[From August Issue 2011]
Yunagi City, Sakura Country (Directed by SASABE Kiyoshi)
This movie is adapted from a manga written by the Hiroshima-born artist, KOUNO Fumiyo. The book received many awards, including the Tezuka Osamu Creative Award, and the translated version is published all over the world. This adaptation was released in 2007. The movie consists of two parts: Part one is about the atomic bomb survivors 13 years after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and part two tells the contemporary story of the next generation.
Part one is set in 1958 Hiroshima. The central character HIRANO Minami, who lives an impoverished life with her mother, Fujimi, is a survivor of the atomic bomb. In order to avoid radiation exposure, her younger brother Asahi has been placed in the care of relatives who live far away.
One day, one of Minami’s colleagues, UCHIKOSHI, confesses his love to her. Although she secretly has a crush on him, Minami cannot accept his feelings. His confession of love triggers a memory of her younger sister calling “oneechan” (older sister) out to her.
When the atomic bomb was dropped, Minami was safe inside a warehouse, but Midori was exposed to the blast. Minami found her and then carried Midori on her back as she wandered around the devastated streets. “Oneechan, you live a long life, okay?” said Midori, after which she died, while still on Minami’s back. Ever since, every time Minami feels happiness, she begins to feel guilty for surviving the bomb.
After hearing her story, Uchikoshi holds Minami in his arms and says, “Thank you for staying alive.” But soon after, Minami starts exhibiting symptoms of radiation exposure. Then, with Asahi and Uchikoshi by her side, she breathes her last and dies.
Part Two of the film is set in 2007 Tokyo. The story revolves around Asahi who has retired, his daughter Nanami, and son, Nagio. Asahi’s wife was also exposed to radiation when she was young and died when Nanami was in elementary school. One night when Nanami sees that something’s the matter with Asahi, she decides to follow him when he goes out for a walk. By chance, in front of the station, she meets Touko. Touko is her childhood friend and Nagio’s colleague (she works with him at a hospital). Touko becomes interested and joins Nanami in the chase, following her father onto a bus heading for Hiroshima.
As she tails her father, Nanami finds out that Nagio and Touko are intimate, and that Touko’s parents are against the match as Nagio is the child of a bomb survivor. After returning to Tokyo, Nanami creates an opportunity for Nagio and Touko to talk. Asahi confesses that he went to Hiroshima to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Minami’s death, and that he met Uchikoshi and other people who knew Minami. He says, “Nanami, there’s a slight resemblance between you and my sister. So it’s your turn to become happy.”