Re: RARA-AVIS: yakuza

From: E.Borgers (
Date: 20 May 2004

Yakusa is a recurrent topic in Japanese movies, B and even better, as you know. I saw myself quite a few of these Japanese films (subtitled) from the nineties, during my stay in Asia, but did the mistake of not noting titles etc… (but secondary data were very difficult to collect, as they were not even translated from the credits, except for the name of the actors). Some were very good and a lot with interesting stories. But I doubt that they were all distributed outside Asia. As you know, most of the Japanese films we see in Europe and America are "export movies" with filming and scenarios close to our standards. They do not reflect neither the average Japanese movie, nor the way it constructs a story, typical themes… Japanese noir/HB cinema is a very interesting subject, difficult to explore by lack of exportation of its current productions.

These yakuza movies (IMO) had even an influence on the Hong Kong films
(mainly pre-1997) depicting local mafias, which were copying themes, plots …etc from the Japanese, but in rather low grade films with scripts defying logic and continuity (as this is usual for 99% of the movies made in HK).

Yakusa novels are indeed stories rather popular in Japan, and you find a lot of them in the Japanese mystery and noir novels. And mangas. Very few were translated, which makes it difficult for us to build an opinion on this literature, or at least to have a detailed knowledge about it. You could find some interesting clues about Japanese noir/HB novels in an article by a Japanese reviewer that I have published in "Hard-Boiled Mysteries", titled NIPPON NOIR. The author, Naomi Hoida, is a local specialist for mystery literature and she is also a translator of American novels. You will find the article at: and check the chapter: Nippon Noir


Mark Sullivan t:

>The other day, I saw Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill, a Japanese
>thriller about a yakuza killer. The professional killer likes to sniff
>rice, which throws him into an ecstatic trance.
>Plotwise, it's a "program film," as Suzuki calls it (of course, he got
>fired because the studio said this film didn't make sense), a formulaic
>studio movie for nothing but entertainment, which sounds a lot like
>those B movies that later came to be considered noir classics.
>Stylistically, this black and white film also draws from America noir,
>but even more from the French new wave.
>According to the movie notes, there are a whole bunch of Japanese movies
>like this. Are there Japanese books like this? The only one I can
>think of that comes close is Peter Tasker's series featuring his PI
>Mori, but he's a Brit, even if he does live in Japan. And they're far
>more recent. The Japanese mysteries I'm aware of are higher class
>affairs, just as the Japanese movies I knew were, such as Kurosawa's
>films. I know there are Manga of this sort, but are there Japanese
>Yakuza novels, Japanese equivalents of Gold Medals? And have any of
>them been translated?

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