The Last War (1961)

From Wikizilla, the kaiju encyclopedia
Jump to navigationJump to search
Image gallery for The Last War
Credits for The Last War
The Last War soundtrack

The Last War
The Japanese poster for The Last War
Alternate titles
Flagicon Japan.png The Great World War (1961)
See alternate titles
Directed by Shue Matsubayashi
Producer Sanezumi Fujimoto, Tomoyuki Tanaka
Written by Toshio Yasumi, Takeshi Kimura
Music by Ikuma Dan
Distributor TohoJP, Brenco PicturesUS
Rating Not Rated
Box office ¥284,900,000[1]
Running time 110 minutesJP
(1 hour, 50 minutes)
79 minutesUS
(1 hour, 19 minutes)
Aspect ratio 2.35:1JP,
Rate this film!
(8 votes)


— International tagline

The Last War (世界大戦争,   Sekai Daisensō, lit. "The Great World War") is a 1961 tokusatsu science-fiction drama film directed by Shue Matsubayashi and written by Toshio Yasumi and Takeshi Kimura, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Produced by Toho, it stars Frankie Sakai, Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, Nobuko Otawa, Yumi Shirakawa, Chishu Ryu, and Jerry Ito. The film was released to Japanese theaters by Toho on October 8, 1961 and premiered in the United States on December 29, 1961.[2]


In 1961, Tokyo is a bustling metropolis and Japan has recovered from the devastation of the Second World War. Mokichi Tamura works as a limousine driver at a press center where foreign reporters gather, and invests in the stock market to try and support his ill wife Oyoshi and three children. Mokichi's eldest daughter Saeko is in love with a young sailor named Takano, and the two plan to get married. Takano finally returns to Tokyo after his latest voyage and visits Ebara, the cook on his ship who could not serve on the most recent voyage due to a stomach ulcer. While recovering from his operation, Ebara has been helping his daughter Sanae run her daycare. Ebara explains to Takano that his time helping with the daycare and being around children has helped him learn to enjoy life even at his old age. Takano then comes to the Tamuras' home to stay with them for the time being. In Saeko's room, the two discuss asking for Mokichi's consent to their marriage. Saeko has already told her mother and received her blessing, but she is worried about what her father will say. Mokichi comes upstairs and overhears the conversation, and Saeko and Takano decide to finally ask for his blessing. Mokichi is hesitant, but his wife comes upstairs and joins the conversation. She recounts how madly in love Mokichi was with her when they were married, embarrassing him. Mokichi finally gives his blessing for the marriage, and the two begin planning for their wedding.

Outside of the Tamuras' peaceful family life, global political tensions are rising. The major world powers have split into two rival camps: the Federation consisting of the United States and its allies, and the Alliance consisting of the Soviet Union and its allies. Both sides have built up their nuclear arsenals, and the eruption of armed conflict could easily lead to a global nuclear war. The Cold War escalates when a Federal submarine enters Alliance military exercise ground in the North Atlantic. As a member of the Federation, Japan is obligated to take part in a war should one erupt. Despite currently suffering from a serious illness, Japanese Prime Minister Masaki is dedicated to finding a peaceful resolution and preventing nuclear armageddon. A close call occurs when a Federation base receives an accidental order to launch its nuclear arsenal. The base's commander reluctantly presses the launch button, but is informed of the error and manages to stop the countdown before the missile is launched. Watkins, an American reporter currently in Tokyo who is driven by Mokichi, visits Takano at the Tamuras' home and informs him that tensions are growing along the 38th parallel in Korea. He is worried that should armed conflict resume between the Federation-backed South Korea and Alliance-backed North Korea, it could lead to a broader global war. Watkins travels to the 38th parallel to report on the situation, shortly after which armed conflict begins as artillery on both sides exchange fire. Federation and Alliance fighters join the battle before both sides deploy ballistic nuclear missiles. While the missiles used are not particularly high yield, the use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict is an unprecedented move that raises global concerns. The Alliance responds by constructing more missile silos at its North Pole missile base. While excavating through the ice with explosives, the Alliance accidentally triggers an avalanche that damages the controls for a nuclear missile, beginning a launch countdown. The general and personnel trapped inside the silo with the missile realize that once it is launched, retaliation will be immediate before anyone can realize it was fired in error and the world will be annihilated. Taking matters into his own hands, the general climbs to the top of the missile and succeeds in removing the activator before the missile launches. Soon after, a ceasefire is declared at the 38th parallel and relations between the Federation and Alliance seem to be improving. Military personnel on both sides have begun to breathe a sigh of relief, and plan for what they will do when they return home.

