'Oba' Tops Three-Day Weekend Box Office in Japan

World War II saga tells the story of Japanese and U.S. forces on Saipan -- from both sides.

TOKYO – Taiheiyou no Kiseki: Fox to Yobareta Otoko (Oba: The Last Samurai) topped the three-day weekend box office as it opened with 390 million yen ($4.6 million) on 330,000 admissions from 300 screens.

Starring Yutaka Takenouchi as Sakae Oba, the leader of a Japanese army unit on Saipan that battled on against U.S. forces past the end of WWII, the film was directed by Hideyuki Hirayama and Cellin Gluck, who shot parts from the Japanese and American perspectives.

Gluck, who grew up in Japan, made his feature debut with the local remake of Sideways in 2009. The cast also includes Takayuki Yamada, as well as Sean McGowan, Daniel Baldwin and Treat Williams.

The book on which the film is based was co-authored by Oba and one of his former adversaries, U.S. Marine Don Jones.

When Oba finally surrendered at the end of 1945, his unit numbered only 47 soldiers, who had conducted guerilla warfare against the approximately 45,000 U.S. troops on the island.

Gantz was knocked down to number two on the weekend rankings after two weeks on top, while TBS’s boxing drama Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe), opened at number three.

Oba: The Last Samurai has landed distribution deals in a number of European countries, with more in the pipeline, while Ashita no Joe, starring singer Tomohisa Yamashita, has scored releases in France and eight Asian territories.

Takayuki Yamada’s new project, Milocrorze – A Love Story, by Yoshimasa Ishibashi, in which he plays three roles including a samurai and a blond Westerner, will screen at the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival that runs March 20 to April 5 this year.