The World Sinks Except Japan. How could I NOT check this movie out, with a title like that? And then there was this poster…
This is a movie that does live up to its title. Indeed, all the world sinks except Japan. However, the movie doesn’t follow the course of the world sinking and Japan emerging victorious. Everything sinks right as the movie begins and the story told is how Japan carries on being the only civilization in the world. The result is a sci-fi comedy that has some rather bizarre things to say about globalization, colonialism, xenophobia, with some rather biting commentary about how bad Americans can be. It’s like District 9, without all that bothersome subtlety.
Americans Are Bad People
Due to global warming and its effect on the icecaps, combined with sudden seismic activity, all the world is buried under water, except for Japan. North America is the first continent to sink, leaving millions of refugees needing a home. Willing to assist its allies during a great tragedy, Japan opens its borders to allow refugees. As the other countries sink, Japan ends up accepting every possible refugee. While other nationalities are mentioned as refugees and foreigners, we only ever focus on a handful of Koreans and all these stupid Americans. The Americans featured in The World Sinks Except Japan are every single stereotype that you might have heard. For example…
That is the President of the United States, an overly patriotic lecher.
Many big Hollywood actors flee to Japan as refugees, taking all of their wealth and fame with them. Their stories are encapsulated in Jerry Cruising and Elizabeth Clift – a Brad and Angelina kind of couple. Like the stereotype, they are self-centered idiots. Of course, like all the other refugees, they end up homeless and desperate when they realize that their American currency is worth less than the paper it’s printed on when their country no longer exists. They only acting roles they get are in kaiju movies as the dumb people being stepped on by monsters – which the Japanese characters find fitting and proper.
In a sort of humanitarian gesture to give employment to these suffering Americans, they’re allowed to be mocked by the elderly. They’re dressed up, humiliated, and rode around like horses, which everyone finds great. It’s explained that this helps the old war veterans find closure for the mass deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Americans are just happy to find some work. Now, let’s face it, dropping the atomic bomb on those cities to end World War II was a very significant piece of history; combined with the fact that Americans are the type of people willing to do anything for a quick buck. While it’s all played for laughs, the satire is quite clear.
I mean, with the current global situation and the mass of Syrian refugees across Europe – it’s not like people haven’t had these exact same sentiments; world governments have passed and are still attempting to pass similar policies. The World Sinks Except Japan does bring that conversation about globalization and refugees to the table. According to the United Nations, 65.3 million people, or one person in 113, were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015 (Source) – that’s 65.3 million refugees in countries across the globe, trying to maintain their culture uniqueness in a foreign land. Certainly something worth thinking about – and The World Sinks Except Japan presents it in a lighthearted, satirical manner.
But, let’s face it, Americans are pretty ignorant. The World Sinks Except Japan presents this dystopia where everyone now lives in Japan, and Americans are these refugees treated horribly by society. The Japanese characters are quick to point out, however, that these Americans have failed to learn their language, failed to adapt to their culture and failed to integrate popular with the Japanese people. Eventually, the Japanese government greats the Gaijin Attack Team (gaijin translates to foreigner) to enforce the language and lifestyle upon these American refugees at the point of a gun. Now, doesn’t that seem a bit extreme? No… not really. As I said before, the film has these big, absurdly comic premises. But the satire is clear…
Do you remember the Native Americans? Not many of them around these days because us Americans killed them to fulfill our glorious manifest destiny. Their children were stripped of their culture, sent to American schools, and not allowed to speak their own language at the threat of violence or death. Americans stole the land from the natives, destroyed their culture, their lifestyle and even their whole society. The Native Americans either abandoned their heritage and assimilated into American life or they died. Examine the United States Government policy toward Native Americans some time – it’s quite appalling (Source 1, Source 2). Not too different from what’s shown in The World Sinks Except Japan and how the assimilation of refugees is played for comedy.
Specific examples of American colonialism are brought up in the film as well – notably the U.S. Occupation of Japan following World War II. While the strong military occupation from 1945-1952 was a forced change of Japan’s system of government, economic policy, and culture, there always remained an American presence in Japan that influenced its culture. The 1965 film Black Snow by filmmaker Tetsuji Takechi explores the fact that Japanese people felt that American culture was forced upon them and that they were losing what it meant to be Japanese.
This kind of attitude of American colonialism still persists today, especially with its treatment of ethnic citizens – particularly blacks and Hispanics. Institutional racism in America exists as a form of forced assimilation; one either abandons their heritage to embrace the American lifestyle, or they have a meager life of persecution. America’s immigration policy is one to say “We only want the ones that can become like the rest of us because we really don’t care about the people of your country and their culture.” Countless scenes in The World Sinks Except Japan address this, only having Japan as the country forcing its refugees to assimilate or die. While the roles are reversed, the sentiment is still the same – forcing a nation of people to abandon their culture in exchange for economic security and social acceptance is a pretty shitty thing to do.
But… On a Less Serious Note
The World Sinks Except Japan is still a comedy. It’s not ALL this serious social satire about globalization and colonialism. There’s still some funny stuff afoot here. Granted, it’s mostly cultural jokes and I’m sure I missed a lot that I would have to be living in Japan to understand. There is still some self-depreciating humor afoot; plenty of jokes about he supposed small penises of Asian men, plenty of poking fun at Japanese cultural tropes such as kaiju films and the quality of Japanese television. The film is already a great comedy, the social satire just adds to it.
The World Sinks Except Japan mocks American culture, teases Japanese society, and really just insults everyone. How could anyone like this movie? In fact, reviews for it on imdb and other places seem to suggest that the movie is just too mean to people. The film just isn’t politically correct, it can’t be good. Have we really become so over-sensitive that our feelings don’t allow us to think anymore? As I was writing this, I happened to see a conversation on twitter unfold on this same topic.
While they weren’t discussing this movie, they were discussing the cancer that is political correctness, the same sentiment can be used here. When one cares too much about feelings being hurt, they lose the ability to think critically. Yes, there is a ton of stuff in The World Sinks Except Japan that will hurt the feelings of people across all ethnicities – that’s because it’s supposed to. The World Sinks Except Japan is one of those films that, in addition to its desire to make us laugh, makes us accept the fact that we are all shitty human beings and at least take a moment to realize why – and I appreciate it for that.