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Yes the Nanking massacres always tend to be overlooked even by any westerner looking at WWII. The average westerner will only relate to Japan's role in WWII through movies ... using the Bridge on the River Kwai, Furyo with David Bowie, and what not to get a perspective on the alleged brutality of "Japan" during the war. But are there any blockbuster movies on Nanking? I think not just Japan but the West too has been silent on it.
I myself follow this pattern. I only know, for having stumbled upon by chance when I was a young teenager, the book "Empire of the Sun" (not the movie, which I haven't seen), an autobiographical book by SF writer JG Ballard who was abandoned/lost as a kid in Shanghai in 1941 and ended up in a Japanese concentration camp, and that is about as close as I ever got to a firsthand account of Japanese occupation in China, but even that's only through the eyes of a street kid (so is bound to be somewhat inaccurate, and anyhow doesn't focus on Japanese occupation but more on the end of a child's innocence).
On a sidenote, I only recently learned through my little brother that the whole mythos of "kamikaze" pilots was quite wrongly perceived too (ie. cockpits were often bolted shut, many were given mild sedatives etc ... we are far from the mythos of the raging fanatic devoted to his Emperor and Country, happily dying), so I wonder how much we all know about the war in the East anyways.
Now, to conclude my long comment, I'd say that there is a somewhat strong Nanking "denial" tendancy in the West too.
ps: I haven't yet replied to your comment upthread on Kitano because I've been trying hard to remember the movies I've seen with him (without cheating and using Google) and can only come up with the recent Zatoichi, and another very sloooooow but very goooooood cop movie whose name I forgot.
Any plot details about the cop movie? Should be Hana Bi [that's the one with the haunting paintings, done by Kitano himself]. All the others are about Yakuza, except for Violent Cop which doesn't match the description.
A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
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