Recommended Japanese Live Action Cinema: Titles for kids, teens, young adults and the rest of us.


This page is intended to supplement my Librarian's Guide to Anime and Manga, Teacher's Companion to the Anime Companion and Anime (and Manga) for Parents (and Other Grownups). These lists also can be used as guides for people looking for titles to rent or buy.

What is here?:

This page includes regular theatrical releases of movies, films of plays and documentaries.

Notes on buying items:

If you are interested in buying items I strongly urge you to check local dealers first. Buying locally saves money on shipping and encourages local merchants to stock more Japan related materials.
 
If you are unable to get items from a local dealer you can use the links on this page. For most items in print and distributed in the US and I have linked to appropriate title locations on the Right Stuf site. The Right Stuf site has perhaps the most complete selection of Japanese entertainment related materials available in North America. For items released in Japan and not distributed in the US I will link to sites that provide better prices than most for overseas orders, mainly this will be CDJapan. I am an associate of CDJapan, iTunes and The Right Stuf this means I get a percentage of your purchase which then goes towards maintaining this web site and my obtaining more research material. I don't get much money from the associate accounts but everything helps.
NOTE: If you are ordering from out of country check your credit card statement for the actual charge. It may vary slightly from what is on the invoice due to fluctuations in the exchange rate. Keep track of the amount so when it comes time to pay the use tax on the purchases you have accurate numbers.
 
Some titles may go out of print or change packaging format, I will include out of print titles as there may be another release or readers may be able to find second hand copies. If a link is not provided or does not work search the Right Stuf web site for the title to locate other available U.S. editions. For series I will usually link to the first volume if there is no box set, scroll to the bottom of the page on the Right Stuf site for the rest of the series and any related items.
 
All works are by the English title used in the US release or the English title used in Japan for works originating there. All works are legitimate releases, I strongly oppose the distribution of pirated goods.
 
A note on region coding:
For DVD discs Japan/Europe and North America are in different regions. This means if you are buying discs from ore than one region you will need a special player that can play both region 1 (North America) and region 2 (Japan and Europe) discs. There are merchants who sell such players.
If a DVD is coded region 2 or has no region coding I will note it as so. If I do not list a region coding the disc will be region 1.
 
For Blu-Ray it is easier for those of us in North America as all of the Americas, Japan, Korea and South-East Asia are in region A/1.
 
General notes:
Cut off subtitles:
If the subtitles on a DVD go off the bottom of the screen adjust your width on your TV. In many cases there is a button on the TV remote that says WIDE, pressing it will temporarily reset the TV to any of several settings. Simply do this until you get the one you want.
 
Remakes and sequels:
Remakes and sequels are often not listed here as they are often of lower quality. If I think such is well made I will list it.

Recommended Titles - Japanese Live Action Cinema:

Note: Japanese names are given family name first.

# - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z


- # -
Titles beginning with a number are entered as if the number was spelled out.
For example 20th would be under T for Twentieth, etc.

- A -
Aragami: The Raging God of Battle (2003)
Director: Kitamura Ryūhei
Screenplay: Kitamura Ryūhei, Takatsu Ryuichi
 
Fleeing the battlefield two tired and wounded samurai come across a temple in the mountains where a women welcomes them in. Later one awakens to be told by a man who is staying at the temple that his fellow warrior has died. The temple is an unusual one with calligraphy covering pillars and a large ferocious statue that the man says he carved. As the conversation progresses we realize things are not quite what they seem.
 
Order Aragami: The Raging God of Battle from The Right Stuf
 
Assault Girls (2009)
Director: Oshii Mamoru
Story: Oshii Mamoru
 
Set in the same immersive virtual games environment as Avalon this film follows four players participating in a hunt over a desolate landscape. The goal to gain points by hunting giant sandwhales. As in many games there is a "Big Boss" in this case a particularly powerful sand whale. During the play the Game Master will make comments and suggestions to the players. Like Avalon this movie is not in Japanese, it is actually in English. The reason for this is explained int he movie, I recommend watching with the subtitles on as the English is heavily accented.
 
DVD: Order Assault Girls on DVD from The Right Stuf
 
Blue-Ray: Order Assault Girls on Blu-Ray from The Right Stuf
 
Avalon (2001)
Director: Oshii Mamoru
Screenplay: Itō Kazunori
 
Ash makes a living from playing virtual combat games, originally as part of a team but now solo. At home she pampers her basset hound, played by Gabriel the director's dog. She starts hearing of disappearances of game players including a colleague from her former team. These disappearances are linked to something in the gema environment called Avalon. Determined to find out what is going on she investigates and decides to take her chances and enter Avalon herself. While this movie is a Japanese film production it was filmed in Poland with a Polish cast and the use of Polish military hardware. All dialogue is in Polish.
 
The Region 1 DVD release from Miramax is out of print but the work can be found second hand.
 
Region 2 DVD:
You can obtain Avalon with English Subtitles from CDJapan
 
Blue-Ray:
Avalon is available subtitled in a region free Blue ray release in Japan. Order it from CDJapan
 

- B -
The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
Director: Kurosawa Akira
Screenplay: Hashimoto Shinobu, Hisaita Eijirō, Kikushima Ryûzo, Kurosawa Akira,Oguni Hideo
 
My favorite Kurosawa films are his older works set in modern Japan. I enjoy his 'samurai' films but the social criticism of his modern setting works stands with the best. In this work a young man is out to expose the men who drove his father to his death five years earlier. The movie opens with a wedding reception at which the guilty are gathered. When it is time to cut the cake a second cake is delivered as a message to those who know it's meaning. We learn what the message is thanks to a group of reporters in the lobby discussing current business scandals involving some of the guests as well as certain events of the past. This film is a suspenseful cat and mouse game in which only one side knows what is going on for the majority of the film. It is also an indictment of corrupt government officials and businessmen who will go to any length to cover up their graft. One short scene has a very young Tanaka Kunie playing a hitman.
 
Order The Bad Sleep Well on DVD from The Right Stuf
 
Baian The Assassin (1990-1993) - TV Series
Director: Yoshida Keiichiro (ep.1), Sugimura Rokuro (ep.2-3), Ogasawara Yoshifumi (ep.4), Mimura Haruhiko (ep.5-7)
Screenplay: Abe Tetsuro (ep.1-2, 7), Shimoiizaka Kikuma (ep.3), Nogami Tatsuo (ep.4), Furuta Motomu (ep.5-6),
Based on a work by: Ikenami Shōtarō
 
Watanabe Ken stars as Baian, a doctor who moonlights as an assassin in Tokugawa Period Edo. Baian has a code of honor and will accept only assignments that target the wicked and those deserving of death. Don't expect a fast paced swashbuckling action show with big fights. Baian carefully stalks his targets looking for the right moment to strike. He works through an agent who acts as an interdiary between him and the clients, after all keeping his identity secret is crucial to his survival. His weapon, large needles which combined with his medical skills are deadly.
 
