2 stars (out of 4)

Released 2013

Based on the true story in which a British transport plane made an emergency landing on the shores of Sado Island in early 1946. It had only been a few months since the end of WWII and the Japanese people were still scarred from their losses during the war. The residents had to overcome their fears and misgivings and find it in their hearts to help the stranded pilots.

First, I’ll state my problems with the film. It had possibly the worst subtitling work I have ever seen on the big screen. The translations were often excessively literal, frequently not even in proper sentences. There was at least one glaring spelling error, that I remember; and by the second half of the film, I was challenging myself to improve on some of the dialogue by rewriting the lines in my head.

The staging and the mannerisms of the actors were more befitting of a live theatrical production than a feature film. The pauses during the delivery of lines were noticeably unnatural. And don’t get me started on the overacting. One guy was hamming it up as if he were in a yakuza comedy, not in the completely sombre affair which was FLY, DAKOTA, FLY. Plus, I almost laughed out loud when another character just suddenly turned evil.

Production issues aside, the actual story was a worthwhile one. It was a heartwarming tale, somehow very Japanese in the way it preached tolerance and promoted working together to help others while bettering yourself in the process.

The God of Ramen

2.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2013

An intimate, rather low-budget documentary that follows Yamagishi Kazuo over several years during the twilight of his career. Yamagishi is the founder of Taishoken in Ikebukuro, a ramen restaurant that now has many branches across Japan and also some locations worldwide.

Surprisingly, the film makes no mention of the fact that Yamagishi is credited as being the inventor of tsukemen (dipping noodles served separately from soup).

It also does not even try to explain what made the ramen at his Taishoken so good that devoted customers would line up for hours to have it. Yamagishi freely shared his recipe; and yet, it was only when he prepared it personally that the taste was divine. I suppose that was what made him a god – his touch was magic.

The obvious comparison is with the 2011 documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. That film actually left me feeling a bit saddened at the knowledge that Ono Jirou’s dedication to his calling came at the expense of his relationship with his family.

In contrast, Yamagishi started his business with his wife and it was always a family affair. The toll his devotion to his craft eventually takes is of a more personal nature.