This peace is shattered once Federation and Alliance aircraft begin to battle over the Arctic Ocean. War is declared as forces from both sides begin entering each other's territory. The use of nuclear weapons by both sides to attack the other's major cities appears inevitable, and a panic breaks out. Takano elopes with Saeko in Yokohama before leaving for his next voyage. Hearing the news of the impending nuclear war at sea, Takano contacts Saeko via telegram and the two exchange their final goodbyes. Saeko joins her family for New Year's dinner, which will in all likelihood be their final meal. While Oyoshi and Saeko are well aware of their impending doom, Mokichi remains in denial, insisting humanity will not bring about its own destruction. Oyoshi struggles to keep her composure and play along, but Saeko breaks down and expresses the certainty that they will all be killed. Mokichi storms off to his room and watches the sunset from his balcony. He loudly declares he and his family will survive, that he will move to a summer home with his wife, that he will have a beautiful wedding for Saeko, that he will see his younger daughter Haru fulfill her dream to become a stewardess, and that he will see his son attend university, something he himself could never do. As Mokichi finally accepts the reality of the situation, he breaks down and sobs. Sanae remains at her daycare with the children whose parents could not retrieve them, and comforts them in their final moments by reading to them. The Prime Minister sits silently and dejected in a room in the National Diet Building, his efforts to preserve global peace ultimately in vain. At an Alliance missile base, one of the personnel agonizingly presses the button that launches a nuclear missile at Tokyo. The missile reaches and explodes over the city, the shockwave blasting apart the countless buildings like paper and causing Tokyo Bay to boil. Flame storms through the city, incinerating the ruined scraps of the metropolis. Black nuclear rain pours onto the burning city, as the ground splits open and pours forth molten lava into the streets. A terrifying mushroom cloud envelops the city and can be seen from miles away. Other major cities around the globe meet the same fate: New York, Paris, London, Moscow, and many others are wiped off the map in an instant.

Out at sea, Takano and the others on his boat witness the end of Tokyo as they see a mushroom cloud rising overhead. The captain asks the crew what they shall do next, remain at sea or return home to the remnants of Tokyo. If they return, they will contract lethal radiation sickness from the fallout, and their boat will be contaminated before they even reach the shore. Everyone remains silent, signaling a unanimous decision to return home, with which the captain agrees. Ebara comes on deck and gives everyone coffee, feigning happiness and remarking how a good cup of coffee makes him feel glad to be alive. He looks out over the sea and struggles to maintain his composure, asking why they are willingly going to their deaths if life is so good. The captain gives the order to turn back to Tokyo, where its entire crew will meet certain death. Takano and Ebara stand on deck before finally breaking down and weeping as they prepare to join their loved ones in death.

As the Diet Building sits among the scorched molten ruins of Tokyo, the audience is reminded that this is a work of fiction that could one day become reality. Only by working together can mankind avoid this terrible fate.


Main article: The Last War/Credits.

Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.

