The Sea Is Watching (Umi wa Miteita) (2002)

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Released 12-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance Dolby Digital Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Le Pacte Du Silence, The Missing Gun
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 114:13
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:29) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Kei Kumai

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Misa Shimizu
Nagiko Tono
Masatoshi Nagase
Hidetaka Yoshioka
Eiji Okuda
Renji Ishibashi
Miho Tsumiki
Michiko Kawai
Yumiko Nogawa
Tenshi Kamogawa
Yukiya Kitamura
Kumiko Tsuchiya
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Teizo Matsumura

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is a film in two parts, reflecting the fact that it is based on two stories by the same author. The film is set during the Edo period in Japan, in a brothel where O-Shin is a young prostitute. The film tells the story of her relationship with two men, the first a young samurai who takes refuge in her room when fleeing from a fight in which he wounded someone. The second is a young man who has trouble finding work, but has forced his previous employer at knife point to pay him his wages. O-Shin falls in love with both, but only one of them is worth the effort.

    This film was based on an screenplay by Akira Kurosawa. The screenplay adapts two stories by Shugoro Yamamoto, whose works had formed the basis of three previous Kurosawa films, most notably Akahige (Red Beard). Kurosawa started writing the screenplay in 1993 after the release of his final film Madadayo. After finishing the script he began casting the film and production sketches were made, but the perceived high cost of the film meant that he could not find backing and so the film was abandoned. Kurosawa then began work on the script for After the Rain, but again he was unable to make that film due to failing health and it was eventually made by other hands.

    Kurosawa was often criticised for his portrayal of women in his films. They were usually evil or subservient, with few strong female characters who were sympathetic. This screenplay seems to have been an attempt to redress this balance by moving into territory normally associated with his contemporaries Kenji Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse.

    The Sea is Watching is a nice film, but lacks something in terms of emotional connection with the audience. Well, with me, anyway. It is very well made and apparently very much in keeping with Kurosawa's vision of how it would look. Dramatically, though, the splitting of the story into two halves makes it feel like two episodes of a TV series tacked on to one another. I quite enjoyed it but it only contains glimpses of the master's hand.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is quite good but not perfect. The image is sharp and clear. Shadow detail is adequate, though the way the film was lit means that this would not be expected to be a problem.

    Colour is good, though reds seem to be slightly oversaturated. Flesh tones seem to be natural. Most of the time, though, the prostitutes are wearing the pale makeup traditional to this form of endeavour in Japan. Blacks look fine and I did not notice any low level noise.

    There is a small amount of aliasing present, which is slightly distracting. There is also some Gibb Effect from time to time, but nothing serious.

    Apart from some occasional minor print damage in the form of white specks, there are no film artefacts present.

    Subtitles are available in several languages, and are readable and of a reasonable size.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change occurring at 76:29 during a cut between scenes where it is not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default audio channel is Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, with two alternative languages available.

    The audio track is very good. There is some use of the surrounds for music and effects, but no overuse. The subwoofer gets a workout only during the fireworks and the concluding storm scene, in which it is very effective. Overall the audio mix sounds natural and clear with no noticeable problems.

    The music score however, by Teizo Matsumura, seems to me to be inappropriate to the film. Most of the time it is Occidental-style music, with piano and strings, and at times sounds like it could have come from a Spaghetti Western. It distracted me from the film and reduced my enjoyment slightly.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Featurette (8:10)

    This unnamed featurette looks mainly at Kurosawa's vision for the film, with contributions by his daughter Kazuko (who was the costume designer), director Kei Kumai and art director Takeo Kimura. Quite interesting but also too short. In 1.33:1 with optional subtitles.

Theatrical Trailer (1:26)

    The American release trailer, this is okay but nothing special.

Trailers - Le Pacte du Silence, The Missing Gun (2:54)

    American release trailers for these two films.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release appears to be almost identical, including the featurette and the theatrical trailer but not the other trailers. There is no reason to prefer this over the Region 4.


    A reasonable entertainment, but it could have been a lot better. Worth renting if you are a Kurosawa fan or simply enjoy Japanese films.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are so-so.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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