Based on a novel by outspoken nationalist author Naoki Hyakuta, the film tells the story of a skilled veteran pilot (Junichi Okada) of the famed Zero fighter plane who is reviled by some of his comrades for wanting to finish the war alive, but changes his mind once he begins instructing young pilots destined for one-way suicide flights. The film was the biggest live-action hit of 2014, earning $68 million (8.1 billion yen).
“The Eternal Zero” won Picture of the Year honors and Yamazaki was named best director.
Meanwhile, star Okada received the best actor award, as well as a best supporting actor prize for his work in the Takashi Koizumi period drama “A Samurai Chronicle.” He is the first male actor to scoop two Japan Academy acting honors. The best actress prize went to Rie Miyazawa for her portrayal of an embezzling bank employee in Daihachi Yoshida’s drama “Pale Moon,” while Haru Kuroki took supporting actress for her turn as a naive-but-strong-willed maid in the Yoji Yamada family drama “The Little House.”
The Animaton of the Year award went to “Stand by Me Doraemon,” also directed by Yamazaki, while the Outstanding Foreign Language Film prize was awarded to “Frozen,” the biggest hit at the Japanese box office last year with $214 million.