Umizaru (Japanese) (2004)

Published: May 12, 2012 |Updated: Mar 16, 2023


“Umizaru” – (Japanese for Sea Monkeys the slang for the Japanese Coast Guard) is the story of 14 young Japan Coast Guard officers who take part in a tough training to become rescue divers. The film takes us through their 50-day training. Senzaki is one of the top recruits and he is paired with the most unlikely candidate of the 13 other recruits; Kudo.

With his love for the ocean and diving, work as a rescue diver at sea seemed like the perfect occupation for Senzaki. His journey from cynicism to become a better man takes us through finding and loosing a buddy – to finding a community to belong in. It is an amazing and emotional journey for us all.

Jump to powerful ideas »

Genre Adventure
Production year 2004
Director Eiichiro Hasumi
Male actors Hideaki Ito, Atsushi Ito, Ken Kaito

We All Need Friendship

From the Wound, Comes the Gift

The film opens with 2 rescue divers going into a sunken ship. It shifts dramatically, one becomes trapped and we see that there is no air in either of their tanks.

His hand dramatically clings to the hand of his buddy, who has to pry his trapped colleagues fingers free before swimming to safety; in the full knowledge that he is leaving his buddy to die. We next meet the survivor of the tragedy as the senior trainer for the student ‘rescue divers’ of tomorrow.

He holds, for me, the archetypal energy of the wounded Fisher King. Life has bruised him and left him with a festering wound. He is seen at best as a failure and at worst he is seen by some as a murderer, but as my mentor taught me, ‘from the wound comes the gift’. The instructor is able to confront the young trainees with the question gleaned from his wounding experience. What would they do in the same situation? We learn that he was injured in the ascent when he left his buddy to die and as a consequence never worked as a diver again.

The young men think that the instructor is just asking a pointless question, but they later discover that his question has a very real application: the gift. Towards the end of the movie Senzaki finds himself in the exact same scenario that the Instructor faced, which he presented to the class. We know from his earlier reaction that Senzaki will NOT leave his buddy. So do his class-mates.

However, Senzaki is powerless to save the man trapped beside him and by choosing to remain he seems to be choosing a pointless death; except for the fact that his colleagues know that Senzaki will choose to remain with his buddy.

As a consequence they step up to become the answer that is impossible for Senzaki to provide alone. The class-mates hear Senzaki’s signal and save both men; discovering the gold that the instructor was trying to pass on to them. Sometimes it takes a community to answer a question that an individual cannot answer alone.

The instructor is healed by the loyalty of the class to him and to their class-mates and by the resulting rescue of the 2 student divers. Death no longer attaches itself to the Instructor. His training gives the gift of life. The grail question is asked, the answer given and the Fisher King and His Kingdom is restored.

We All Need a Buddy

Another great theme is the awakening of the realisation that we all need a buddy.

At the start of the film we see Senzaki in the lone ‘hero’ role, but he is arrogant and narcissistic. He sees only himself and his needs. We learn that he is only seeking the role of the rescue diver as a solution to his boredom; there is nothing honorable in it for him. Other trainees seek it for the girls they’ll bed or the money they will earn. In this we see that people can appear to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

The work-a-holic and the alcoholic share much woundedness in common but one is praised and the other shamed. Over the 50-days training we see each of the men journey under the watchful eye of the instructor (the King) who teaches them the value of community, love for one another and the service of a higher purpose.

Senzaki’s buddy is the clumsy Kudo he seems at first to have nothing to offer the haughty Senzaki but we see their friendship grow and both are enriched through it. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

Death as a Messenger

One day after a day’s diving Kudo goes to rescue a member of the public who is drowning but in his attempt dies himself and the person he rescues later perishes in the hospital.

Senzaki and the other trainees are devastated. Senzaki has lost his buddy who he has come to love and value and he feels like giving up. This really resonated with me – we all need a buddy and the thought of loosing one, once we have found them, is very painful.

Kudo’s death underlines Senzaki’s determination to find an answer to the instructor’s question; other than leaving your buddy behind. This invites us to remember that we can continue to look for solutions rather than just settle with the one we have currently within our grasp.

If an answer seems unpalatable or unacceptable then keep on looking. Senzaki learns to trust others through Kudo and this is what allows him to find ‘the gift’ later on in the movie when he is confronted by the same problem the instructor faced all those years before.

“You cannot solve a problem by thinking at the same level of thinking at which the problem was created” – Albert Einstein.

It is only in involving the wider community of trainees that Senzaki finds another answer to the Instructor’s question – which is a question that the Instructor needs answered too; to enable his own healing. The effect of healing and restoration often extends beyond the individual – the healing of the Fisher King restores His Kingdom as well as him.

Powerful ideas from Umizaru (Japanese)

  • We all need a buddy - someone that we can connect with in a deep & intimate way. This relationship blesses both men
  • All of us carry the wounds of our past - some are more obvious than others
  • Look for integrity and authenticity in your buddy not popularity
  • Character will always trump reputation
  • Those who are wounded in community must be healed in community - just like the Instructor in Umizaru

»Return to user reviews

Discuss Umizaru (Japanese) below: