The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity ★★★★★

Who knew Full Metal Jacket was a remake?

Barely ekeing out A Soldier's Prayer, Road to Eternity is my favorite of the three. Sure, it's got structural similarities to Kubrick's film, with volume 3 detailing Kaji's torturous boot camp training (complete with a bathroom suicide), and volume 4 containing the trilogy's grand-scale battle sequence, but what makes Road to Eternity so great is Kaji finally coming into his own, understanding the 'whys' of his idealism, and understanding the necessity of sacrifice to fulfill his dream of a better world. It's here, on the doorstep of war, that Kaji comes to realize ideas alone cannot make progress, there must be bodies to contain them. It's a much more complicated spectrum of right and wrong as presented in No Greater Love, and the film benefits greatly from it.

Another plus for this middle installment (at least to a non-history buff) is the approachable way it presents another side of patriotism. The trilogy as a whole clearly has an anti-war/anti-fascism agenda, but manages to establish a dialogue between the sides and presents some insight (however negatively colored) as to the socio-political situation in Japan at the time. Kaji's struggles in boot camp allegorically detail the concept of nations warring and for what purpose, and by turning those ideas into characters, Kobayashi nurtures a fresh understanding of positions, reactions, and ramifications of humanism global role.

Though its war scenes might not impress compared to films focused solely on realistic and action-oriented battle, Road to Eternity makes it clear that the firing of a gun or the throw of a grenade is an infinitesimally small portion of what war actually is. In other words, it does not betray its larger scope, and instead guides the viewer on, mirroring the emotional stress of No Greater Love's finale and promising yet another paradigm shift for Kaji, bleaker still.

2/100, Epic - 181m, Obscure - 154v