Order Baian The Assassin from The Right Stuf
 
Battle Royale (2000)
Director: Fukasaku Kinji
Screenplay: Fukasaku Kinji
Based on a work by: Takami Kōshun
 
The setting is an island. A third year middle school class, who thought they were going on a field trip, awakens with explosive collars around their necks to find they have been chosen to be the participants of the Battle Royal for that year. Confronted by their former teacher Kitano, played by Kitano Takeshi, they are told the rules. Only one can survive, and if more than one is alive in three days they all die. Each student is given a bag with a map, food, water, and an object designated as a weapon. The weapons range from firearms to devices not usually thought of as weapons. Then begins a struggle to survive, protect friends, kill, and subvert the project before the end of the time limit.
The experience of being a fifteen year old munitions worker in WWII and having to collect the body parts of his fellow students after a U.S. air raid, and then take shelter under the same bodies as another attack was taking place influenced Fukasaku's views on authority, and the making of this movie.
Other than showings at films festivals and at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, California the release of this film in the U.S. was delayed for 11 years due to the Columbine High School massacre.
 
 
Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003)
Director: Fukasaku Kinji & Fukasaku Kenta
Screenplay: Fukasaku Kinji & Kida Norio
 
Set three years after the first movie. The survivors of the first film have organized an armed resistance group, Wild Seven, to fight the authoritarian government of Japan. As in the first movie a class is chosen for the Battle Royale, this time they will not be killing each other but instead attacking the Wild Seven's island hideout. As in the first film they are attached to explosive collars and given three days to complete their task. They are given a choice, agree or die immediately. Each student is paired with another, if one dies they both die. Thinking they are under attack from the military the Wild Seven fight the students until they realize what is happening. While he was working on this film Fukasaku Kinji was dying of cancer and directed very little, his son, who had worked with him on the project until then, finished directing the film.
 
Both films are available together as the Complete Collection.
 
Order the 4 disc Battle Royale Blu-ray Complete Collection from The Right Stuf
 
Order the 4 disc Battle Royale DVD Complete Collection from The Right Stuf
 
The first film is also available alone.
 
Order Battle Royale Blu-ray Director's Cut from The Right Stuf
 
Order Battle Royale DVD Director's Cut from The Right Stuf
 
Battles Without Honor and Humanity see: Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honor and Humanity
 
Blind Menace (1960)
Director: Mori Kazuo
Screenplay: Inuzuka Minoru
Based on a work by: Uno Nobuo
 
Also known as Secrets of a Court Masseur, Agent Shiranui, and Shiranui Kengyō. The blind masseur Suginoichi, played by Katsu Shintaro, treats his clients with his hands and accupuncture needles. He also is, and has been since he was a child, a con man who will do anything to advance and gain wealth. Self centered he manipulated those around him into situations that play to his advantage with no regard to the harm he causes to others.
 
Order Blind Menace from The Right Stuf
 
Bushido Man (2013)
Director: Tsujimoto Takanori
Screenplay: Tsujimoto Takanori
 
Toramaru has been on a year long pilgrimage challenging martial artists across Japan in pursuit of mastery of Mugen-ga-ryu, The Cosmic Way. He returns to tell his master of each of the battles and of his preparation for each challenge. A preparation that involves eating his adversary's favorite food. With each meal, and battle, he masters the techniques of his opponents and advances as a warrior. He also goes closer to his last challenge, one he never expected, one which may actually defeat him.
 

- C -
Chushingura (1962)
Director: Inagaki Hiroshi
Screenplay: Yasumi Toshio
 
Inagaki's Chushingura is perhaps the best known in the West of the over 80 adaptations of the original kabuki play about the famous 47 Ronin. The movie spans the period from the growth of the conflict between Kira and Lord Asano to the march of the ronin after their successful attack. The film has all of the 207 minutes filled with lavish sets and costuming as well as depicting the variety of seasons and locations the story is set in.
 
Released by Image Entertainment, still in print, though not available from The Right Stuf.
 
See also:
Jitsuroku Chushingura
Kana Tehon Chūshingura
Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin
The Loyal 47 Ronin
Samurai Vendetta (a.k.a. Hakuoki)
Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle
 
Crows Zero (2007)
Director: Miike Takashi
Screenplay: Mutō Shōgo
Based on a work by: Takahashi Hiroshi
 
This is a prequel to the famous Crows manga about boys attending Suzuran, a tough high school where status depends on fists. The film is actually a complex one with unique characters and varied motivations. No one has ever taken control of Suzuran and transfer student Takiya Genji is determined to do so. From a solitary new student to building alliances he gains more power to challenge Serizawa Tamao and his team. Complex characters, fun lines "Don't dis the poor", great music and action. I often say that the Crows stories could be recast as a story with samurai vying for power. It just happens to be sent in a working class area of metropolitan Tokyo.
 
Order Crows Zero on DVD from The Right Stuf
 
Order Crows Zero on Blu-ray from The Right Stuf
 
Cutie Honey (2004)
Director: Anno Hideaki
Screenplay: Anno Hideaki, Takahashi Rumi
Based on a work by: Nagai Go
 
Kisaragi Honey, Cutie Honey, is an android created by the late Dr. Kisaragi. Honey's special ability is that she can transform to meet the challenges she faces. Now the original story ran in a boy's manga magazine and the creator is known for pushing the limits of respectability. This means he gets more than a bit naughty at times and in the Cutie Honey series this included Honey's clothes vanishing during her transformation sequences, something you also see in the later Sailor Moon girl's TV show, not that you see much in either. Also expect outrageous villains, exaggerated situations and fights, lots of fights as Honey takes on the villains and their minions. This adaptation of the original is extremely well done with stylistic use of computer special effects and great costumes. The Director is best known for his science fiction anime work such as GunBuster and Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as directing serious live action cinema. Nagai Go has a camio as the driver of a car Honey falls onto.
 
Order Cutie Honey from The Right Stuf
 
Order Cutie Honey LiveAction Limited Edition with Lunchbox from The Right Stuf
 

- D -
Dora-Heita (2000)
Director: Ichikawa Kon
Screenplay:
Ichikawa Kon
Kinoshita Keisuke
Kobayashi Masaki
Kurosawa Akira
Based on: Machi-Bugyo Nikki by Yamamoto Shugoro
 
While the magistrate office staff wait for their new boss, Mochizuki Koheita aka Dora-Heita (played by Yakusho Kōji), is ten days late to report to his position and they can only write "Today the new magistrate has not yet arrived" in the official log. They also talk of his reputation as a martial artists but with a reputation for debauchery and immorality. Meanwhile the new magistrate is in fact in town and instead of going to work is regularly heading to an area forbidden to samurai where he drinks, hangs out with the local hookers, gambles, honestly has a good time and keeps his eyes open to what is going around him. However he has been followed all the way from Edo by a formidable adversary he can only run way from.
 
