’11.25 Jiketsu no Hi: Mishima Yukio to Wakamono-Tachi (11.25: The Day Mishima Chose His Own Fate)’

Wakamatsu strives to capture drama of 1970 suicide activist

by Mark Schilling

On Nov. 25, 1970, at the Self-Defense Forces headquarters in Ichigaya, Tokyo, renowned author Yukio Mishima committed suicide by seppuku (ritual stomach cutting) after urging a crowd of jeering soldiers to overthrow the government in the name of the Emperor.

Koji Wakamatsu’s documentarylike film illuminates the motives behind this quixotic coup attempt, including Mishima’s tempestuous relationship with the four young disciples who accompanied him that fateful day, but as a drama it is on the wordy, wooden level of a cable-channel historical reenactment.

Playing Mishima, Arata Iura is sensitive and intense enough, but looks nothing like the hard-body real thing and conveys few of Mishima’s many facets, particularly his bisexuality. But to his credit, the avowedly lefty Wakamatsu refuses to caricature Mishima’s politics, which are less xenophobically right-wing than romantically nationalistic.