Even if the production is loosely inspired by a period of history, it can be difficult to design and write. It is expected and responsible that the history of a period in history be told with respect, while also taking into consideration the different ethnic and cultural groups involved, particularly if it is being interpreted or retold from the perspective of an outsider. The Last Samurai’s (2003) portrayal of Samurai warriors, the distortion of Satsuma revolt, and its hyper-Americanized perspective simplifies and misrepresents an important period of Japanese history. The film portrayed Samurai as highly traditional warriors with little use of modern technology. But in fact, they used modern weapons including firearms. And their motivation to rebel was the same as before, which is power.

The Last Samurai is a film directed by Edward Zwick that was broadcast in Canada in 2003. Filmed in many countries, including Japan and New Zealand. The film is set in 1870s. Captain Nathan Algren is introduced as a Civil War veteran who is desperately looking for a job after his traumatizing experiences. The Americans hire him to train peasants in modern warfare with foreign firearms for the Imperial Army. Omura cabinet is the Imperial representative’s priority. They are trying to put down a Samurai Rebellion. Samurai remain loyal to ancient dynasties, but they reject Westernization and modern weaponry. Captian. Algren’s poorly-prepared modernized forces are smashed by the Samurai warriors in their first battle. Algren, however, convinces Katsumoto of his courage by displaying a brave attitude. As he recovers, he begins to appreciate and understand the Samurai’s way of life and joins Katsumoto as a partner in the effort to save Bushido within Japan. In the end, Captain Algren honors his Samurai partners and dies with them in true Samurai honour. Ultimately, the timid Meiji emporer dismisses Omura as well as any assistance from the Americans. He does this to restore Samurai tradition and help Japan learn and embrace their roots.

First, the depiction of Samurai in the film was inaccurate. Their weapons, clothing, and other aspects were all misrepresented. The Samurai was completely misrepresented as a backward agriculturalists who held deep-rooted values. They are actually the ones who placed the Meiji Emperor in power and then occupied the vast majority of government positions. The majority of samurai tended to live in big cities, although some Satsuma Satsumas were among the very few that lived on the countryside, and even farmed. The mountains were almost never a choice for most people. A major difference between the film and the real life Samurai is their clothing. The armour the characters wore while fighting in the film is very impressive. It adds to an impressive scene that helps contribute to a battle later against the Imperial army. In reality, the Samurai-style armour was not used because it could not withstand industrial bullets. Saigo Takomori, on whom Katsumoto’s character was based, actually wore an Imperial officer uniform in a number combats during the rebellion.

The film distorted the Satsuma Rebellion, the true motives of Samurai as well the Meiji Restoration Movement. The film distorted the real-life Satsuma rebellion, the true motivations of the Samurai and the overall Meiji restoration movement. In addition, the film simplifies the Satsuma Rebellion and the Meiji restoration, because in reality, many Meiji advisors were ex-samurai that had given up their ancestral priviledges to support a policy they thought would strengthen Japan. The film fails to portray that many samurai were against Meiji modernization because they felt it undermined their position as the elite warrior class. The film failed to convey the fact that the samurai believed in their superiority in terms of morals, were unwilling to give up the privilege of serving their nation and had a strong attachment to their past. The film also did not distinguish between the samurai’s clan and their actual class. This was important because many of Japan’s ruling classes, including the modern Japanese antagonists who are portrayed by the film as the villains, were once samurai. However, they chose to give up their privileges as aristocrats. Many samurai were relieved that they no longer had to adhere to the strict samurai rules.

The film’s overall perspective was heavily influenced by American culture and it seemed that the Westerner had a biased view of the story. The first is the Americanization of Representative Omura. He is shown to be a villain because he wears a belt, smokes and behaves like a capitalist. In addition, during the Satsuma revolution and the period the movie is set, the United States did not have a high status as a global power. After its emergence, the US spent considerable time harvesting and exploitation resources such as cotton all over the world. This film takes place in a time where America was not able to send troops into Japan or engage in any type of conflict. Tomomi Katsuta commented in the Mainichi Shinbun Newspaper that the film was not an accurate portrayal of the history of the Samurai. Instead, it was a story about a more ‘Americanized.’

The Last Samurai tells an inaccurate story about this battle from the perspective of a westernized American. Even if the film was not intended to be a direct account of the events, this distortion can still be a problem. This is because it should be treated with respect, especially for those who were directly affected.


  • benjaminchambers

    Benjamin Chambers is an educator and blogger who focuses on using technology in the classroom. He has written for sites like The Huffington Post and The EdTech Digest, and has been featured in outlets like Forbes and The New York Times. Chambers' work has helped him to develop a following of educators and students who appreciate his down-to-earth approach to learning technology.