The US edition released by AnimEigo is out of print but copies are still availaine from some retailers.
 
An alternative source is CD Japan for the subtitled region 2 DVD.
Doraheita (With English subtitles) from CD Japan
 
Drop (2009)
Director: Shinagawa Hiroshi
Screenplay: Shinagawa Hiroshi
Based on a work by: Shinagawa Hiroshi (story) Suzuki Dai (art)
 
Drop is the first film by comedian turned manga writer, turned director Shinagawa Hiroshi. This is an autobiographical work based on Shinagawa's middle school days as a delinquent, which he had previously documented in a manga drawn by Suzuki Dai. I had to wait a couple of years for this film to get a US release after I read Mark Schilling's review in the Japan Times.
The Hiroshi of the film is portrayed as a naive fan of bad boy manga who grows up to be a self confident, if brawling and often irresponsible, teen with the help of his new delinquent friends. Much of the humor is low key and shows up in the dialogue, some of it will go over the heads of those not familiar with Japanese popular culture, however anime fans will easily catch most, if not all of the references.
 
Order Drop from The Right Stuf
 

- E -
Eleven Samurai (1967)
Director: Kudo Eiichi
Screenplay: Tasaka Kei, Kunihiro Takeo, Suzuki Noribumi
 
The third in Kudo Eiichi Samurai Revolution Trilogy, following 13 Assassins (1963) and The Great Killing (1964). As in those two films the target is a high ranking samurai. In this case it is also a revenge killing for an event that happens early in the movie. The story is a bit more complex in some ways than the two earlier films in that secondary characters play a significant role in the events leading up to the climatic battle.
 
Order Eleven Assassins from The Right Stuf
 

- F -
47 Ronin
 
See:
Chushingura
Jitsuroku Chushingura
Kana Tehon Chūshingura
Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin
The Loyal 47 Ronin
Samurai Vendetta (a.k.a. Hakuoki)
Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle

- G -
Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965)
Director: Yuasa Noriaki
Screenplay: Takahashi Nisan, Saito Yonejiro
 
Gamera is one of the classic daikaiju (giant monsters) of Japanese cinema. Like many such films the initial U. S. release, titled Gammera the Invincible, was heavily edited with added footage to allow the inserting of american actors into a film that they were not originally in. However the original Japanese film with English subtitles is available from Shout! Factory. For several years after the release of the original movies there was a steady stream of Gamera films made, at times two a year.
 
 
Ghibli no E Shokunin kazuo Oka Ten Totoro no Mori wo Kaita Hito (2007)
 
A series of NTV documentaries about Kazuo Oga, a major background artist who has worked with Studio Ghibli from 1988. The English subtitles are limited with much of the dialogue not translated. However it is easy to understand the gist of what is being said. You do need to need to use menus to play the different parts of the DVD. There is also a gallery of art on the disc which has some familiar and very nice works. Included is a film of the making of a painting and while there no dialog in this portion it would have been nice to have the screen captions subbed.
 
Order the region 2 DVD of Ghibli no E Shokunin kazuo Oka Ten Totoro no Mori wo Kaita Hito. (English Subtitles) from CDJapan.
 
Order the Blu-Ray and region 2 DVD of Ghibli no E Shokunin kazuo Oka Ten Totoro no Mori wo Kaita Hito. (English Subtitles) from CDJapan.
 
Goyokin (1969)
Director: Gosha Hideo
Screenplay: Tasaka Kei and Gosha Hideo
 
On the Japan Sea coast the population of a fishing village goes missing in one day. Years later a ronin, played by Nakadai Tatsuya, is attacked in Edo by numerous assailants. How are the two incidents linked, and who will die as a result? These are two major questions of this story to be answered as the tale unfolds.
 
Order Goyokin from The Right Stuf
 
The Great Killing (1964)
Director: Kudo Eiichi
Screenplay: Ikegami Kaneo
 
A conspiracy to stop a conspiracy results in the initiation of a brutal dragnet by the authorities. Caught up in this are several innocents and bystanders who happen to know some of those involved. Who is the ring leader the authorities are after? How is he planning to succeed now that most of his co-conspirators are imprisoned or dead? What are those on the sidelines going to do when those they care for are harmed? The result could dramatically change the government of the shogun, a change greatly for the worse.
 
Order The Great Killing from The Right Stuf
 
The Great Yokai War (2005)
Director: Miike Takashi
Screenplay: Itakura Takehiko, Miike Takashi, Sawamura Mitsuhiko
Based on a work by: Aramata Hiroshi
 
Tadashi's parents are separated and his mother has taken him back to her home town to live with her father (played by Sugawara Bunta). Tadashi would rather be back in Tokyo with his older sister and friends than living in a small coastal town. At a local festival Tadashi is chosen to be the Kirin Rider for the year. However while usually just an honorific title it seems he was actually chosen. Then things start getting strange and he ends up going up on the mountain connected with the legend. There he encounters yokai and things start getting even stranger and dangerous.
 
The film was shot in Mizuki Shigeru's home town of Sakaiminato and Mizuki was a consultant on the designs for the yokai as well as being in the last scene in the movie commenting on war.
 
Order The Great Yokai War from The Right Stuf
 

- H -
Hayao Miyazaki to Ghibli Bijutsukan (Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Museum) (2005)
 
A documentary on the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka Tokyo. Much of the dialog in the film is between Takahata Isao and Miyazaki Goro, the managing director. There is extensive coverage of the inside and outside of the museum. The second part of the documentary goes into the various influences that went into the design of the building and the fact that the museum itself is a Studio Ghibli artifact.
 
Order the region 2 DVD of Hayao Miyazaki to Ghibli Bijutsukan (Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Museum) with English Subtitles from CDJapan.
 
Hei no Naka no Chuugakkou 塀の中の中学校 (2010)
Director: Kiyohiro Makoto
Screenplay: Uchidate Makiko
 
A TBS drama special set in an unusual branch of a Matsumoto City middle school in Nagano Prefecture. The school is in the Nagano Matsumoto Boy's prison, where the program was filmed. The school really exists, having been founded in the 1950s and operates today. A select group of students from various prisons are sent there to complete three years of curriculum in an intensive program lasting one year. In this story they range from 22 to 76 years in age and include those convicted of murder, arson, and fraud. You not only see the classroom but also the regimented lives of those in the prison, not only the convicts but also the staff.
 
Order the region 2 DVD of Hei no Naka no Chugakko with English Subtitles from CDJapan.
 