  • Directed by   Shue Matsubayashi
  • Written by   Toshio Yasumi, Takeshi Kimura
  • Executive producers   Sanezumi Fujimoto, Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Music by   Ikuma Dan
  • Cinematography by   Rokuro Nishigaki
  • Edited by   Koichi Iwashita
  • Production design by   Takeo Kita, Teruaki Abe
  • 1st assistant director   Yasuyoshi Tajitsu
  • Director of special effects   Eiji Tsuburaya
  • 1st assistant director of special effects   Masakatsu Asai


Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.

  • Frankie Sakai   as   Mokichi Tamura, Tokyo Press Club limousine driver
  • Akira Takarada   as   Takano, sailor on the Kasagi Maru
  • Yuriko Hoshi   as   Saeko Tamura, Mokichi's daughter
  • Nobuko Otawa   as   Oyoshi Tamura, Mokichi's wife
  • Yumi Shirakawa   as   Sanae, Ebara's daughter
  • Chishu Ryu   as   Ebara, cook on the Kasagi Maru
  • Jerry Ito   as   Watkins, reporter
  • Eijiro Tono   as   Umehara, Captain of the Kasagi Maru
  • So Yamamura   as   Prime Minister Masaki
  • Ken Uehara   as   Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Seizaburo Kawazu   as   Minister of Defense Suitani
  • Nobuo Nakamura   as   Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujikawa
  • Chieko Nakakita   as   Oharu
  • Minoru Takada   as   Tokyo Defense Headquarters Commander
  • Shigeki Ishida   as   Arimura
  • Naoko Sakabe   as   Suzue, Oharu's daughter
  • Kozo Nomura   as   Ishizaki
  • Masao Oda   as   Mr. Mochiya
  • Yutaka Sada   as   Reporter
  • Nadao Kirino   as   Tokyo Defense Headquarters Officer
  • Koji Uno   as   Tokyo Defense Headquarters Officer
  • Seiji Yoshida   as   Kasagi Maru sailor
  • Toshihiko Furuta   as   Helicopter crew
  • Kyoko Mori   as   Childcare worker at daycare
  • Teruko Mita   as   Izawa, teacher at daycare
  • Jiro Kumagai   as   Minister of Health and Welfare
  • Soji Ubukata   as   Minister of Education
  • Shiro Tsuchiya   as   Minister of Justice
  • Keiichiro Katsumoto   as   Neighbor
  • Naoya Kusakawa   as   Helicopter crew
  • Wataru Omae   as   Kasagi Maru officer
  • Yoshio Katsube   as   Reporter
  • Masaki Shinohara   as   Tokyo Defense Headquarters worker
  • Yutaka Oka   as   Tokyo Defense Headquarters worker
  • Koji Uruki   as   Mailman
  • Koji Abe   as   Ichiro Tamura, Mochiki's son
  • Yuko Tominaga   as   Haru Tamura, Mochiki's daughter
  • Yuki Shimizu   as   Female clerk at Sankamashi Electric company
  • Tsurue Ichimanji   as   Neighbor B
  • Toshiko Nakano   as   Neighbor A
  • Asami Hotaka
  • Howard Larson   as   Federal Army Staff Officer
  • Ed Keene   as   Allied Army Commander
  • Bernard Barre   as   Allied Army Maintenance Officer
  • Cliff Harrington (as Clifford Harsonton)
  • Hank Brown   as   Federal Army First Lieutenant Mark
  • Daniel Jones
  • Ben Greenhough
  • Mike Snape
  • Roy Lessard
  • Hans Horneff   as   Allied Army Missile Base Commander
  • Harold Conway   as   Federal Army Missile Base Commander
  • Osman Yusuf   as   Allied Army Correspondent
  • Yasuo Araki, Toku Ihara, Tadashi Okabe, Jun Kuroki, Hideo Shibuya, Shigemi Sunagawa, Wajiro Suzukawa, Satoru Shin'no, Bin Furuya   as   Kasagi Maru sailors (uncredited)
  • Kuniyoshi Kashima   as   Kasagi Maru helmsman (uncredited)
  • Minoru Ito, Hideo Otsuka, Saburo Kadowaki, Eisuke Nakanishi   as   Tokyo Defense Headquarters workers (uncredited)
  • Ken Echigo, Hiroshi Sekita, Masanari Nihei   as   Singers on TV (uncredited)
  • Tokio Okawa, Masayoshi Kawabe, Ikuo Kawamura, Akio Kusama, Eizaburo Komatsu   as   Tokyo Press Club drivers (uncredited)
  • Kamayuki Tsubono   as   Tokyo Press Club driver / reporter (uncredited)
  • Hiroshi Akitsu   as   Reporter (uncredited)
  • Hakuyoji Watanabe   as   Station worker (uncredited)
  • Haruo Suzuki   as   Securities trading company employee / Tokyo Defense Headquarters officer (uncredited)
  • Kazuo Hinata   as   Government official (uncredited)
  • Akira Kitchoji   as   Minister of Finance (uncredited)
  • Junpei Natsuki   as   Father coming to pick up his child (uncredited)
  • Takuya Yuki   as   Father coming to pick up his child / Tokyo Defense Headquarters worker (uncredited)
  • Yoshie Kihara, Sachiko Mori   as   Mothers coming to pick up their children (uncredited)
  • Masaaki Tachibana   as   Tour guide / reporter (uncredited)
  • Haruo Nakajima   as   Policeman guiding evacuation (uncredited)
  • Ryutaro Amami   as   Sankamashi Electric company employee / reporter / National Diet Building security guard (uncredited)
  • Masahide Matsushita   as   Securities trading company customer / station worker (uncredited)
  • Saburo Iketani   as   Announcer (uncredited)
  • Akijiro Hikari   as   Sankamashi Electric company employee (uncredited)
  • Shigeo Suzuki   as   Helicopter pilot (uncredited)
  • Ichiro Chiba   as   Evacuating man (uncredited)
  • Enver Altenbay   as   Allied Army reconnaissance crew (uncredited)
  • Rolf Jayser   as   Allied Army officer (uncredited)
  • Cump Cubens   as   Allied Army engineer (uncredited)
  • Leonard Stanford   as   Federal Army Staff Officer (uncredited)


