HomeBad Ass AsiansThe Terror of Shattered Like a Pearl

The Terror of Shattered Like a Pearl

By Jana Monji

(Note: This recap contains spoilers)

It’s February 4, 1943 in AMC’s The Terror: Infamy and Chester Nakayama is still on Guadalcanal. His fears of the yūrei (ghosts) takes a surprising turn when a special package arrives in episode 5, Shattered Like a Pearl

When the episode begins, Chester (Derek Mio)  is taking a photo of a local mother with her two kids. He imagines Luz (Cristina Rodeo) and sees what his kids might have been. Chester has received a letter with the bad news that his two boys were stillborn. His fellow translator Arthur Ogawa (Marcus Toji) is concerned about Chester’s mental state.

Back in Oregon at the concentration camp, there’s concern for Luz. Three kids are playing hide and seek in the woods when they see a woman in white at the water. “There she is, the ghost woman,” one of the children exclaims.  Yet this isn’t the real ghost woman, Yūko,  but a very depressed Luz who imagines her two babies in the water of the pond she stands in.

Her father comes to see her. She is despondent in her dirty white dress and he has come to take her home. Luz and her father are questioned by the military authorities. She can barely answer until the end when she recalls the names of her two babies. Luz’s father takes her home.

The Nisei men are worried about the loyalty questionnaire. Major Bowen (C. Thomas Howell) comments, “The WRA is all over my ass to get 100 percent. ” He tells his secretary Amy Yoshida (Miki Ishikawa), “I thought you all were supposed to be obedient.”

Amy’s flame, Ken Uehara (Christopher Naoki Lee), is indignant over the loyalty oath because the options are:  “be sent to Japan, be sent to jail, be sent to die.” He adds, “This is a trap; it’s as plain as a hakujin’s (White person’s) nose.”

Amy and the others learn that answering “no” to the most controversial questions (27 and 28) would be “considered as treasonous behavior subject to indefinite imprisonment.” While Ken remains adamant and wants to answer no to both questions, Amy uses her position as Bowen’s secretary to change Ken’s answers.

In Long Beach, California  three Nisei (second-generation) servicemen wait to ship out to the front as replacement personnel for Chester and Arthur. Working as a translator increases one’s chances of surviving the war because in the Pacific war theater, no translator has died…yet. One soldier notes that a translator “took a flame thrower to the face and came out as fresh as a daisy.”  One of the soldiers, Terajima (Taiga Seiya), silently sits apart and it becomes obvious that Terajima is possessed by Yūko (Kiki Sukezane). The duffle bag over his shoulder,  is mysteriously wet.

Those three replacement can’t come soon enough for Arthur and Chester.

They discovered that Admiral Takahashi performed psychological experiments on Sergeant Crittenden (Josh Hudniuk).

Crittenden believed his fellow soldiers were White demons and ended up killing them when they attacked Chester.

Chester complains that he and Arthur are not allowed to interrogate the prisoners, possibly because the “Harvard translator is afraid we’ll spot his sh*tty Japanese.”  Chester, now acknowledging that Crittenden was not on a yūrei inspired mission, confesses that he joined the Military Intelligence Service because he felt he was driven by the yūrei, so, “If there was never a yúrei, then why am I here?” Because they aren’t used as interpreters during interrogations, Chester complains, “Look at us! Useless to our country; useless to our families.”

Arthur, still in the comfort Chester mode, asks Chester if he played sports. At one time, Chester played second base on inner city baseball league. Chester and Arthur are summoned by their commanding officer because a Japanese pilot survived the downing of his Zero, but his interrogator, Major Van Allen (Ted Cole) “hit a bit of a snag.”

Chester and Arthur see the whimpering Van Allen being carried away on a stretcher because the prisoner, First Lieutenant Tetsuya Ota (Kazuya Tanabe), bit off his ear.  Ota been tied to a post with his hands behind his back; his mouth is bloody.

Ota calls Chester, “Shiryō” (死霊), which Chester explains to his commanding officer are “dead men walking among the living.” Chester and Arthur are babysitting Ota, but Chester isn’t sure if Ota is a man or a yūrei. Chester wonders about the nine names in the pilot’s notebook.

The pilot tells Chester, “The reason I am here is to save you.” He asks Chester to commit suicide with him.  Chester takes a photo of him and becomes assured that Ota isn’t yūrei. Like Chester, Ota believes in spirits. He can feel them. He looks forward to the next life because now he is unafraid of death as a proud warrior of Japan.

Chester breaks through to Ota realizing what the nine names mean. They were his college baseball team and the names crossed out were the ones who have already died. Chester thinks baseball is America-ppoi, or very American. Ota was a pitcher and he remembers seeing Lou Gehrig. “I struck him out,” he says. At first Chester doesn’t believe him, but Ota explains that in 1934, an all-star baseball team played at Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo.

Ota asks him for help–to give him an honorable death. Ota is destined to be questioned by an Ivy League university graduate at a POW camp. One wonders if he’ll even survive or become some soldiers souvenir shinbone letter opener or skull after the last episode The Weak Are Meat.

Chester tells Ota that,”The best thing about baseball…there’s no time limit, there’s no clock. There’s always a chance until the game is over.” Then he releases Ota and tells him, “I would have liked to have taken a swing at your fast ball.”

Ota replies sadly, “I would have struck you out, too, like Lou Gehrig.” Ota commits ritual suicide. The official report will read that Ota broke free and committed suicide.

Chester’s worries about yūrei are not unfounded as Sgt. Terajima (Taiga Seiya) arrives at Chester’s encampment and he unzips his duffle bag enough that we see: There’s a corpse inside. Yet it’s not Terajima that confronts Chester.  A possessed Arthur comes into their tent and hits Chester with a gun. At gunpoint, Chester gets into a jeep with Arthur and that mysteriously creepy duffle bag and drives away as the soldiers shoot at the tires. The jeep overturns. Arthur dies, but something emerges from the bag. The yūrei of Yūko has come in her very dirty white kimono and her face is totally rotted .

“It’s time to go now, Taizō,” she tells Chester.  Next episode we get to learn all about Taizō.

Historically, this episode covers some sad events that tore the Japanese American community apart, but also one of the things that today unite the US and Japan and the Japanese-American community.

The men who answered “no” to both questions became known as the “no-no boys” and there was a novel written about them.  About 12,000 out of 78,000 answered no-no or gave qualified answers to questions 27 and 28 that resulted in them being labelled disloyal. The No-no boyswere taken to Tule Lake.

There were others who replies yes-yes, but refused the draft on principle. Most famously, the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee argued that full citizenship rights needed to be restored to the Nisei before full compliance in selective services. Led by Frank Seishi Emi of Los Angeles and ACLU member Kiyoshi Okamoto of Hawaii, “sixty-three Heart Mountain resisters were found guilty on one count each of draft evasionand sentenced to three years in federal prison. United States Attorney Carl Sackett prosecuted the case.”

What is also true in this episode is that there was a Japanese professional baseball player, Eiji Sawamura (1917-1944) who on 20 November 1934 faced the all-star team that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He struck out both Ruth and Gehrig and the agent Connie Mack attempted to sign him, but Sawamura didn’t want to leave Japan. Instead, he joined the Yomiuri Giants in 1936. By 1943, Sawamura was in the Japanese Imperial Army and his ship was torpedoed. The Sawamura Award has been given to the best league pitchers since 1947.

The Japanese Americans were also good baseball players, something that has been largely ignored in comparison to the attention given the Negro Leagues.

In this episode, Shattered Like a Pearl, while we might have thought that the yūrei was protecting Chester, now it seems that she has something else in mind or that she might be looking for someone else: Taizō. Somehow, we are misinterpreting what is happening, just as Chester at first thought he saw the yūrei when there was none. Pearls, unless they are fake glass, do not shatter but in the next episode Chester’s world and family will be shattered by things that weren’t real.

Note: This recap contains spoilers

Episode 1 recap

Episode 2 recap

Episode 3 recap

Episode 4 Recap

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