- I -

- J -
Jitsuroku Chushingura (1928)
Director: Makino Shōzō
Screenplay: Yamagami Itaro, Saijo Shotaro
 
One of the last films directed in 1928 by cinema pioneer Makino Shōzō. This work has many of the major stars of the time. A fire shortly after filming ended destroyed much of the film, the remaining stock was edited to make the theatrical release. This movie survived the destruction of WWII and the surviving parts edited into the version on this disk. This is a silent film with the award winning Sawato Midori acting as the benshi, providing narration and dialogue. This is an interesting work for those interested in the history of Chushingura films. The disk also contains Raiden, Makino Shōzō's last film.
 
The disc is region free and subtitled in English, Chinese and Korean.
 
Order: Talking Silents 10 "Jitsuroku Chushingura & Raiden" from CD-Japan
 
See also:
Chushingura
Kana Tehon Chūshingura
Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin
The Loyal 47 Ronin
Samurai Vendetta (a.k.a. Hakuoki)
Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle
 

- K -
Kamiyui Shinza see: Tsuyu Kosode Mukashi Hachijō - Kamiyui Shinza
Kana Tehon Chūshingura
Script: Takeda Izumo II, Miyoshi Shōraku, Namiki Sōsuke
 
The famous play, originally a puppet drama staged in 1748, depicting the story of the 47 Ronin and their act of vengeance. The play is usually known as Kanadehon Chūshingura or Chūshingura, the title is conventionally translated as The Treasury of Loyal Retainers or The Forty-Seven Samurai. This play, rather than historical documents, is the origin of most of the over 80 movies on the theme of the 47 Ronin. Due to Edo Period prohibitions on depicting contemporary events the location was changed and the play set in the 14th century rather than the 18th, when the historical events took place. Names were also changed, for example Ōishi Kuranosuke becoming Ōboshi Yuranosuke and Asano Takumi no Kami Naganori becoming Enya Hangan Takasada.
 
This NHK release is on Five discs, in four cases, containing the original kabuki play as it is currently performed. This particular series spans about 9.5 hours of viewing.
 
Japanense with English subtitles, region free
 
Kabuki Meisakusen Kana Tehon Chushingura (Ojo 3 Dan 4 Dan me Ozume) / Kabuki from CD-Japan
 
Kabuki Meisakusen Kana Tehon Chushingura (Michiyuki 5 Dan 6 Dan me) / Kabuki from CD-Japan
 
Kabuki Meisakusen Kana Tehon Chushingura (7 Dan me Ozume) / Kabuki from CD-Japan
 
Kabuki Meisakusen Kana Tehon Chushingura (9 Dan me Ozume) / Kabuki from CD-Japan
 
Note: The Bunraku puppet version of the play is available on Region 2 DVD with English subtitles from CD Japan, Ningyo Joruri Bunraku Meien Shu Toshikyogen Kanadehon Chushingura DVD Box
 
See also:
Chushingura
Jitsuroku Chushingura
Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin
The Loyal 47 Ronin
Samurai Vendetta (a.k.a. Hakuoki)
Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle
 
Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin (1994)
Director: Ichikawa Kon
Screenplay: Ikegami Kaneo
Based on a work by: Ikemiya Shoichiro
 
This adaptation of the story of the 47 Ronin is my favorite of the various movies I have seen. The story spans the period from when Oishi enters Kamakura to the attack on Kira's mansion. Less lavish than Inagaki's Chushingura, which actually makes the film more enjoyable as not everything is polished and neat, this film has a believable grit to it. Also the characters come off as more human than many of the adaptations I have seen.
 
Out of print but easy to find second hand.
 
See also:
Chushingura
Jitsuroku Chushingura
The Loyal 47 Ronin
Kana Tehon Chūshingura
Samurai Vendetta (a.k.a. Hakuoki)
Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle
 

- L -
The Loyal 47 Ronin (1958)
Director: Watanabe Kunio
Screenplay: Watanabe Kunio, Yahiro Fuji, Tamikado Raizo, Tsuruta Koji
 
This 1958 version of the Chushingura story is one of the most famous. Several traditional elements of the story are laid out quite well with an emphasis on the secrecy of the planners. The character presentation is clear with the Ako samurai portrayed as loyal and dedicated and Kira as a vile old man. Those who strive to defend Kira are also villains but with elements of humanity shown. This film would be a good one to show to those who have not seen any of the movie adaptations of the 47 ronin story.
 
Order The Loyal 47 Ronin from The Right Stuf
 
See also:
Chushingura
Jitsuroku Chushingura
Kana Tehon Chūshingura
Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin
Samurai Vendetta (a.k.a. Hakuoki)
Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle
 
Lupin The Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy (1974)
Director: Tsuboshima Takashi
Screenplay: Nagano Hiroshi
Based on a work by: Monkey Punch
 
The only live action adaptation of the original famous Lupin III crime stories that ran from 1967 - 1972. This film is very different from what fans of the Lupin III anime may expect, as Goemon does not play a role in the movie. One major reason for this is that the film was released in 1974 when the Lupin stories were still relatively new, the characters in the animated adaptations of the manga had not settled into the form we are familiar with today. For example the first Lupin TV series (1971-1972) had Goemon as an occasional character and none of the animated features had been released. In any case there is much to enjoy in this tale which is actually about how Lupin, Jigen, Fujiko and Zenigata first met. The film shows its age, however this is a major advantage: with all the excessive super thief/James Bond silliness this movie is excellent entertainment for fans of the original manga series.
 
Order Lupin The Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy from The Right Stuf
 

- M -

- N -

- O -
Otsuka Yasuo no Ugokasu Yorokobi (2004)
 
A documentary on Otsuka Yasuo, the animation director of The Castle of Cagliostro and Future Boy Conan. His connection with Miyazaki Hayao and Takahata Isao goes back to their days as young workers at Toei Dōga. Otsuka's resume includes many of the most famous anime classics of the 1960s and 70s.
 
Order the region 2 DVD of Otsuka Yasuo no Ugokasu Yorokobi with English Subtitles from CDJapan.
 

- P -

- Q -

- R -
Revenge (1964)
Director: Imai Tadashi
Screenplay: Hashimoto Shinobu
 
Also known as Adauchi. A low ranking samurai, who is also a second son, exchanges heated words with a high ranking samurai who is a first son. Afterwards things escalate and one is dead. The two families manipulate the situation to prevent harm to their clans and the survivor finds himself in a position impossible to escape from due to the rigid rules of samurai life.
 
Order Revenge from The Right Stuf
 
Revenge of a Kabuki Actor (1963)
Director: Ichikawa Kon
Screenplay: Wada Natto, Mikami Otokichi
Based on a work by: Mikami Otokichi
 
A story of revenge for an act that took place decades earlier. A kabuki troop from Osaka has come to Edo and the main onnagata in the play is catching everyone's attention for great performances. However there is another reason for the troop visiting Edo, three targets of vengeance now live in the city and the one hunting them is getting closer. There are some great scenes in this film, filmed as if they were on a kabuki stage which greatly adds to the visuals of those scenes.
 
