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Late Japanese American animation director Murakami's A-bomb film to be made

Characters from the animated film "Hiroshima -- The Last Rose of Summer." (c)Kawaguchi Kaiji

TOKYO -- An anime film fulfilling the hopes of late director Jimmy Murakami will be made with the help of a Hiroshima historian conducting research on U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) killed in the August 1945 atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Those involved in the production of the film, "Hiroshima -- The Last Rose of Summer," are striving to complete the work by summer 2020, which marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities.

Murakami, a Japanese American known for animated masterpieces such as "The Snowman" and "When the Wind Blows," died in 2014 at age 80. During World War II, he spent four years imprisoned at the Tule Lake War Relocation Center internment camp for Japanese Americans, leaving him with a lasting hatred of war.

Murakami, who served as chief judge at the 10th International Animation Festival Hiroshima in 2004, had told those close to him that he wanted his last work to be themed on Hiroshima.

Then U.S. President Barack Obama hugs Shigeaki Mori during a visit to Hiroshima on May 27, 2016, to express his gratitude to the historian for his 40 years of research on U.S. soldiers killed in the August 1945 atomic bombings of Japan. (Pool photo)

The director first met 81-year-old historian Shigeaki Mori seven years ago, to interview him about the details of a 12-man U.S. bomber crew killed in the Hiroshima bombing after being shot down off Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, in western Japan.

"I told him that the nationality of atomic bombing victims didn't matter. I asked him to accurately portray the reality as a condition for allowing him to make a film based on my research," Mori recalls.

Playwright Motofumi Tomikawa, 69, who helped write "The Eel," co-winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, has written a script for the animated film based on Mori's books. In the film, a U.S. POW and a Japanese nursing student fall in love, but the atomic bombing tears their relationship asunder.

The work got its name from the Irish folk song "The Last Rose of Summer," which the Irish-American POW character sings as he approaches the nursing student. The song is the basis for the famous Japanese tune "Niwa no Chigusa."

Popular manga artist and Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture native Kaiji Kawaguchi, 70, has drawn the characters appearing in the film. His masterpiece, "The Silent Service," is about preventing nuclear war, and in "Hiroshima -- The Last Rose of Summer," he focuses on the bonds and interactions between people in wartime.

"This is my first anime work. I'd like to do my best," said Kawaguchi.

The film's producer Toki Udagawa, who knew Murakami for 30 years, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Jimmy wanted to convey respect and remembrance for those killed in war, and a human love that never gives in to power. He also wanted to rid the globe of nuclear weapons and radiation contamination. I'd like to communicate his wish to the world."

(Japanese original by Yudai Nakazawa, General Digital News Center)

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