Antarctica (1983 film)

Antarctica ( 南極 物語Nankyoku Monogatari , lit. “South Pole Story”) is a 1983 Japanese film directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara and starring Ken Takakura . Its plot centers on the 1958 ill-fated Japanese scientific expedition to the South Pole , its dramatic rescue of the weather conditions on the return journey, the relationship between the scientists and their loyal and hard-working Sakhalin huskies , particularly the lead dogs Taro and Jiro, and fates of the 15 dogs left behind to fend for themselves.

The film was selected for the Japanese entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 56th Academy Awards , but was not accepted as nominee. [3] It entered the 34th Berlin International Film Festival , and at the Japan Academy Awards was nominated for the best movie, cinematography, lighting, and music score, winning the Popularity Award for the two dogs Taro and Jiro as most popular performer, The Mainichi Film Award . It was a big cinema hit, and Held Japan’s box office record for icts homemade movies It was up to Surpassed by Hayao Miyazaki ‘s Princess Mononoke in 1997.

The original electronic score was created by Greek composer Vangelis , who had recently written music for Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner . The soundtrack is available worldwide on CD-audio as Antarctica .


In February 1958, the Second Cross-Winter Expedition for the Japanese Antarctic Surveying Team writes on the icebreaker Sōya to take over the 11-man First Cross-Winter Expedition. Due to the extreme weather conditions in Antarctica, Sōya can not get near enough to the Showa Base and they decide not to proceed with the stay-over.

The first cross-winter expedition retreats by helicopter, but they have to leave 15 Sakhalin huskies at the unmanned Showa Base. The dogs are left at the base, they are not the only ones who will be able to return. The team is worried about the dogs, the weather is extremely cold.

Meanwhile, Riki, Anko, Shiro, Jakku, Deri, Kuma, Taro, and Jiro), but the other seven are not so fortunate. As they journey across the frozen wilderness of Antarctica, the dogs are forced to survive on their own feces, hunting penguins and seals on the ice shelves and even eating the excrement of seals for food. As months pass, many of the dogs die or disappear in the glacier. Riki is fatally injured by a killer whale while trying to protect Taro and Jiro. Anko and Deri fall through the ice and drown in freezing waters. Shiro falls off his death, and Jakku and Kuma disappear in the wilderness.

Eleven months later, on 14 January 1959, Kitagawa, one of the dog handlers in the first expedition, returns with the Third Cross-Winter Expedition, wanting to bury his beloved dogs. He, along with the two dog-handlers Ushioda and Ochi, recover the frozen bodies of seven dogs, but are more surprised when they discover that their dogs have broken loose. To everyone’s surprise, Taro and Jiro, brothers who were born in Antarctica, were greeted warmly.

It is still unknown how and why the brothers survive, because an average husky can only live in such conditions for one month. In the movie, the director used the data available, together with his imagination, to reconstruct how the dogs struggled with the elements and survived.


  • Ken Takakura as Akira Ushioda
  • Tsunehiko Watase as Kenjirō Ochi
  • Eiji Okada as Chief Ozawa
  • Masako Natsume as Keiko Kitazawa
  • Keiko Oginome as Asako Shimura
  • Takeshi Kusaka as Morishima Kyōju
  • Shigeru Kōyama as Horigome Taichō
  • So Yamamura as Iwakiri Senchō
  • Jun Etō as Tokumitsu Taiin
  • Kōichi Satō as Toda Taichō
  • Shin Kishida as Kissaten Master
  • Takeshi Ōbayashi as Nonomiya Taichō
  • Shinji Kanai as Ozaki Taichō


The film took over three years to make. It was filmed at the northern tip of Hokkaido . The dogs in the film were sired by Kuma, a Sakhalin from Furen and were born in Wakkanai, Hokkaidō , some footage was shot in Antarctica in the summer of 1982 using dog teams from Scott Base (New Zealand).

Release and reception

Antarctica was entered into the 34th Berlin International Film Festival . [4] The film was a big hit in Japan, becoming the number one Japanese film on the domestic market in 1983, earning ¥ 5.9 billion in income distribution. [1] As of 2007 , the film is available on DVD in Japan and Hong Kong (Chinese and English subtitles).

The breed of dog also became popularly However, concerns were raised that the dogs may have been involved in the filming might have been subjected to extreme conditions to obtain the degree of realism involved. The American Humane Association withheld its “No Animals Were Harmed” disclaimer, rating the movie “Unacceptable” due to what it is considered to be a cruelty on the set. [5]The director replied that the emotions shown during the film were painstakingly captured and then edited into the relevant parts. In order to recreate the death scenes the dogs were carefully anesthetized. The parts where the dogs drowned or fell were done in the studio and blue-screened with the actual filming rental. The blood on the dogs was fake. It remained unclear whether the deaths of the prey animals (a seabird and a seal) were also simulated.

In 2006, Antarctica ‘ s plot was adapted to the film Eight Below (2006 in the film six dogs survived in the 1983 film two dogs survived). In 2011 a Japanese drama titled Nankyoku Tairiku centers on Japan’s first expedition to Antarctica in 1958.

Original score album

Main article: Antarctica (Vangelis album)

The original score to Antarctica was composed, arranged, performed by Greek artist Vangelis . It was recorded at Vangelis’ Nemo Studios , in London, UK, by sound engineer Raine Shine. The album has been released worldwide (including Japan) as Antarctica .

Fate of Taro and Jiro

The younger brother Jiro died at the age of four during the fifth expedition in July 1960. His body was made in a specimen and is located in the National Museum of Nature and Science at Ueno, Tokyo. [6] The older brother Taro was luckier: he returned to Hokkaido University for his retirement, and died at the age of 15 in 1970. His body was also made in a specimen at Hokkaido University.

See also

  • List of submissions for the 56th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
  • List of Japanese submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film


  1. ^ Jump up to:b “Kako haikyū Shunyu jōi Sakuhin 1983-nen” (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan . Retrieved 4 February 2011 .
  2. Jump up^ “Nankyoku monogatari” . Internet Movie Database . Retrieved April 4, 2014 .
  3. Jump up^ Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  4. Jump up^ “Berlinale: 1984 Program” . . Retrieved 2011-01-04 .
  5. Jump up^ American Humane Association reviewon July 15, 2017ArchivedJanuary 13, 2008, at theWayback Machine.
  6. Jump up^ Pink Tentacle Blog with photo of Jiro, retrieved on August 29, 2009