Order Revenge of a Kabuki Actor from The Right Stuf
 

- S -
Sakuran (2007)
Director: Ninagawa Mika
Screenplay: Tanada Yuki
Based on a work by: Anno Moyoko
 
Kiyoha is sold into indentured servitude to a brothel in Edo's Yoshiwara district. A spirited child who refuses to meekly accept her situation she finds herself challenged to become an oiran, the highest rank among the prostitues of the Edo. Even as she works her way up the ranks her spirit is not broken, though it is tested many times. That same spirit helps establish her reputation and makes her desirable to many clients. However she still desires to leave, but contracts such as her's are up to ten years and even if she walks out of the gates what options does she have in the world. Love and the pain it brings a woman like her increases her resolve.
The original manga is also available in English.
 
Available as a subtitled Blu-Ray disc from Japan: Order Sakuran from CD Japan
 
Samurai Vendetta (a.k.a. Hakuoki) (1959)
Director: Mori Kazuo
Screenplay: Itō Daisuke
Based on a work by: Gomi Kōsuke
 
Opening with the march of the 47 ronin on their way to attack Kira's mansion, and ending with the charge through the gates, this movie is told as a flash back from the perspective of Horibe Yasubei, one of the 47. The film tells of how he gained fame in a duel, was adopted into the Horibe family, his love of a woman who married a samurai he had developed a friendship with, and a tragic tale of vengeance with villains and heroes beyond those of Chushingura.
 
Order Samurai Vendetta from The Right Stuf
 
See also:
Chushingura
Jitsuroku Chushingura
Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin
The Loyal 47 Ronin
Kana Tehon Chūshingura

Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle
 
Sanjuro (1962)
Director: Kurosawa Akira
Screenplay: Kikushima Ryûzo, Oguni Hideo, Kurosawa Akira
Based on a work by: Yamamoto Shugoro
 
Sanjuro (Japanese title: Tsubaki Sanjūrō) is one of Kurosawa Akira classic lone swordsman films. The tale of a wandering ronin whose sleeping place turns out to be the secret meeting place of a group of naive idealistic young samurai out to end corruption in their han while their lord is away. The title character, played by Mifune Toshiro, is far more savvy and joins the young men who would fail easily on their own.
This classic film was remade in 2007 and is available in a region 2 DVD with subtitles under the title of Tsubaki Sanjuro.
 
Order Sanjuro from The Right Stuf
 
Also available in a double feature set with Yojimbo Order the Sanjuro/Yojimbo Kurosawa DVD Collection from The Right Stuf
 
Sazen (2004)
Director: Tsuda Toshio
Screenplay: Edoki Jun
Based on a character who originally appeared in Ooka Seidan by Hasegawa Kaitarō
 
The Sazen (full title: Tange Sazen - Hyakumanryou No Tsubo) is a 2004 remake of the 1935 film Tange Sazen Yowa: Hyakuman Ryō no Tsubo "The Million Ryo Pot". This remake stars Toyokawa Etsushi as the cynical one eyed one armed ronin Tange Sazen who does what he pleases and refuses to be bound by convention. In the beginning of the tale we see how his body came to be so heavily damaged. Place this character in a story where he is a yojimbo, bodyguard, fed and housed by a woman who appears as tough as he is, in fact most of the women in the story a quite tough. Add to this the Yagyu are trying to locate a lost family heirloom that actually holds the secret to a treasure that can save the clan, an orphaned boy and his goldfish and things get interesting.
NOTE: Tezuka did a short manga on the same story.
 
The film Sazen appears to be out of print in Japan, it has yet to be licensed for US release.
 
The Secret of the Urn (1966)
Director: Gosha Hideo
Screenplay: Hayashi Fubou, Gosha Hideo, Tasaka Kei
Based on a character who originally appeared in Ooka Seidan by Hasegawa Kaitarō
 
The Secret of the Urn is a remake of the much earlier film Tange Sazen Yowa: Hyakuman Ryō no Tsubo "The Million Ryo Pot" from 1935. This remake stars kabuki actor Nakamura Kinnosuke as Tange Sazen, a cynical one eyed one armed ronin who has no respect for decorum and does what he pleases. In the beginning of the tale we see how his body came to be this way, and can understand how his sprit has been twisted. All in all this anti-hero provides us with a good ride as he gleefully interferes in a plot to destroy the Yagyu clan.
 
The story was again remade in 2004 as Sazen
 
Order The Secret of the Urn from The Right Stuf
 
Sekai Waga Kokoro no Tabi (1998 & 1999)
 
Two travel documentaries that originally aired in 1998 and 1999 on NHK.
The first consists of Takahata Isao in Canada where he visits Prince Edward Island, site of Anne of Green Gables which he had animated earlier in his career. Then he visits Frederic Back, the acclaimed animation film maker of The Man Who Planted Trees, a work which Takahata translated into Japanese. On Back's recommendation he first visits Upper Canada Village in Ontario, then a Haida community where traditional ways are being passed down, and a logging operation which is replanting trees in areas where they have been cutting.
The second is on Miyazaki Hayao following the footsteps of Antoine de Saint-Exupery from France to the Sahara Desert. The retracing is done in an Antonov AN-2 biplane in a series of flights which allow Miyazaki to visit places associated with Saint-Exupery when he flew a mail plane, including a hotel room he used to stay in, offices where he worked, cities he visited, locations in North Africa and finally Cape Juby. Miyazaki speaks of the great influence Saint-Exupery's books have had on him and is obviously enjoying the trip, even helping clean the cockpit windows at one stop.
These documentaries are available as a boxed set of two DVD discs. The subtitles are in the menu under the 3rd item from the top, once there select the 3rd item in that menu for English.
 
Order the region 2 DVD discs of Sekai Waga Kokoro no Tabi with English Subtitles from CDJapan.
 
Seven Samurai (1954)
Director: Kurosawa Akira
Screenplay: Kurosawa Akira, Hashimoto Shinobu, Oguni Hideo
To Western fans of cinema this is perhaps the most famous work by Kurosawa. This is the tale of 7 ronin who are hired by a village that is expecting an attack by bandits at harvest time. The local magistrate is useless so the poor villagers go to an elder who recommends they find samurai to hire, hungry samurai. Three villagers are chosen to travel to the town to find the samurai. After great difficulty they are able to gather a group to help them and return to the village.
 
