Murderer! / Hitogoroshi (1976)

The Japanese swordplay movie usually followed a basic pattern, whether it involved samurai, ronin, or pre-Meiji era yakuza. Someone insults a person's, family's, clan's, or yakuza gang’s honor and that insult must ultimately be avenged, leading to a final one-to-one duel. Hitogoroshi is the most unusual take on this formula I’ve ever come across, and … Continue reading Murderer! / Hitogoroshi (1976)

Thus the Kamikaze Blew / Kakute Kamikaze wa fuku (1944)

Kakute Kamikaze wa fuku is perhaps the ultimate Japanese wartime propaganda movie, certainly the most substantial to survive the war itself. Made at about the same time as the Kamikaze pilot program began, it reminded Japanese how the gods had saved Japan from a previous invasion by a far superior power, the second armada of … Continue reading Thus the Kamikaze Blew / Kakute Kamikaze wa fuku (1944)

World of Love: Tomi the Wildcat / Ai no sekai: Yamaneko Tomi no hanashi (1943)

Though it verges on the sentimental, Tomi the Wildcat gives us a somewhat different insight into the women on the home front in 1943 while also revealing the full maturation of the phenomenon that was Hideko Takamine. Now sixteen, Tomi has been living mostly on her own since her mother died when she was seven. … Continue reading World of Love: Tomi the Wildcat / Ai no sekai: Yamaneko Tomi no hanashi (1943)

Double Suicide at Sonezaki / Sonezaki shinju (1978)

The love suicide has permeated Japanese popular culture, almost as significant a subject as seppuku itself.* Chikamatsu’s Double Suicide at Sonezaki was one of the major drivers in the subject's popularity, as it was the first play (initially for bunraku then later Kabuki) in which both lovers were commoners. Given its immense popularity on stage … Continue reading Double Suicide at Sonezaki / Sonezaki shinju (1978)