When a series of films are described as “Japan’s answer to The Godfather” that is a big statement to make. Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honour and Humanity though (also known as The Yakuza Papers) lives up to that statement though. Now released in a box set by Arrow Video, this is the perfect chance to watch the story in full…
The Battles Without Honour and Humanity is made up of five movies: Battle Without Honour and Humanity, Hiroshima Death Match, Proxy War, Police Tactics, and Final Episode. The Limited Edition boxset also includes The Complete Saga which pulls together first four films into one 224-minute compilation edition.
The films which are said to be an inspiration to Quentin Tarantino and Takashi Miike, is a violent Yakuza Saga which takes the story of the gangsters and gives it a Shakespearean like story. Born out of the society at the end of World War 2 it focuses on the growth of certain Yakuza families and its members. From the heights of their power to the downfalls of regimes, while other films of this type focused on the honour of the gangsters this movie looked at how cheap this honour was.
Throughout the films you constantly see the members of each family pledging allegiance when it suits them. Vying for power it becomes clear that the honour that they cherish so much in being Yakuza actually doesn’t mean much to them. Ready to stab not only their “brothers” but also their bosses in the back to get higher in the ranks, this is not a tale of redemption.
The battles between the Yakuza are vicious and numerous, which is their biggest problem ironically. The fact they cause so much violence and cause chaos to the public is what brings the police down on them. Not that the police have power to control the families with much effect.
In making my way through the five movies my favourite has to be the first, Battles Without Honour and Humanity which sets the tone for what is to come, Hiroshima Death Match, and Police Tactics. These are the strongest of the movies and feature the more interesting storylines. The real strength of the films as a set though is that none of them are weak, and together they form an epic storyline of Shakespearean proportions.
Filmed in a way that almost feels documentary like there is a gritty realistic feel to the drama that we have set before us. With each murder being reported like it was taken straight from a newspaper or report it feels like we are having a history lesson. This sets Battles Without Honour and Humanity apart from other more stylised Yakuza films.
The Arrow Films box set features plenty of special features giving you all the information you need to full understand the movies. I found interviews with the likes of Takashi Miike interesting, especially as it easy to see the influence on his movies Battles Without Honour and Humanity has had.
If you can get hold of Battles Without Honour and Humanity before it sells out, then snap it up. Arrow Video have outdone themselves with this release and the films are outstanding. If you are a fan of Japanese and Yakuza cinema, you’ll love this box-set as much as I do.
Battles Without Honour and Humanity is available on Dual Format DVD and Blu-ray in the UK and US now.