Tokyo governor wrote WWII box office smash

TOKYO — “For Those We Love,” the controversial pic about WWII kamikaze pilots penned and exec produced by Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, has gotten off to a boffo start at the Japanese B.O.

Pic, which Toei opened on 326 screens on Saturday, grabbed the No. 3 spot in the weekend rankings, after “Spider-Man 3″ and local kiddie fantasy “Kitaro.”

Helmed by Taku Shinjo, movie stars Keiko Kishi as a woman who runs a restaurant catering to kamikaze pilots — and becomes a surrogate mother to many of her young-but-doomed customers.

Toei expects the pic the finish north of ¥2 billion ($17 million).

Auds range from teenagers to septuagenarians, with a slight tilt toward males. “It’s a wider demographic than we expected,” said a Toei PR spokesman.

Prior to release, the pic got big play in the international media for its supposed nationalistic slant, though at a March 2 party celebrating its completion Ishihara told the press that it is “not a glorification of the kamikaze.” “It’s an ensemble youth drama with an antiwar message,” he continued. “There are those foreigners who confuse the kamikaze pilots with suicide bombers, but I want them to know that they are completely different.”

Toei is repping “For Those We Love” at Cannes.

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