Weapons, vehicles, and races


For the scenes depicting the destruction of Tokyo, Paris, Moscow, New York City, and London, Eiji Tsuburaya suggested creating miniatures out of paraffin, before it was suggested to use wafers. In a 1996 interview, miniature builder Yoshio Irie recalled, "Since the destruction of the world's cities was going to be such a crucial element of [The Last War], we tried to find a substance that would produce especially convincing results when blown up. We experimented with many different materials, but found that wafers worked best. Unfortunately, we also found that mice liked to eat the wafers."[3] In order to combat the issue of mice eating the wafers, several of the miniatures were hung and filmed upside down, which made them look like they were being blasted high into the air in the finished film .[3]


Main article: The Last War/Gallery.


Main article: The Last War/Soundtrack.

Alternate titles

  • World War III: The Day of Tokyo's End (第三次世界大戦 東京最後の日,   Daisanjisekaitaisen Tōkyō Saigo no Hi, early Japanese title)[4]
  • The Final War (La Guerra Final; Mexico)
  • Last War (L'ultima guerra, Italy)
  • Death-Rays from Outer Space (Todesstrahlen aus dem Weltall; West Germany)
  • The Last War of the Apocalypse (La Dernière Guerre de l'Apocalypse; France)
  • The Last Day of the World (O Último Dia do Mundo; Brazil)

Theatrical releases

View all posters for the film here.

