Takashi Miike will always be an interesting director for me. My gateway into his world was with Audition, but Ichi the Killer teased me into his world of the Yakuza and the Triad. Now with Arrow’s release of Black Society Trilogy we get to see a more controlled set of films, which still aren’t afraid to delve into some surreal Miike ultra violence.
Black Society Trilogy consists of Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, and Ley Lines. Although seen as a trilogy, the only thing that actually connects the three are the themes of race, family, and the outsiders.
Shinjuku Triad Society is the tale of two brothers, a cop and a lawyer whose relationship is pulled apart during a war between the Triads and Yakuza. The cop, on the hunt for a killer also in the business of trafficking children’s organs fights to pull his brother out of the world, at any cost. Rainy Dog is more of a Noir style story focusing on an exiled Yakuza (Shô Aikawa) suddenly finding himself with a son he never knew he had. While trying to work, he has to deal with the boy, while leading a successful job as a hired killer. Ley Lines focuses on a group of Chinese youths trying to survive in Japan. When they get in trouble with the local crime syndicate they come up with a way to finally escape the country, if they can survive long enough.
In the Black Society Trilogy, Takashi Miike takes us for a trip through the darker side of Japanese society, but he does offer hope. This is a hateful world where the difference between being Chinese and Japanese has an instant impact on how people view you, and how the world of organised crime rips apart the lives of the underdog.
The hope we see comes in the form of family, whether it be in the form of brotherhood (both by blood, friendship, or gang) or through being a parent and child. Rainy Dog is the best example of this, and is the more restrained of the trilogy. Still violent and very much full of what people come to expect in the ‘cool’ world of the Yakuza, the relationship between the boy and his new father is heart-warming. What Rainy Dog does though is focus on the importance of family, whether it is the retribution sought after a murder, or the little boy just trying to find a place in his father’s life. There is no outlandish surrealism in Rainy Dog, and its message is clear.
It is interesting that Shinjuku Triad Society and Ley Lines work as bookends around Rainy Dog because they feel much more like Miike territory. There is a grotesque feel on show that works to nauseate the audience and make sure that we know this is not a world to be content with. Both feature the idea of escaping to something better, whether it be the forced escape of Shinjuku Triad Society, or the hopeful one of Ley Lines.
Arrow Video have done well in presenting these films in the trilogy form, making it clear that these should be watched together in this way. While they do sit as separate movies in their own right, they do live together well in a bizarre world created by Takashi Miike. Reminiscent of the one created in Ichi the Killer, it may not be as extreme but still feels a comfortable fit.
Black Society Trilogy is easy to recommend for not only Takashi Miike fans, but also for people who want to venture deeper into the world of the Triad and the Yakuza. This may not be on the level of the epic Battles Without Honour or Humanity, but it does feel to be paying homage to it, in an effortlessly cool way.
Black Society Trilogy is available on DVD and Blu-ray from today, January 16th.