It is now 1946, a year after Japan surrendered to World War. “The greater violence at war has ended. But a new kind of violence has replaced the lawless old in Japan. It's each person in the midst of chaos, ”the narrator explains at the start of the film. Since the end of the war, now there is a new crime that is hitting Japan on a large scale: the yakuza.
A criminal organization that for now (back in 2020) already has its own myths and legends, the yakuza are a group whose story has been told many times and is perhaps the most famous criminal organization here. After all, who hasn't heard of a yakuza? Perhaps in Indonesia itself, the yakuza 's popularity far exceeds that of other criminal organizations (such as the mafia which consists of Italian-Americans and is located in the United States) because of the many mysteries that always surround its name.
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The story of the yakuza has been told as far back as 1948, with Stray Dog being directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune. However, before the 1970s, the yakuza were usually portrayed as criminal figures who were still respectable and who still had moral values in serving their duties. And along came Battles Without Honor and Humanity - the first film in a long series of yakuza films - directed by Kinji Fukasaku (who also directed my favorite film Battle Royale ), who popularized a new genre in the yakuza film "Jitsuroku eiga" based on his story. with a true story and depicting the yakuza as a fierce and cruel criminal.
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At Battles Without Honor and Humanity , we are in an era where Japan is still recovering from world war. We still see a lot of tough men in army uniforms scattered in public. The defeat of Japan also resulted in many foreign soldiers acting arbitrarily in public, with at the beginning of the film we see a group of foreign soldiers trying to catch and rape a Japanese woman without anyone daring to stop her. Everyone, except Shozo Hirono (Bunta Sugawara) and his friends who dared to stop and beat the foreign soldiers before he himself was chased by the police.
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During the first 5 minutes, we are immediately recognized by several important characters in the film who will have a big impact on the story. I myself find it difficult to remember each and every one of them and what their positions are, but my advice is to be patient because the longer the film progresses the clearer who each character is and what their relationship to the film's story is. One of them is the main character Shozo Hirono.
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Shozo Hirono is what people describe as someone who is loyal to his friend and not afraid of the risks that will follow him. This trait is also what repeatedly made him go to prison, with one time in prison he befriended a yakuza from the Doi family, Hiroshi Wakasugi (Tatsuo Umemiya) and they vowed to become brothers. After getting out of prison, Shozo and his other friends officially became a yakuza by joining the Yamamori family after the ritual of drinking sake simultaneously.
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Battles Without Honor and Humanity depicts the yakuza vividly, with each yakuza in it a bunch of cunning people who blur the lines between good and evil, which of course makes the dynamics of the story more intense. Using "family" as the name of a criminal organization, the yakuza is synonymous with the kinship system it has adopted. But that is precisely what Kinji Fukasaku plays here, with dilemmas and strife in the family fueling the many deadly events that follow.
When Shozo is in prison for the second time in the film, Yamamori's family is divided when Tetsuya Sakai (Hiroki Matsukata) clashes with Uichi Shinkai (Shinichiro Mikami) because he finds out that one of Shinkai's men is selling drugs, something that is prohibited in the yakuza. Sakai is shaken again when he finds out that their own boss, Yoshio Yamamori (Nobuo Kaneko) is also selling the drugs he confiscated.
And as the name of this film suggests, wars that are devoid of respect and humanity are divided: public killing, gang killing, lying killing. The cunning nature possessed by all yakuza members makes it difficult for us as spectators to see them morally because if you really want to see them morally, then nothing is good. Nothing in this film is good, and maybe that's what makes this film interesting. Who is good and who is bad? The answer to that question always changes depending on how far you watch it so our guide is only Shozo Hirono who is not even a good person himself, but at least he still has a disciplined way of life.
As Shozo Hirono, Bunta Sugawara - whose stature is the inspiration for Akainu's character in the manga "One Piece" - does have a personality and facial features that are suitable for portraying someone who prefers to act using actions rather than using their mouths. There is a “cool and deadly” aura flowing from him, so Hirono's presence brings intensity to every scene. Moreover, his loyal character who is not afraid of death makes Hirono a character who is always fun to follow in this world full of betrayals.
Often referred to as the " Godfather of Japan", Battles Without Honor and Humanity is not as grand or ambitious as the film that was released a year earlier. But this yakuza film also carries a similar theme about family and betrayal in a criminal organization, and is this film one of the best Japanese films I've ever watched? Of course. Is this the best yakuza film so far? So true! This film also reminds me of the Yakuza game series which I believe took inspiration from this film, and also it is one of my favorite game series, so of course I really idolize Battles Without Honor and Humanity .
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