Jirocho Fuji

Jirocho Fuji (1959)

The naked man is Katsu Shintaro. I think.

Director: Mori Kazuo
Writers: Yahiro Fuji
Date: 1959

Genre: Jidaigeki, Yakuza
Description: Yakuza doing good, yakuza is a samurai, doing the right thing, fighting the bad guys, a great man and his men

Cast: Hasegawa Kazuo, Katsu Shintaro, Ichikawa Raizo, Kyo Machiko, Wakao Ayako, Hongo Kojiro, Funakoshi Eiji, Negami Jun, Takizawa Osamu

Crew of note:

Runtime: 106 mins.
Color: Color

Jirocho Fuji (Shimizu no Jirocho, 19th century folk hero) is a local yakuza boss, who, unlike his more ruthless neighboring bosses, enjoys doing good and hates harming the innocent, instead of, like, cutting off pinky fingers and extorting people in gambling dens. Obviously, this is pissing off some of the other yakuza bosses, so they set out to find a way to get rid of him.

Actually, I don’t really have anything to say about this movie. But scanning through the googleplex I saw that there was not a single review for this film (just a lot of dead links), which is unfortunate because this is a great movie somewhere in between jidaigeki and nikyo-eiga.*

The story of Jirocho Fuji or Shimizu no Jirocho isn’t very well known outside of Japan, even though he has to be one of the most famous Yakuza ever, and has about 50+ movies bearing his name. In case you’re interested about his background and history, here is an excerpt from “Yakuza: Japan’s criminal underworld” by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro (from google books):

Page 01
Page 02 **

Sounds like an interesting guy right? Well, this film is supposed to be the Jirocho “mega movie”, with a big budget, an all star cast, and a veteran director. The movie combines action, comedy, and a little drama, and feels far removed from the bloody, dark and brooding ninkyo-eiga of the 70’s (example: Yami no karyudo / Hunter in the Darkness, a chambara ninkyo-eiga). It’s a delightful blend that never takes itself too seriously, and aims primarily to entertain. The film also covers quite a lot of events despite its short running time, packing as much excitement, intrigue, laughs and swordfights as it can in its length. The film culminates in a final battle along the Fujigawa river, and though not quite as epic as some other swordfight climaxes, is still very enjoyable.

Portrait of Shimizu no Jirocho

He.. didn't look very nice?

I seriously had nothing to say, yet I felt compelled to help this film get some recognition from google (and hopefully also people). Isn’t that enough to make you want to see it? Ok I’m done now.

Shimizu no Jirocho and Ishimatsu

Review Writing Lesson #97: Nothing to say? Spam funny pictures.

Seeing Hasegawa, Katsu, Ichikawa and other Japanese film regulars all in one movie is always fun. The movie is also solid and simple, with no flaws and no distractions. It’s enjoyable and well done, a fantastic genre film, as long as you don’t expect much in terms of epiphanies and insights into the human condition. Kurotakagi even calls it a Daiei genre masterpiece. It probably is, and it’s a fine introduction to Shimizu no Jirocho’s folk hero story.

things to take note of
I’m not actually sure

best moment
Whenever Katsu does something funny/stupid
The fights, I guess?

why you should watch this
Katsu Shintaro in one of his funniest performances, by far
Great intro to this folk hero
The first 7 names in the cast should be pretty recognizable to Japanese film fans

rating: 8

Plot: B
Cast: B
Cinematography: B
Music: B
Entertainment: A

similar movies, maybe:
O-Edo shichininshu / Seven from Edo

* Ninkyo-eiga = “chivalry movie” about honorable Yakuza
** Since these two pages are available over at google books, I assume I’m allowed to put them on my corner of the interweb as long as a cite the book correctly, so no one sue me please?