Order Seven Samurai on Blu-ray from The Right Stuf
 
Order Seven Samurai (3 DVD disc edition) from The Right Stuf
 
Shiki-Jitsu (2000)
Director: Anno Hideaki
Screenplay: Anno Hideaki
Based on a work by: Fujitani Ayako
A young movie maker who has reached an impasse has returned to his home town from Tokyo in hopes of getting over his inability to work. There he meets a strange girl, played by Fujitani Ayako, who tells hime that tommorow is her birthday. The next day they again meet and she tells him tomorrow is her birthday. This sparks his curiosity and he starts meeting her more often. As he spends time with her he becomes fascinated with her obsessions and begins filming. But where will this relationship take them?
Shiki-Jitsu was produced by Studio Kajino, a branch of Studio Ghibli which has also done some animated shoets available on the Ghibli ga Ippai Special Short Short DVD.
 
Order the subtitled region 2 DVD of Shiki-Jitsu from CDJapan
 
Shiranami Gonin Otoko
Play Author: Kawatake Mokuami
A famous kabuki play, also known as: Aoto-zōshi hana no nishiki, Benten Kozō, Benten Musume Meono Shiranami, Enoshima Sodachi Neoi no Chigokiku, Ōto no Kiku Benten Kōzo, and in English as Bentin the Thief
Originally performed in 1862. Long a crowd pleaser, this play has it all, a complex con to get some cash from a merchant, deceptions within deceptions, cross dressing, a lost child found (two actually), a lost family treasure, thieves, a rooftop sword fight, great visuals and more than a few laughs. This play is even referenced in contemporary popular culture for example in episode 56 of Sailor Moon R.
 
The region free DVD disc, produced by NHK, does not have subtitles. However it does have a good voice over that allows you to watch the program, hear the original Japanese dialogue, and still understand what is going on.
Order Kabuki Meisakusen (Classic Selection): Shiranami Gonin Otoko Hamamatsuya kara Namerika Dobashi no Ba made from CDJapan
 
Sleepy Eyes of Death (1963-1969)
Directors: Ikehiro Kazuo films 4, 9, 12; Inoue Akira film 7; Misumi Kenji films 2, 5, 8; Tanaka Tokuzō films 1, 10; Yasuda Kimiyoshi films 3, 6, 11.
Screenplays: Hoshikawa Seiji films 1-7, 11; Itō Daisuke film 8; Takaiwa Hajime films 9, 10, 12
Based on works by: Shibata Renzaburo
 
While the stories have been adapted numerous times as films, this entry is for the twelve film series staring kabuki actor Ichikawa Raizō as Nemuri Kyoshiro. Nemuri Kyoshiro is a cynical half Japanese swordsman of unfortunate lineage, the mon on his kimono is a major clue. He does what he wants, is more than a bit of a rogue, and has little if any respect for authority. If left alone he is not a problem, but no matter how high your status is if you try to cross his path you do so at the risk of your life.
The 12 films in this series are:
Sleepy Eyes of Death 1: The Chinese Jade (1963)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 2: Sword of Adventure (1964)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 3: Full Circle Killing (1964)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 4: Sword of Seduction (1964)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 5: Sword of Fire (1965)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 6: Sword of Satan (1965)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 7: The Mask of the Princess (1966)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 8: Sword of Villainy (1966)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 9: A Trail of Traps (1967)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 10: Hell Is a Woman (1968)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 11: In the Spider's Lair (1968)
Sleepy Eyes of Death 12: Castle Menagerie (1969)
 
Order Sleepy Eyes of Death DVD Collector's Set 1 from The Right Stuf
Order Sleepy Eyes of Death DVD Collector's Set 2 from The Right Stuf
Order Sleepy Eyes of Death DVD Collector's Set 3 from The Right Stuf
Swords of Vengeance: Fall of Ako Castle (1978)
Director: Fukasaku Kinji
Screenplay: Takada Koji
 
A retelling of the story of the 47 Ronin. This version frames the killing of Kira by the ronin not only as an act of loyalty to their dead lord but also as an act of defiance against the government of the shogun. This particular film stands out from others in that it shows the difficulty of making the initial decision to take vengance, the suffering of the ronin, and the despair some fall into at how long it is taking.
 
The Swords of Vengeance appears to be out of print in the U.S.
 
See also:
Chushingura
Jitsuroku Chushingura
Kana Tehon Chūshingura
Kon Ichikawa’s 47 Ronin
The Loyal 47 Ronin
Samurai Vendetta (a.k.a. Hakuoki)
 

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Tange Sazen see:
- Sazen
- The Secret of the Urn

Thank You, Lasseter-san (2003)
 
In 2002 Miyazaki Hayao, Suzuki Toshio and several Studio Ghibli staff came to North America for various events and meetings at the Toronto Film Festival, the El Capitan in Los Angeles, Disney Studios and finally the San Francisco Bay Area where they visit with John Lasseter of Pixar, an old friend of Miyazaki. This documentary of the trip was originally done as a gift to Lasseter, however staff at Studio Ghibli felt it should be publically released and Lasseter agreed. The bulk of the work is in English with only the Japanese portions subtitled for English speakers.
 
Order the region 2 DVD of Thank You, Lasseter-san with English Subtitles from CDJapan.
 
13 Assassins (1963)
Director: Kudo Eiichi
Screenplay: Ikegami Kaneo
 
The original version of this famous movie. The half brother of the shogun has always been unstable. However he has recently committed great attrocities and the government must do something, quietly do something, to avoid a scandal. However he cannot simply be dealt with by administrative decree as he has been promised a major postition in the government by the shogun who now cannot take back that promise. A behind the scenes solution is called for and a loyal skilled tactician is given the assignment and resources to handle the situation.
 
Order 13 Assassins from The Right Stuf
 
13 Assassins (2010)
Director: Miike Takashi
Screenplay: Tengan Daisuke
 
Miike's famous remake of this famous movie. This time the crimes of the half brother of the shogun are in full color. The story follows the structure of Kudo Eiichi's classic and many elements from his later Eleven Samurai but this is a very new film in many ways. The US release is the "international version" which had about 40 scenes cut out for theatrical showings outside Japan making the film over 16 minutes shorter. The DVD and Blu-Ray releases incliude these scenes as extra rather than being the full movie.
 
Order 13 Assassins on DVD from The Right Stuf
 
Order 13 Assassins on Blu-Ray from The Right Stuf
 
Tora-san: Collectors Set 1 (films 1-4) (1969, 1970)
Director:
Yamada Yōji (1-2)
Morisaki Azuma (3)
Kobayashi Shun-ichi (4)
Screenplays:
Yamada Yōji and Morisaki Azuma (1)
Yamada Yōji, Morisaki Azuma and Kobayashi Shun-ichi (2)
Yamada Yōji, Kobayashi Shun-ichi and Miyazaki Akira (3)
Yamada Yōji and Miyazaki Akira (4)
 
The Tora-san movies, original title: Otoko wa tsurai yo (男はつらいよ, "It's tough being a man"), were a major institution with 48 films made between 1969 and 1995. This box set is the first four films, two made in 1969 and two in 1970. Each film involves Tora-san's old neighborhood of Shibamata in eastern Tokyo where he returns to at some point in the film. In the first film it is after 20 years, having run away as a child. Each visit has Tora-san causing some sort of a problem, usually due to his good intentions, for his family and neighbors. Tora-san causes problems for them, but great amusement for us. The problems often result in him hitting the road; he makes a living selling shoddy goods, doing fortune telling and any other petty scam that comes his way. The films are great lowbrow comedy with a delightful loser making his way in the world. The series ended in 1995 when Atsumi Kiyoshi, who played Tora-san in all of the pictures, passed away.
 
