Celebrate Japanese Cinema Day: 映画の日! Ninja! Yakuza! Cyborgs! Reviews!


Since 1956, Japan’s film industry has set aside a day to celebrate the birth of cinema in this country. December 1st, 2016, marks the 60th anniversary. The holiday is also known a 映画の日 (eiga no hi). The first showing of a film is generally considered to have happened in 1896 in Kobe, 19 years before Japan’s largest yakuza group, the Yamaguchi-gumi (still going strong) was founded in the same area.

Here are some links to articles our contributors have written in the past. Enjoy!

Some parting words from Yakuza movie icon Takakura Ken on yakuza films, his favourite movies, and acting

Ghost in the Shell: The Matrix of Sci-Fi Anime

Let’s Convenience Store! The Musical: コンビニへ行こう! : Japan Subculture Research Center

Aliens Versus Yakuza: 宇宙人対極道: A Masterpiece Of Bad Genre Films : Japan Subculture Research Center

The 10 Worst Films About Japan*: You Might Only Live Twice But Are These Movies Worth Seeing Once? : Japan Subculture Research Center

Aliens Versus Yakuza: 宇宙人対極道: A Masterpiece Of Bad Genre Films

In honour of Japan’s Celebration of Cinema Day, December 1st, we’ve reposted some reviews and articles on classic films. Some good, some bad, some epic.

AVN: Aliens Versus Ninja (エイリアンvs 忍者)released in 2010 is a camp classic for both lovers of Alien films and Ninja films. I was delighted to find that the super-deluxe release of AVN included on the second disc a 15 minute short-film エイリアン Vs 極道 (Alien Versus Yakuza), a Yuji Shinomura film . If you find the movie in the bargain bin at the local Tsutaya, it’s worth picking up. The plot is simple. Young yakuza and his older brother–in the yakuza sense–accidentally run over an Alien while on their way to late-night Karaoke in the boss’s car. They aren’t quite sure what to do with the body.  They don’t even realize it’s an alien, believing that they’ve just run over an unlucky foreigner. “Maybe half?”

Our hapless yakuza anti-heroes run over an alien and decide to get rid of the body. Not sure exactly what it is, they decide it must be a foreigner–and probably half-Japanese.

After a short debate, they decide to dismember the body and get rid of the evidence.  Young yakuza goes to scour the glove department for a big knife, buried amidst piles of trashy magazines, but when he comes back the trunk is empty and his older brother (兄貴/aniki) is acting strangely. Could it be that Older Brother realized younger brother had slept with his girlfriend or has something stranger happened?  Even when younger brother confesses and makes a peace offering; “Only once! Only slept with her once. I saved you a seat at the speed-dating thing (合コン・gokon)–can we call it even?” –Aniki’s anger is not quelled. What happens next is almost totally predictable but even after the young yakuza confronts the ousted alien, accusing him of being an 当たり屋 (atariya), a con man who shakes people down by throwing themselves in front of a car and suing for damages–the fight isn’t quite over. Because this Alien has a driver’s license.

Young yakuza throws a cigarette at the alien, accusing him of being an 当たり屋 (a professional con man who throws himself in front of cars to extort insurance money.)

I wouldn’t want to spoil the rest of the film for our readers but it does solve the ancient question: in a battle between an alien and a yakuza, who would win?  Note: Some may argue that this question was settled in the masterpiece Predators, where the lone Inagawa-kai member in the film faces down a Predator with an ancient samurai sword,  but  Predators are really not your standard aliens. The film is bloody, silly, and probably unrealistic* but in the short yakuza film genre, it’s in a class by itself.

*For instance, I don’t think it’s possible to catch a bullet in your teeth but I’m not a war reporter so I’ll reserve judgement.

Japan Dispatches Ninja Squad To Syria; “Jihadi John, you defile sacred ninja tradition. Watch your shadow. We coming.”

January 27th 2014

Tokyo, Japan

Like A Shadow In the Night

In response to the horrific attacks on Japanese nationals by ISIS (ISIL) and their deliberate or inadvertant mockery of ninja tradition, the Japanese government has secretly dispatched a band of ninjas to take out the spokesman for the group—the silvery tongued British national known as “Jihadi John.” The batch of ninja (忍者), who’s exact numbers remain undisclosed for security reasons, are working covertly with the Japanese government and Jordanian forces to infiltrate & disrupt ISIS activities, and carry out a singular assassination. Their titanium GPS coded shuriken(手裏剣) aka “ninja throwing stars” have been manufactured at record speed by Mitsubishu Heavy Metals, and they are reportedly armed with the latest fire arrows, tekko-kagi, and light-weight carbonite explosive swords.

"We have been Ninja for centuries. We have loyalty honour. I know ninjutsu. I am Ninja and you, Jihadi John, you insult us in your borrowed ninja garb; you are no ninja. And you have no honor."--Master Igari, Igari School of Ninjutsu
“We have been Ninja for centuries. We have loyalty honour. I know ninjutsu. I am Ninja and you, Jihadi John, you insult us in your borrowed ninja garb; you are no ninja. And you have no honor.”–Master Igari, Igari School of Ninjutsu

In an exclusive interview with Japan Subculture Research Center, Igari Toshio, the current Ninja master of the Igari-Ryu  School of Ninjutsu (猪狩流忍術) admitted his role in the secret dispatch of ninjas, stating, “We cannot abide the cold-blooded murder of a Japanese person but we will never ever forgive the mockery of our Ninja tradition by the ISIS spokesman wearing our most traditional garb shinobishozoku (忍び装束)in the video released on January 20th. It is an apostasy. He must pay and pay in blood. 200 million US dollars not accepted. Blood only.”

