If Kurosawa was responsible for a great many original things in cinema, he also inspired some original turn of phrase with the next part of our look at Kurosawa being described as “government suggested” on IMDB. A “government suggested” sequel must surely be a sign of quality?
Sanshiro Sugata 2 (1945)
After the subtly inspiring Sanshiro Sugata and straight up propaganda of The Most Beautiful, Kurosawa now combines the two with the subtle propaganda of Sanshiro Sugata 2, a film which reminds me of latter-period Rocky, complete with country empowering histrionics and a somewhat unwilling participant who knows he’s really good at one thing but feels melancholy about it.
In fairness, Susumu Fujita returning here as our hero is still an engaging and immensely likeable presence here, fully grown into his Judo mastery and unlike the eager angry bear he was in the first film, this time he knows his superiority but isn’t arrogant in it, instead being unwilling to display it as he knows it will lead to pain for the other person. The fact that one of his main rivals here is a Western fighter obviously gives a good bit of ammo to the idea that this film is trying to extol the virtues of Japanese power but Kurosawa’s insistence on making Sugata somewhat mournful with it is really quite interesting and at least wraps the propaganda in interesting dressing, something The Most Beautiful palpably failed to do.
Saying all this, the film is not nearly as engaging as the first part. There is little in the way of a character arc and the film boils down to somewhat boringly staged fights where it’s always obvious our hero will win with none of the air of apprehension that the climax of the first film had at all. Takashi Shimura sadly doesn’t return either and Yukiko Todoroki offers little here other than wistful looks with barely any lines and little point to her character, much unlike the first effort.
I’m looking forward to post-war Kurosawa at this point I must say, this is a diluted entry but its not without its points of interest with Sugata himself remaining interesting despite everyone else around him.