chapter  12
12 Pages

Questions of the New: O¯shima Nagisa’s Cruel Story of Youth (1960)


O¯shima Nagisa is usually regarded as the leading figure in the ‘Japanese New Wave’ of the 1960s. Born in 1932 as a son of a fishery specialist working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, O¯shima grew up in the Inner Sea area of western Japan. When he was seven, his father passed away, and the family moved to Kyo¯to, his mother’s hometown. From 1950 to 1953, O¯shima studied at the Faculty of Law in the University of Kyo¯to, specializing in government. He was active in student theater and participated in the student movement, eventually serving as the chair of the Kyo¯to prefectural organization of student activists. After graduating from university, O¯shima started working as an assistant director at Sho¯chiku’s O¯funa Studios in 1954. He was promoted to the rank of director in 1959, and soon became a central figure in the ‘Sho¯chiku New Wave’. According to the standard view of Japanese film history, O¯shima introduced a significant break in post-war Japanese cinema by making radically new types of political films. The purpose of this chapter is to re-examine this common perception and O¯shima’s alleged newness coming from his handling of political issues directly related to the history of post-war Japan and the contemporary social situation. The following discussion will specifically focus on O¯shima’s second film, Cruel Story of Youth (Seishun zankoku monogatari, 1960 – hereafter Cruel Story) and his critical writings of the late 1950s and early 1960s.