and explosive-laden planes into enemy warships or die trying. Definitely similar to the suicide bomber attacks that are prevalent today, "For Those We Love" takes a truly tragic part of World War II and tells the stories of those who were either pressured into becoming suicide pilots or who did it for their unwavering desire to protect their country at all costs.

With the exception of "Letters From Iwo Jima," which was a co-production between the United States and Japan, all eight other films on this list are made explicitly by the East Asian countries of China, Korea, and Japan. While war is a truly tragic human invention, there is sometimes good that can come from it, such as the realization that peace, coexistence, and harmony between the peoples of the world is ultimately more important than any political, ethnical, religious, or economic motive.

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A Letter To My Humans On Our Last Day Together

We never thought this day would come.
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I didn't sleep much last night after I saw your tears. I would have gotten up to snuggle you, but I am just too weak. We both know my time with you is coming close to its end, and I just can't believe it how fast it has happened.

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday.

You guys were squealing and jumping all around, because you were going home with a new dog. Dad, I can still feel your strong hands lifting me from the crate where the rest of my puppy brothers and sisters were snuggled around my warm, comforting puppy Momma. You held me up so that my chunky belly and floppy wrinkles squished my face together, and looked me right in the eyes, grinning, “She's the one."

I was so nervous on the way to my new home, I really didn't know what to expect.

But now, 12 years later as I sit in the sun on the front porch, trying to keep my wise, old eyes open, I am so grateful for you. We have been through it all together.

Twelve “First Days of School." Losing your first teeth. Watching Mom hang great tests on the refrigerator. Letting you guys use my fur as a tissue for your tears. Sneaking Halloween candy from your pillowcases.

Keeping quiet while Santa put your gifts under the tree each year. Never telling Mom and Dad when everyone started sneaking around. Being at the door to greet you no matter how long you were gone. Getting to be in senior pictures. Waking you up with big, sloppy kisses despite the sun not even being up.

Always going to the basement first, to make sure there wasn't anything scary. Catching your first fish. First dates. Every birthday. Prom pictures. Happily watching dad as he taught the boys how to throw every kind of ball. Chasing the sticks you threw, even though it got harder over the years.

Cuddling every time any of you weren't feeling well. Running in the sprinkler all summer long. Claiming the title “Shotgun Rider" when you guys finally learned how to drive. Watching you cry in mom and dads arms before your graduation. Feeling lost every time you went on vacation without me.

Witnessing the awkward years that you magically all overcame. Hearing my siblings learn to read. Comforting you when you lost grandma and grandpa. Listening to your phone conversations. Celebrating new jobs. Licking your scraped knees when you would fall.

Hearing your shower singing. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the sun. New pets. Family reunions. Sleepovers. Watching you wave goodbye to me as the jam-packed car sped up the driveway to drop you off at college. So many memories in what feels like so little time.

When the time comes today, we will all be crying. We won't want to say goodbye. My eyes might look glossy, but just know that I feel your love and I see you hugging each other. I love that, I love when we are all together.

I want you to remember the times we shared, every milestone that I got to be a part of.

I won't be waiting for you at the door anymore and my fur will slowly stop covering your clothes. It will be different, and the house will feel empty. But I will be there in spirit.

No matter how bad of a game you played, how terrible your work day was, how ugly your outfit is, how bad you smell, how much money you have, I could go on; I will always love you just the way you are. You cared for me and I cared for you. We are companions, partners in crime.

To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life.

Thank you for letting me grow up with you.

Love always,

Your family dog

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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