U.S. release

The Last War premiered at the Nippon Theatre in Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 29, 1961, in Japanese with English subtitles. Regular showings at the Nippon began on January 3, 1962, with the Queen Theater playing it in May.[2][5]

The Last War was acquired for distribution in the United States in 1964 by Brenco Pictures, who was also responsible for the localizations of The Human Vapor and Gorath. Brenco rejected the export dub by Frontier Enterprises[6] and dubbed the film into English itself, while editing it down to 79 minutes, an entire 31 minutes shorter than the Japanese version. Brenco had planned to release the film to theaters as late as 1967, even preparing trailers for it, but the company shut down before it could do so.[6] Brenco's distribution rights and assets were acquired by Heritage Enterprises the same year, and they entered the film into U.S. television syndication. Video Gems released Brenco's edited version of the film to VHS in 1985, which remains the only official release of the film in the United States to this day.

The film was restructured to be told in flashback by Takano, during the Kasagi Maru's doomed return voyage to Tokyo, a narrative technique also used for Brenco's version of The Human Vapor and many other previous Americanizations of Toho films. A limited voice cast was used, with actor Marvin Miller providing the voice of Takano, and most, if not all, of the male characters both on- and off-screen. Several subplots were removed, namely the entire character of Watkins and his interactions with the Tamura family, Mokichi at his job at the press center and his investments in the stock market, Prime Minister Masaki's poor health condition, and casual discussion between the staff at the Federal Army Missile Base. Japanese customs that would appear unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, such as Children's Day, were given mild exposition in the narration by Takano. Many scenes that were left silent in Toho's version were scored with repeats of other cues from the soundtrack, most often the main title cue. The song that the children at Sanae's daycare sing, the Japanese folk song "New Year's Day" was replaced with the Sherman Brothers' "It's a Small World." An excerpt of a speech by former U.S. president John F. Kennedy was used as an analogue for the ending text in Toho's version.

Box office

The Last War grossed ¥284,900,000 during its 1961 theatrical run, making it Toho's second-highest grossing film of the year and the ninth-highest grossing Japanese film of the year.[1][7]

Video releases

Video Gems VHS (1985)

  • Tapes: 1
  • Audio: English

Toho VHS (1991)

  • Tapes: 1
  • Audio: Japanese

Toho DVD (2004/2015)

  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 1
  • Audio: Japanese
  • Subtitles: Japanese
  • Special features: Audio commentary by Shue Matsubayashi, "overseas" trailer, gallery of stills and the theatrical pamphlet
  • Notes: The 2015 re-release includes an 8-page booklet; it is unclear if the 2004 release does as well.[8]

Though The Last War is not available on Blu-ray, an HD version of the film can be rented or purchased on the Japanese version of Prime Video.


The Last War Japanese trailer (reconstruction)
The Last War international trailer
The Last War textless international trailer
The Last War U.S. TV trailer
The Last War U.S. TV trailer



This is a list of references for The Last War. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Kinema Junpo Best Ten 85 Times Full History 1924→2011. Kinema Junpo. 2012. p. 180. ISBN 9784873767550.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Last War Honolulu Star Bulletin Thu Dec 28 1961 .jpg
  3. 3.0 3.1 August Ragone (6 May 2014). Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters. Chronicle Books LLC. p. 65. ISBN 1452135398.
  4. Toho Special Effects Movie Complete Works. villagebooks. 28 September 2012. p. 60. ISBN 4-864-91013-8.
  5. The Last War The Honolulu Advertiser Mon May 7 1962 .jpg
  6. 6.0 6.1 Carrozza, J.L. (2021). SF: The Japanese Science Fiction Film Encyclopedia. Orochi Books. p. 108. ISBN 979-8597187921.
  7. Galbraith IV, Stuart (2008). The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography. Scarecrow Press. p. 186. ISBN 1461673747.
  8. "世界大戦争 [東宝DVD名作セレクション]". 15 July 2015.


Showing 5 comments. When commenting, please remain respectful of other users, stay on topic, and avoid role-playing and excessive punctuation. Comments which violate these guidelines may be removed by administrators.

Loading comments..
Era Icon - Toho.png
Era Icon - Showa.png