Certainly, "The Burmese Harp" has a powerful premise. A small Japanese squad is stranded in Burma at the end of World War II. Now that Japan has officially surrendered, the men only want to return home. But one soldier stays behind, piously devoting himself to burying the Japanese corpses that litter the land.
So far, so good. But the execution of this story is surprisingly mawkish -- an unusual flaw considering that, if anything, Japanese movie characters tend to be too stoic. The problems begin with the music -- this delicate troop of choirboys loves nothing more than to burst into song. Naturally, their solemn, traditional hymns are delivered with perfect pitch and studio acoustics. The songs only seem cornier and more implausible as the film continues -- to give an idea of the script's subtlety, the most repeated tune is "Home, Sweet Home." There's even a second squad who turns up with a hidden talent for choral arrangements. Yup, it's a sing-off.
The weepy sentimentality is further upped by the overuse of talking parrots to convey heartfelt messages, plus the unlikelihood of soldiers in a prison camp being concerned with almost nothing except the fate of their one separated friend. It's all rather heavy-handed -- I found myself thinking of the preachier pacifist episodes of "The Twilight Zone."
If you can filter the above out of your experience and just focus on the philosophical journey of the wayward soldier Mizushima, "The Burmese Harp" holds its own as an affecting anti-war film.