Life on the Island
When Tomikazu 'Tomi' Nakaji (Kyler Ki Sakamoto) and his family moved to Hawaii they were met by some who did not want any Japanese around due to the war raging on. And everything got worse on Sunday 7th December, 1941 when whilst messing about with his friend Billy Davis (Kalama Epstein) Tomi saw the Japanese planes fly over as they sprung a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. All of a sudden Tomi was forced to become the man of his family with his grandfather and father thrown into an internment camp along with other Japanese American men.
Every review I found of "Under the Blood-Red Sun" was written from an academic perspective, from those who teach and read the book on which it is based to those who have studied that book. And there is nothing wrong with that as I can see how this movie would be useful as a study aid. But it does mean those reviews of "Under the Blood-Red Sun" come from people who appear to already know the story before watching the movie and they watched for something other than the entertainment value which is always my main concern. And I have to say that "Under the Blood-Red Sun" is not only entertaining but also informative, pitched at a level where you don't need to be a history buff to follow the story.
Now I am not going to go in to a lot of detail partly because there is so much in "Under the Blood-Red Sun" that it would be hard to cover but also because this movie becomes increasingly more engrossing and I would hate to rob you of that experience. As such we firstly see life prior to the attack on Pearl Harbour from Tomi's perspective which not only sees him having to deal with some Japanese hating teenagers but also dealing with his patriotic Japanese grandfather who refuses to hide his patriotism. We also see how Tomi and his friend Billy would have fun all over the island, playing ball, climbing trees and going fishing with Billy eager to learn about Tomi's culture.
But then "Under the Blood-Red Sun" gives us the aftermath of Pearl Harbour with adult Japanese American men either arrested or shot and the discrimination as well as the hatred towards anyone with a Japanese heritage making life dangerous. As such we see how this affects Tomi, his relationship with others but also how his grandfather is affected by the shame that Japan has brought on him with the attack. And I could go on because "Under the Blood-Red Sun" paints a thorough picture of life on the island for a young Japanese American from dealing with the difficulties to the hurt of having to deal with an innocent father arrested and taken away.
What I will say is that director Tim Savage has delivered in "Under the Blood-Red Sun" a visually clean but still believable look when it comes to life on the island. I would say that it was done with a younger audience in mind who might struggle with a grittier representation but it works in its favour because it doesn't overly complicate things with over dramatisation.
What this all boils down to is that "Under the Blood-Red Sun" ends up a surprisingly impressive movie which draws the audience in to the life of young Tomi and covering what it was like for him prior and post Pearl Harbour as a Japanese American living on Hawaii. In fact whilst it lacks some of the grit you would expect from a war movie and has a very clean image it is up there with other war movies that focus on a child's experiences.