Order Tora-san: Collectors Set 1 from The Right Stuf
 
If you really love the Tora-san movies you can get any of the 48 movies from Japan on subtitled region 2 DVD. For the major fans you can get all 48 together in a box made to resemble Tora'san's suitcase.
Otoko wa Tsurai yo HD Remastered Edition Premium Complete Box (English Subtitles) / Japanese MovieOtoko wa Tsurai yo HD Remastered Edition Premium Complete Box (English Subtitles)
 
Tsubaki Sanjuro (2007)
Director: Morita Yoshimitsu
Screenplay: Kikushima Ryûzo, Oguni Hideo, Kurosawa Akira
Based on a work by: Yamamoto Shugoro
 
A remake of Kurosawa Akira's classic lone swordsman film Sanjuro with Oda Yuji playing the title role. This remake uses the same script as the original and is faithful to that film. Sasaki Kuranosuke does a great performance as Kimura. The story is a tale of a wandering ronin whose sleeping place turns out to be the secret meeting place of a group of naive idealistic young samurai out to end corruption in their han while their lord is away. The title character is far more savvy and joins the young men who would fail easily on their own.
 
Order the region 2 DVD of Tsubaki Sanjuro with English Subtitles from CD Japan.
 
Tsuyu Kosode Mukashi Hachijō - Kamiyui Shinza
Script: Kawatake Mokuami
 
The official title of the play translates as "The Rainy Season's Short Sleeved Garment of Old Hachijō" however it is usually referred to as Hachijō Kamiyui "Shinza the Barber" after the main scoundrel of the tale. The play was first performed in Tokyo at the Nakamura-za in 1873. The staring role is played by the late Nakamura Kanzaburō XVIII, who at the time preformed under the name Nakamura Kankurō V. The barber Shinza cons love struck youngsters into eloping but kidnaps the girl and then taunts her love in a scene that is so well played I'd be tempted to go on stage and punch the actor. Then the play focuses on the rescue of the girl, the daughter of a wealthy lumber merchant, which has to be done in such a way that word does not get out as her reputation would be ruined and her marriage prospects destroyed.
 
Order Tsuyu Kosode Mukashi - Hachijō Kamiyui Shinza from CD Japan
 
20th Century Boys 1-3 (2008-2009)
Director: Tsutsumi Yukihiko
Screenplays:
film 1: Fukuda Yasushi, Nagasaki Takashi, Watanabe Yūsuke, Urasawa Naoki
film 2: Nagasaki Takashi, Watanabe Yūsuke
film 3: Nagasaki Takashi, Urasawa Naoki
Based on a work by: Urasawa Naoki
 
Not so much a whodunit but more of a whodoin'it. The story involves a group of adults who as children spent a memorable summer playing together and hanging out in their 'secret base' - a hut built of very tall weeds tied together at the tops in a large empty lot. One of the things they did was put together a draft of a story involving an evil organization out to destroy the world. Decades later a charismatic cult leader has arisen and he may be connected to a series of events linked to story the kids made up. Then people start dying, some of a strange disease, in the same places as in the story. Kenji, the main author of the story starts to gather his friends to attempt to find who is doing this and to stop him.
 
This film, based on a 22-volume manga, is a suspense story that hops from the events of the story to the past of the children showing how their actions then influenced the later events. It is also a mystery in that we don't know the actual identity of the leader who is controlling what is happening. The original story is so complex that it was decided to tell the story over three films with a total running time of something like seven hours. The events of the story start in 1999, with flashbacks to the past, but finish around 2017. As the story continues you see characters age, you learn more about their pasts, and find that much is not what it seems on the surface. Serious fans of Japanese cinema will be pleased to see cameo appearances of many well-known actors, some without speaking parts.
 
Order 20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End from The Right Stuf
 
Order 20th Century Boys 2: The Last Hope from The Right Stuf
 
Order 20th Century Boys 3: Redemption from The Right Stuf
 

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Wakeful Nights (aka A Hardest Night!!) (2005)
Director: Makino Masahiko
Screenplay: Omori Sumio
Based on a work by: Nakajima Ramo
 
The film centers around a group of Rakugo (traditional Japanese storytelling) performers and their teacher's family. This group has been together for years in the traditional master apprentice relationship one still finds in some occupations. However several members of the group are elderly and a great deal of the story involves wakes, wakes with drunken storytellers have got to be interesting. But then the disclaimer on the box says: "Warning: Contains Adult Situations and Language, Disgusting Puns, Sick Jokes, Filthy Karaoke, and a Traumatized Manta Ray."
This is also an instructional film, I learned more Japanese terms for female genitailia from this DVD than from all the books on my walls.
There are also tea spewingly funny extras on the disc, including a dirty song contest and off color lyrics set to old children's tunes and spoofing patriotic songs.
 
Out of Print, not difficult to find second hand
 
The Way to Fight (1996)
Director: Miike Takashi
Screenplay: Nakamura Masa
 
High school student Tamai Kazuyoshi is a fighter, taking on all challengers and winning. Not in the ring but at school and on the streets of Osaka. When he is not at school or work he hangs out with his friends Toshio, who is not as good at fighting, and Ritsuko, who is a very serious student. Then he hears of Hamada Takeshi who is also undefeated and wants to meet him, Hamada feels the same way and looks for Kazuyoshi. Fans of Miike's shock films will find this one different. Rather than shocking images they will find strong characters, interesting situations, drama and humor.
 
Order The Way to Fight from The Right Stuf
 
Wild 7 (2011)
Director: Hasumi Eiichirō
Screenplay: Fukasawa Masaki
Based on a work by: Mochizuki Mikiya
 
Based on the popular 1970s manga this is the story of a special secret police unit who are charged to take out the most vicious criminals. They don't arrest, they exterminate. Each member of the crew is themselves has a criminal past with a serious record. Each was carefully selected and trained to form a team under the direction of a high ranking bureaucrat. This live action adaptation shows a few variants from the original manga, however this should not disappoint fans. The movie stays true to the hard core, and over the top, action of the manga with the crucial themes of brutal criminals and corrupt official remaining in the story. Many fans of the works of Oshii Mamoru will see references to elements from his Patlabor movies, and like those movies the soundtrack to Wild 7 is by Kawai Kenji.
 
