A nation will call a war and order its people to fight and kill in it, but if that nation loses the war, many times it cannot come to the aid of her people who will be tried for the atrocities they ordered. This is what happened to a country barber who was drafted in World War II on the side of the Japanese in the film “I’ll Be a Shellfish.”
He fought in the war and did almost all that was ordered of him by his superiors. Then Toyomatsu Shimizu, the barber, was ordered lo execute a captured American pilot. He is told that this was an order from the Emperor, he tries but he just can’t come around to doing it. So, one of his superiors again orders him to kill the American , since he is one of many Americans murdering his countrymen. Toyomatsu starts his bayonet toward the dying pilot, but before he strikes the pilot bleeds to death.
After the war the barber returns to his town and starts cutting hair, but before long he is arrested and charged wilh the killing of an American POW, and is declared guilty by an American Military Tribunal and sentenced to hang. The barber, his wife, and child do not lose hope and write many petitions for his release. Even his commander, who is also sentenced to die, writes for his release, since he was only obeying orders.
The day comes for the final price, his life, and he starts to ponder on how life would have been if he’d been something else. He wonders how far he would have to go to get away from society as he knows it. His thoughts project him to lonely areas, mainly the sea, and he cries, “I’ll be a shellfish.” This Japanese language film, with English subtitles, portrays the “victimized.” Even though this film relates to World War II, I can see traces of many of the wars fought today.
The film focuses on the individual and the forgotten man. The film also refuses to sweeten the despair or make strident the tragedy. Toyomatsu Sakai, who played the barber, and Susumu Fujita who portrayed the commander were very convincing in their roles as doomed soldiers.