“Blue Christmas,” also known as “Blood Type: Blue,” is a hidden gem that often goes unrecognized. It was created during a time when tokusatsu, a genre of Japanese special effects entertainment, had lost its popularity and was being overshadowed by American blockbusters like George Lucas’s “Star Wars.” Toho, the production company, aimed to make a film that relied less on special effects and instead focused on allegory. The story is based on the work of So Kuramoto, who was brought on as the screenwriter. The director, Okamoto, was selected for his previous experience with social commentary in his films, despite his personal dislike for tokusatsu media. This resulted in a unique sci-fi movie that explores themes of societal prejudice against the backdrop of Christmas. Upon its initial release, the film was met with negative reviews and did not perform well financially. However, over time it has gained a devoted following and is now highly regarded in Japan, though it remains relatively unknown internationally. Hideaki Anno, a renowned filmmaker, has even cited it as one of his personal favorites and a significant influence on his own work.
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Mysterious flying objects start appearing all over the world, causing anyone who comes into contact with them to have blue blood. As a result, a new group of people with this unique body fluid emerges. However, they face discrimination and prejudice from society, fueled by corrupt government officials. The situation becomes a topic of debate, questioning their humanity and labeling them as potential threats. Efforts are made to fight against this unfair treatment, including peaceful movements promoting equality. The story unfolds through various perspectives, such as Taisuke Oki, a member of the National Defense Agency who struggles with his beliefs about the issue. Meanwhile, Saeko Nishida, a kind and compassionate barber and Oki’s love interest, empathizes with the struggles of the blue-blooded individuals. Kazuya Minami, a news reporter, investigates and reports on the phenomenon while uncovering hidden agendas. As Christmas nears, heartless politicians and armed forces plot to strip the blue-blooded people of their basic human rights.
This Christmas-themed tokusatsu film has a grand and expansive scope, not due to excessive special effects or large-scale battle scenes, but rather because of its function as a political thriller with science fiction elements. While the main setting is in Japan, the entire world is involved as the blue-blood phenomenon occurs globally and addresses discussions about human rights within governments. Along with a well-crafted screenplay and precise direction, the use of various filming locations and a substantial number of extras adds credibility to the events portrayed in the movie. Despite being made on a smaller budget compared to American blockbusters, this film impressively captures the magnitude of a worldwide sensation.
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The central focus of the film is allegory, which drives the narrative forward. Kihachi Okamoto aims to engage the audience with a story about international government conspiracies and complex human relationships while also shedding light on important issues that are relevant not only to Japan but to the rest of the world. Despite the presence of UFOs, “Blue Christmas” is not a science fiction movie, but rather a thought-provoking exploration of discrimination in its various forms, including racism, xenophobia, and fascism. This theme also serves as a commentary on political corruption and its role in perpetuating hateful beliefs and behaviors within society, ultimately leading to dehumanization. The film’s powerful finale depicts the devastating consequences of prejudice and violence towards those perceived as different, drawing clear parallels to the atrocities committed by the Third Reich during World War II and the Holocaust. These historical events are directly referenced and discussed throughout the film.
In this fictional portrayal of history repeating itself, Kihachi Okamoto conveys a powerful message about equality and the importance of valuing human rights. The film highlights the need for humanity to come together and accept one another, as prejudice only serves to drive people further apart and create alienation. The inclusion of Christmas in the plot directly connects to the themes and message of the movie. This annual holiday celebrates life, promotes love, and encourages unity among people. However, this joy and harmony cannot be achieved if humanity succumbs to dehumanization. The use of the word “blue” in the movie’s title draws attention to the color of blood and the somber tone that Okamoto effectively creates.
Despite its dark tone, Okamoto manages to inject humor into the film. For instance, he includes a fictional rock band called “The Humanoids,” a clever parody of popular groups like the Beatles. One of their amusingly-named hit songs is “Blue Christmas.” Fortunately, these comedic moments blend seamlessly with the film’s darker themes, creating a natural flow.
The characters in the movie feel like authentic individuals going through this phenomenon, which allows the viewers to connect more deeply with the drama. The performances also play a crucial role in convincing the audience. The film features a star-studded cast of familiar actors, all of whom deliver commendable performances in their respective roles. Hiroshi Katsuno does a fantastic job portraying Taisuke Oki’s inner turmoil as he grapples with the existence of the growing blue-blood population while remaining dedicated to National Defense. His character takes a dark turn when a shocking twist is revealed. Keiko Takeshita brings a sense of warmth and compassion to Saeko Nishida, who maintains her empathy despite being surrounded by increasing gloom. The eventual romance between her and Katsuno is movingly poignant. Tatsuya Nakadai portrays Kazuya Minami’s journey of chasing the blue-blood phenomenon with great intensity, making it all the more captivating for the audience. They can feel his frustration as he searches for answers and his despair when the truth is finally revealed.
“Blue Christmas” is a tokusatsu feature that prioritizes storytelling over special effects. The well-crafted film, directed by Okamoto, boasts fast-paced editing that adds to the intense experience, particularly in the action-packed finale. The cinematography by Daisaku Kimura adds a realistic touch to the film, as it captures the characters’ emotions with a documentary-style feel. The use of lighting, color, and Christmas imagery further enhances the camerawork, portraying the holiday season as a time for love and joy, which is soon shattered by tragedy. The music score by Masaru Sato effectively sets the tone, balancing between eerie, beautiful, and haunting melodies. The incorporation of classic Christmas music also adds to the emotional impact of the film. Interestingly, the film’s title is a nod to Elvis Presley’s song “Blue Christmas,” which highlights the positive aspects of the holiday season.
“Blue Christmas” is a terrific film and deserves wider international recognition. While subdued with its tokusatsu spectacle, Kihachi Okamoto’s technical mastery and powerful social commentary still shine. The movie’s incorporation of Christmas to coincide with its dark themes is effectively executed although it could have easily felt forced. Yet, strong direction and writing hold everything together in this haunting picture that warns of the alienation that results from discrimination and hate-driven violence.