“Sekai Daisensō (The Last War)” – An Old Japanese Disaster Movie But Still Relevant Today

In the next of my posts about movies which I studied for my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, I am writing about Sekai Daisensō (世界大戦争) (Shūe Matsubayashi, 1961) known as The Last War in English. This is one of the many disaster movies that came out from Toho Studies in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s (see also Fukkatsu no Hi, Jishin Rettō, Nihon Chinbotsu, Nosutoradamusu no Daiyogen, Shuto Shōshitsu).

A summary about the movie on IMDb is as follows.

This Japanese film speculates on the events which lead the U.S. and the Soviet Union into a nuclear Armageddon.


As the second oldest movie in my study (the oldest, Hiroshima (Hideo Sekigawa, 1953) will be the subject of the final post about movies studied for my article), and that we are now (at the time of writing) 60 years on from its release, it’s safe to say that it, like so many of the other Toho films mentioned above, is showing its age. Perhaps some of the themes that it raises – i.e. a nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union – seem less relevant today, but as I have written about in another post already, we are perhaps kidding ourselves if we think that the only Armageddon that the world is facing these days is caused by environmental damage or diseases like COVID-19. Nuclear weapons remain a serious threat.

Looking at the revised list of conventions that I developed as part of my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, Sekai Daisensō has 14 out of 17. Unsurprisingly, given the theme, there is no particularly optimism and it doesn’t aim to have a happy ending – this is a feature, as I discuss in the article itself, that is noticeable in many Japanese disaster movies.

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