...before you cut your pinkie off! With Yakuza 3 coming out in North America and Yakuza 4 coming out in Japan, is there a better time to talk about Japanese gangsters? No, no there isn't.
These films are grounded in yakuza mythos, fantasy and, yes, fact. And like Hollywood mobster films, these motion pictures have even influenced the way yakuza portray themselves and are portrayed.
Otaku USA Editor-in-Chief Patrick Macias, who will be giving a presentation at the SEGA co-sponsored Yakuza 3 event in San Francisco, has provided five of his favorite yakuza flicks as well as short blurbs about the films to hopefully pique your interest. Remember, these are not your favorite yakuza films. They are Patrick's. M'kay? Read his list below. Onward!
Brutal Tales of Chivalry (Showa Zankyoden, 1965) — "Returning solider Ken Takakura must embody the burning spirit of Japanese manhood and save the local market from modernized thugs who drive big motorcars and wear tacky aloha shirts. In short, the honorable yakuza formula done to perfection."
Street Mobster (Gendai Yakuza - Hito-kiri Yota, 1972) — "The '60s era image of the 'chivalrous gangster' dies hard as mad dog loser Bunta Sugawara kick-starts mayhem and craziness wherever he goes, even turning even an innocent bowl of ramen into a weapon along the way!"
Battles Without Honor & Humanity (Jingi-naki tatakai, 1973) — "Director Kinji Fukasaku (later to helm Battle Royale) kicks off an epic, bleak, and unrepentantly violent tapestry of post-war yakuza history, inspired by real-life events. See all five 'Battles' films for full 'Godfather Saga' effect."
The Tattooed Hit Man (Yamaguchi-gumi gaiden: Kyushu shinko-sakusen, 1976) — "Bizarro World English dub of a typical '70s yakuza flick, only with the voices provided by the Speed Racer staff. Here's your chance to finally hear Speed tell someone, 'You're in my way, asshole.' Originally released to fleapit movie theaters in the US by New Line Cinema!"
Dead or Alive (1999) — "An amphetamine-fueled hallucinogenic roller coaster ride through Tokyo's Kabuki-cho district at its most hellish, presided over by director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) with some of the biggest stars of the straight-to-video era in tow. *Spoilers* May also contain the most amazing ending in film history."
So if Yakuza 3 (or 4 for that matter) doesn't quite quench your thirst for dirty scowls for guys speaking guttural Japanese or if it simply leaves you hankering for more gangster action, do check out these films Patrick recommended. And if you've already seen them, watch them again!
Those in the San Francisco area can check out Patrick Macias and personally thank him in person for this list on March 5 at the area's VIZ Cinema. More details here.