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The Man Who Stole The Sun – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Makoto, a high school science and chemistry teacher, has decided to build his own atomic bomb. Before stealing plutonium isotopes from a nearby nuclear power plant, he is involved in the botched hijacking of one of his school’s buses during a field trip. Along with a police detective Yamashita, he is able to overcome the hijacker and is publicly hailed as a hero.

Opening with footage showcasing the first atomic bomb detonation in 1945 in New Mexico, The Man Who Stole The Sun is a controversial film from its very outset. Given the subject matter at hand and the state of Japanese affairs concerning nuclear weaponry, the film presents a satirical look into the political leverage one obtains when they have such weaponry at their disposal. One slowly begins to see the obvious correlation the film is attempting to convey here—that in which the substitution of nations for the individual, in this case the protagonist Makoto. Heralded as a classic within Japan, the film is a culmination of many social and political issues as well as a showcase for the horrific side effects of an undetonated atomic bomb, which is an interesting approach to take—most other films primarily focus on the effects of a detonated weapon. The construction of the bomb is a key element in the film—in fact, the film’s first hour is dedicated almost entirely towards this meticulous process. While the suspension of belief is certainly applicable here, the film is almost comical at times due to the absurd lengths that Makoto undertakes in the construction of the bomb—breaking into and stealing high-grade plutonium isotopes from a nuclear facility and constructing the bomb in his apartment are surely entertaining, but it might come at a surprise at how easy Makoto makes it out to be. Realism aside, the film is always careful to show that his scientific endeavors come with a heavy and realistic toll.

It’s important to consider that we do view Makoto as an individual who is essentially misanthropic on his own accord, and we slowly begin to view this ideology through subtle hints within the film—we often times view him self-absorbed in his work, especially when he begins constructing the bomb. It seemingly becomes almost a religious experience for him in its construction; joyously prancing around when he finally is able to assemble it. This is where the film drastically diverts into something entirely different from the first half. Considering the rather intense first half, the second half of the film showcases Makoto going up against the government in attempt to have them do what he orders them to—which for the most part, are demands that are rather trivial. This is where the narrative slowly becomes intermixed with that of detective work, romance, and proposed terrorism—which makes for a critical juxtaposition from the first half. This is where The Man Who Stole The Sun slowly begins to lose ground as a political statement, and attempts to juggle multiple genres that eventually push the film to its absolute limits in terms of being considered plausible at all. It seems that the film is attempting to be both comedic and serious at the same time, and it’s often difficult to judge how we should perceive the film as a viewer given the seriousness of the subject matter at hand. This film does somewhat redeem itself in this regard with its conclusion, which essentially encompasses the truer message of the film explored in its first half.

It’s interesting to note that through all the chaos presented throughout the film, the notion of radiation and it affects on living creatures is quite evident. Whether this presents the ramifications of obtaining absolute power in a plausible light is questionable, but it does showcase the slow and eventual decay of the individual through radioactive poisoning. It is truly worth the cost to attain such power at the loss of one’s physical appearance? It’s a point subtly brought up numerous times in the film, which will certainly lead one to ponder the horrendous nature of radiation upon the human body. While the actual bomb is viewed as leverage for Makoto in enacting his will on the government, the film stresses that the construction of a destructive weapon such as the atomic bomb is just as dangerous to the individual as it is if actually detonated—the disastrous effects are still there, just in a different capacity.

Overall, The Man Who Stole The Sun is an intense film that somewhat loses it way towards the end, but its haunting conclusion redeems itself to a magnificent degree. With the destructive nature of the bomb ever present throughout the film, its still remains a great testament at how we can view the folly of human harnessing and engineering of weapons of absolute destruction in the most uncommon ways—in this case, that of being entirely comical in the most unnatural circumstances. This is of course brought to full circle by the film’s end, painting a devastating portrait of a man who could care less about the outcome of his actions and is ultimately fed up with the dire situation he himself created. There comes a point of no return, a point where the hero or villain must accept their fate, no matter how disgusting it must be. This element fused with a dark comedic flair, ultimately raises The Man Who Stole The Sun to a very intriguing position within Japanese cinema—that of presenting a satirical look into the most destructive weapon ever created by the human race.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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