Photo/IllutrationOriginal drawings of characters of the film “Hiroshima, the last rose of summer” designed by famed manga artist Kaiji Kawaguchi (Toshinari Takahashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

HIROSHIMA--Acclaimed animator Jimmy Murakami died before he could finish a project dear to his heart, an animated film on the bond between an American POW and a local woman in Hiroshima before the dropping of the atomic bomb.

But some of Murakami’s colleagues have picked up the ball and are working to complete the film by 2020, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

In the fictitious tale “Hiroshima, the last rose of summer,” written by Murakami, a B-24 flying over Hiroshima on a bombing run over the city in 1945 is shot down, and the American crew members aboard taken prisoner.

Jack, one of the POWs, happens to meet a student who is training to become a nurse. The film expresses their heart-to-heart exchanges before their separation due to the atomic bombing.

Murakami had been deeply involved with Hiroshima. He created the film “When the Wind Blows,” which is themed on a nuclear war, and served as the head of panel of judges to select winners for the International Animation Festival Hiroshima, a film competition.

He met Shigeaki Mori, 81, an atomic bomb survivor, around 2011, who exchanged a hug with U.S. President Barack Obama during the president’s historic visit to Hiroshima in 2016. Mori for years had been researching American soldiers who were killed by the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

Thus, Murakami learned that atomic bomb victims included some Americans.

Murakami, whose parents immigrated to the United States, was locked up in a concentration camp during World War II.

Therefore, Murakami harbored anger toward wars and atomic bombs.

He was determined to create a film because he wanted to convey the tragedies brought about by the war through an animation film set against the backdrop of Hiroshima, according to Toki Udagawa, 70, producer of the film.

Murakami started to prepare to create the film through collaboration with Japanese staff.

“The last rose of summer,” part of the title, is the title of a folk song of Ireland where Murakami lived. In the story, the U.S. soldier and the female student were supposed to deepen their bonds via the song.

However, the film creator passed away at the age of 80 in 2014, putting the project in jeopardy.

After that, his colleagues reunited, hoping to somehow fulfill the wishes of the deceased. One of them, Motofumi Tomikawa, 69, completed the screenplay based on Murakami's plot. Tomikawa wrote the screenplay of the film “The eel,” which won the Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes international film festival.

Famed manga artist Kaiji Kawaguchi, 70, whose representative work is the popular manga “Under Siege,” is designing the characters.

Kawaguchi, born in Hiroshima Prefecture, said, “I would like to deliver a message that interpersonal understanding can be realized by people during a war between their countries, overcoming such a fight.”

The production team talked to reporters in Hiroshima about their project on Aug. 27.

“We would like to be very particular about three factors aiming to pursue the reality of the war: the authenticity of the historical background, the screenplay and characters," Udagawa said.

Mori, who also attended the news conference, said, “(The existence of) U.S. soldiers who suffered from the dropping of the atomic bomb is little known in the United States. We would like people to know how their lives ended.”