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Hotaru (Firefly)
by Yo Takeyama
edited by Seisaku Iinkai (Production Committee)
Kadokawa Shoten, 2002, 235 pages

Hotaru (Firefly), one of the most popular Japanese films of 2001, received nominations in 13 categories of the Japanese Academy Awards. This movie tells the story of three kamikaze pilots, including a Korean pilot who dies after departing Chiran, the Army's largest air base for kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa. Another pilot survives after being shot down, and he marries the Japanese fiancée of the deceased Korean pilot soon after the end of the war. Yo Takeyama, who wrote the movie script together with the director Yasuo Furuhata, also wrote a novel based on the movie. For the plot summary of the film and book, see the web page with the review of the film Hotaru (Firefly).

Although the novel lacks the strong emotional impact found in the acting of the movie's characters, the book provides additional details about the characters' backgrounds not mentioned specifically in the movie. Also, the novel reveals more of the characters' emotions and opinions, whereas feelings often remain unspoken in the film.

The novel reader finds out details not disclosed in the movie. Tomoko lived only a half year more after she visited Korea with her husband to return the bag and pendant of her deceased fiancé to his family living near Pusan. She refused to get a kidney transplant from her husband. She did have an operation, but she said that it would be lonely if she lived longer than her husband (p. 216). The reader also discovers that Tomoko worked at Chiran's Tomiya Restaurant from May 1945 to the fall of 1946, and she married soon thereafter when the woman who ran the restaurant encouraged her to marry the kamikaze pilots who had been friends with the Korean pilot who had died (pp. 174-5).

Some minor plot details differ between the novel and the movie. For example, Tomoko's fiancé's oral will is slightly changed to the following words (pp. 192, 204-5):

Tomo, I sortie tomorrow. Thank you. I was truly happy because of you. I will surely sink an enemy ship. However, I do not die for the Japanese Empire. With Korean pride I will sortie for my family, for Korea's families, and for Tomo! Long live the Korean people. Long live Tomo. Thank you. Please live in happiness. I will always be beside you. Tomo is eternal. Goodbye.

He said the above words aloud to the two other kamikaze pilots with him since he could not reveal his true feelings in writing due to military censorship of correspondence. Another interesting difference in the book is that the Korean pilot is no longer the person who said he would return as a firefly after making his attack. Instead, the book changes the plot to correctly refer to the actual historical pilot, Saburo Miyakawa, as the one who made the statement (pp. 66-9, 161-2).

The book generally has similar strengths and limitations as the movie (see movie review for discussion). Although the novel provides additional details on the movie characters and plot, it still does not provide many details of the actual history of Japanese kamikaze pilots.