Yoshie sinks to the floor with her face buried into her palms, sobbing and blocking her face from the film crew’s camera. In muffled cries, she claims she hates her older sister Sayoko and believes she is involved in the sudden disappearance of Oshima Tadashi, her fiancé who has gone missing without notifying a soul.
This is but one moment-- a key one--when we see Yoshie’s lifelong hatred and shame of her sister in clear relief. The film crew of A Man Vanishes documents the personal arguments between the two sisters. We learn of Yoshie’s distaste for Sayoko’s dream of becoming a geisha and serving men. It is raw, and we feel as though we are intruding, discovering someone’s embarrassing secret by accident. As Sayoko attempts to assuage Yoshie’s concerns by stating she will be happy again, Yoshie pithily reminds her “Happiness based on a shaky foundation won’t last.”
Is Yoshie’s breakdown due to distress for her missing fiancé or is it the coalescing of her feelings of repulsion towards her sister?
OVID.tv’s A Man Vanishes Represents the Issue of Missing Persons Cases in Japan
This emotional argument between Yoshie and Sayoko creates a dramatic dynamic in this hybrid of narrative dramatic storytelling and documentary that is Director Imamura Shohei’s, A Man Vanishes. The story follows Yoshie’s attempts to uncover how her fiancée Oshima Tadashi went missing. As the investigation proceeds, the line between drama and non-fiction blurs, and at some elusive point the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs as well. While showing us the familial arguments, complex emotions, and more as this investigation into the missing Oshima Tadashi proceeds, we learn of the larger reality of missing persons in Japan.
We follow Tadashi’s final known steps, examining his family, friends, work, affairs, and pastimes to discover both the whereabouts of Tadashi and the potential causes of his disappearance. An early shot of the film shows us the bustling streets of Tokyo, where the young Tadashi moved to work as a salesman in a plastic factory. People pour into the crosswalks and buildings during all hours of the day, yet the illuminating city lights blind us from seeing the disappearances in the shadows.
Tadashi’s Tokyo life is rampant with financial troubles and other women, but are they the triggers of his disappearance? Later, we follow the film crew to Tadashi’s snowy hometown village and to the rural areas of Wakamatsu and Fukushima where we, and Yoshie, delve even deeper into the secrets of Tadashi’s life. In this unique and compelling concoction of reality and narrative investigating Tadashi’s case, we learn of the larger issue of disappearances in Japan.
In this writer’s view, the style of this film is compelling. It unveils the mystery clouding real disappearance cases, and the tumultuous feelings and unresolvable questions that are part of this issue. A Man Vanishes is a top pick for anyone intrigued by the issue of disappearances and missing persons cases in Japan. Along the way, you also get to enjoy the diverse geography of the nation as the film crew retraces Tadashi’s steps. For those who desire insights into another culture, this film delivers. The depiction of Japanese disappearance cases—more common than many Americans might think—is captivating.
Director: Imamura Shohei with Urayama Kirio
Cinematography: Ishiguro Kenji
Music: Mayuzumi Toshiro
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Images courtesy of OVID.tv
About the Author: Alexis Leonard
Alexis Leonard’s passion for reading and writing began in the Hundred Acre Wood when she accompanied Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh on their friendly, imaginative adventures. At the age of seven, Alexis was inspired by this honey-loving bear and began writing her own short stories filled with magical kingdoms, eerie forests, and furry monsters. She is interested in international relations and foreign languages, practicing her language skills by reading short stories from around the globe and learning about literature from different cultures. In her spare time, you will find Alexis reading psychological thrillers, watching anime, or focusing on her own creative writing.