Re-Viewing the Past

Re-Viewing the Past: The Uses of History in the Cinema of Imperial Japan

by Sean D. O’Reilly

Sean D. O’Reilly is Assistant Professor at Akita International University, Japan, where he teaches courses on Japanese history, cinema, and popular culture. He graduated from Harvard University’s History and East Asian Languages program with a secondary field in Film and Visual Studies. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Bloomsbury Academic, 2017
  • DOI:
  • ISBN:
    978-1-5013-3602-7 (hardback)

    978-1-5013-3603-4 (epub)

    978-1-5013-3604-1 (epdf)

    978-1-5013-3605-8 (online)
  • Edition:
    First edition
  • Place of Publication:
    New York
  • Published Online:
Re-Viewing the Past
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Re-Viewing the Past: The Uses of History in the Cinema of Imperial Japan analyzes the complicated relationship between history films, audiences, reviewers and censors in Japan for the critically important years from 1925–1945. First contextualizing the history of the popular “Bakumatsu” period (1853–1868), the moment of Japan’s emergence as a modern nation, Sean O’Reilly paves the way for a reinterpretation of Japanese pre and postwar cinema. Setting a film in the Bakumatsu period offered ‘cultural breathing room’ to both filmmakers and viewers, offering a cinematic space where apolitical entertainment and now-forbidden themes like romance still reigned. Some filmmakers—and viewers—even conceived of these films as being a form of resistance against Japan’s growing militarism.