Note: Six volumes of the original manga were released by Comics One starting around 2001. A sequel manga, Hiba: Wild Seven Another, was available for the iPad through the ZQ Books application before that service shut down in 2014.
 
Order the Wild 7 subtitled Blu-ray from CD Japan.
 
Order the Wild 7 subtitled region 2 DVD from CD Japan.
 

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- Y -
Yajikita Dochu Teresuko - Hana no Oedo Ban (2007)
Director: Hirayama Hideyuki
Screenplay: Abe Teruo
Based on the novel Shank's Mare (Tōkaidōchū Hizakurige) by: Jippensha Ikku
 
The classic tale of Yajirobē (Yaji) and Kitahachi (Kita) re-visioned without losing the great humor of the original. In this version Yaji (Nakamura Kanzaburō) is talked by Okino (Koizumi Kyōko) a high ranking prostitute into running away with her, Kita (Emoto Akira) invites himself along for the trip. As they travel to Okino's home town they get into a variety of misadventures much to our delight. All three actors in the main roles get to shine in their performances.
 
The Japanese limited edition box includes a second DVD of extras, story boards, a small book of color still images from the movie and a folded copy of a handbill seen in the movie depicting a strange type of fish.
 
Order Yajikita Dochu Teresuko - Hana no Oedo Ban Regular Edition on subtitled DVD from CD Japan
 
Order Yajikita Dochu Teresuko - Hana no Oedo Ban Limited Edition on subtitled DVD from CD Japan
 
Yakuza: Like a Dragon (2007)
Director: Miike Takashi
Screenplay: Togawa Seiji
 
Films based on video games are usually avoidable; their quality as films is often dismal. Then there are a few that shine, this is one of them. Based on the Sony video game and directed by Miike Takashi Yakuza: Like a Dragon is actually an interesting and amusing action film. Kiryu has just been released from prison and is looking for his boss who has gone missing. He finds himself helping a girl who has run away from an orphanage look for her mother. He also ends up coping with other yakuza that assume he has something do to with the sudden disappearance of 10 billion yen from the gang's various bank accounts and wanting to settle old scores. Then there is a stoic, and wounded, guest of a host club, inept bank robbers in knit masks in the middle of a heat wave, lovers turned stick up artists, a baseball bat armed gang and other fun. Fans of Miike know to expect over the top elements in the film as well as his dark humor, both are delightfully in evidence here.
 
Order Yakuza: Like a Dragon from The Right Stuf
 
Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1973-1974)
Director: Fukasaku Kinji
Screenplay: Kasahara Kazuo & Takada Koji
Based on a work by: Iiboshi Kōichi
 
A series of five yakuza films that helped transform the genre. Earlier yakuza films had had a focus on tales of chivalry, the Honor and Humanity in the title. This series of films had a less romantic view, using a semi documentary style they showed the yakuza as criminals grabbing what they can and fighting among themselves all while spouting pretty lies about honor and brotherhood. Starting in the black markets of occupied Hiroshima the story spans years in the life of Hirono Shozo, a yakuza played by Sugawara Bunta, who is often disgusted by what he sees around him.
 
The HVE release of Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honour and Humanity is presently out of print, however it can be easily found for low prices.
 
Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari (The Story of Yanagawa's Canals) (1987)
Director: Takahata Isao
 
Yanagawa, located in Fukuoka Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, is famous for it's canals. This live action documentary by Studio Ghibli covers the history of the city's canals from the early days. Originally the canals were used for transportation and for water to be used in cooking and drinking. Strict regulations were in place stipulating that certain activities could only be done at certain times of the day to prevent water for human consumption being polluted. However in the 20th century the quality of the water declined due to neglect and pollution. Presently much restoration work has been done to clean up the canals and restore them to being part of the city. Today the canals are popular for sightseeing, both from the many bridges, shore, and by boat.
 
Order the region 2 DVD of Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari (The Story of Yanagawa's Canals) - Ghibli Gakujutsu Library (English Subtitles) / Documentary from CDJapan.
 

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Zatoichi [staring Katsu Shintaro] (1962-1973, 1989)
Directors: Ikehiro Kazuo (films 6, 7, 14); Inoue Akira (film 10); Katsu Shintaro (films 24, 26); Misumi Kenji (films 1, 8, 12, 17, 19, 21); Mori Kazuo (films 2, 11, 23); Okamoto Kihachi (film 20); Tanaka Tokuzō (films 3, 4, 13); Yamamoto Satsuo (film 16); Yasuda Kimiyoshi (films 5, 9, 15, 18, 22, 25).
Screenplays: Asai Shozaburo (films 6 [co-writer], 7 [co-writer], 9, 11); Hattori Yoshiko (film 25); Hoshikawa Seiji (films 4, 8 [co-writer]); Inuzuka Minoru (films 1, 2, 3 [co-writer], 5, 7 [co-writer], 10, 24); Itō Daisuke (film 12); Kasahara Ryozo (film 17); Kasahara Toshio (film 15); Katsu Shintaro (films 21 [co-writer], 26); Matsumoto Koji (film 16 [co-writer]); Matsumura Masaatsu (film 8 [co-writer]); Nakajima Takehiro (film 16 [co-writer]); Naoi Kinya (films 18, 23); Okamoto Kihachi (film 20 [co-writer]); Ota Akikazu (film 6 [co-writer]); Saruwaka Kiyokata (film 16 [co-writer]; 19 [co-writer]); Shindo Kaneto (film 14); Sugiura Hisashi (film 19 [co-writer]); Takaiwa Hajime (film 13); Umebayashi Kikuo (film 3 [co-writer]); Yamada Takayuki (film 21 [co-writer], 22 [co-writer]); Yasuda Kimiyoshi (film 22 [co-writer]); Yoshida Tetsuro (films 8 [co-writer], 19 [co-writer], 20 [co-writer]).
Based on a work by: Shimozawa Kan
 
Between 1962 and 1973 Shintaro Katsu stared in a series of 25 movies about Zatoichi, a wandering blind masseur who loved to gamble and was also a master swordsman. As Zatoichi traveled around Japan he would find himself in situations where either he was helping someone with his skills or in danger because of his reputation and past. From 1972 to 1974, a Zatoichi television show was broadcast also starring Katsu Shintaro. In 1989 Katsu Shintaro returned to the role to direct and star in a 26th film, Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman.
 
The first 25 films are available as a Criterion box set confusingly called Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman, the title of the U.S. release of the 26th film which is not in the collection. Order Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman from The Right Stuf
 
The first 26 episodes of the Zatoichi TV series as released by Media Blasters is currently out of print but not hard to find.
 
The 1989 film, Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman is currently out of print but not hard to find.
 

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Created July 15, 2011 | Updated November 20, 2014