The two Japanese hostages were taken by ISIS forces in August and October of last year. While Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs not only failed to open channels to negotiate their safe return, the Abe administration has made a series of diplomatic errors in handling the problem. On January 17th, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a speech in Cairo on Middle Eastern policy, pledging 200 million dollars for the fight against ISIS,  which according to Japan’s Jiji News, “created an incredible backlash in the Muslim world and with ISIS, resulting in the release of the video as retaliation and a warning.” Apparently, Prime Minister Abe had sort of forgotten that ISIS held two Japanese nationals as hostages, or didn’t really care.

In the video released by ISIS on January 20th, the spokesman for ISIS, who is also known as Jihadi John, threatened to kill two Japanese hostages in Syria if Japan did not pay a $200 million dollar ransom within 72 hours. In the video, Jihadi John, clad completely in a black costume —“clearly mocking the Igari-ryu school of ninjutsu”–threatens the two hostages dressed in orange prisoner outfits, while brandishing a what many believe to be a fake ninja sword (忍刀/shinobigatana) or possibly a kunai (苦無/multi-use ninja throwing knife).

"Jihadi John, your life shall be as short as a flash on winter sun on the steel of a ninja throwing star. We are coming for you, " warns leader of Japan's Ninja Squad.
“Jihadi John, your life shall be as short as a flash of winter sun on the steel of a ninja throwing star. We are coming for you, ” warns leader of Japan’s Ninja Squad.


Japan strikes back with stealth and humor

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who have seemed clueless and incompetent in the handling of the hostage situation, even after knowing ISIS had held both men hostage since November of last year, has attempted to redeem themselves by calling upon Japan’s Ninja warriors to strike deep at the heart of the enemy. Meanwhile, the Japanese people, in a courageous showing of solidarity with the hostage victims have launched a devastating attack on the pride of ISIS by making fun of them, relentlessly using Japan’s most powerful weapons: Photoshop, cloying cuteness & irreverent humor. However, with the secret society of ninjas now joining the fray–the battle has been taken to a new level.

Sources within the Abe administration acknowledge that it will be impossible for the ninja squad to take out the entire ISIS army, but they believe that there is a real chance that they may able to silence the spokesman. A senior cabinet official told JSRC, “We can’t stop ISIS but at least by cutting out the tongue of their glib host, or chopping off his head, we can shut them up. Because while we can shut up NHK and most of the Japanese media, that asshole who keeps blaming Abe for this mess just will not keep his yap shut. Plus, he’s just an annoying limey prick.”

Jihadi John, I am ninja. I know ninjutsu. We have been ninja for generations and  you are no ninja.”

Master Igari told JSRC, “We Ninja, no army. Ninja have been around since 6th century Japan. A person who uses Ninjutsu (the art of stealth)  is a ninja. Ninjutsu is not a martial art. We do not fly through the air like your American Flying Hero. Ninjutsu is an independent art of warfare developed mainly in Iga in Mie Prefecture, and Koka in Shiga Prefecture. The jobs of a ninja are performing espionage, counter-intelligence, and assasination. The methodology for performing espionage and strategy is Ninjutsu. Espionage is similar to the job of modern spies, wherein spy discretely gathers intelligence about enemy and analyzes its military strength. Sometimes, we strike. And when we do, you can no hide. Nowhere. We have proud tradition and we will not be mocked by ninja wannabe,  loser back home, British butthead.”

ISIS has finally met its match, Japan's elite troop of deadly stealthy ninja. You can terrorise the nation, but mock the ninja---bad idea.
ISIS has finally met its match, Japan’s elite troop of deadly stealthy ninja. You can terrorise the nation, but mock the ninja—bad idea.

Master Igari then added, “Jihadi John, cowardly killer of peasants–we are coming for you. Your life shall be no longer than the flash of winter sun on the samurai steel of a ninja throwing star; your death shall be more agonising than a wisdom tooth extracted with an earpick. You shall know the wrath of ninja. When the sun sets in your desert kingdom, we shall be in the shadows waiting. Indeed, you, you should fear you own shadow–because the shadow you see may simply be the outline of the ninja warrior who will end your miserable heretical existence. Watch you shadow; does it move as you move? By the time you realise not so, you will be no more. We will find you, we will cut out your tongue, and we will use it to make shoelaces.”*  (Correction: Master Igari later noted that ninja shoes (地下足袋)do not use shoelaces so they would probably turn Jihadi John’s tongue into a cell-phone strap with a cute 忍者太郎 (Ninjataro) mascot figure).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on background, stated that they had high hopes for this secret mission. It will serve to show that Japan is not a country to be taken lightly and at the same time, if the Ninja mission is successful it will do tremendous good for Japan’s soft power push and the promotion of Japanese music, manga and culture aka ‘Cool Japan’ in the West and the Middle East.

“You want to know what Cool Japan really is, Jihadi John and you ISIS motherfuckers? It’s your stone cold corpse on the sand—there will be nothing ‘cooler’ than that. That is joke. Very cool equals ‘cold’. Stone cold dead. Cool Japan. Banzai, ” clarified the official.

*Note: This is satire. Why make fun of terrorists? Because fear is their power. Laughter is their enemy. Ridicule is the one thing they can’t stand. And we sort of wish Japan would send some ninjas to Syria because ISIS are a bunch of assholes.