Minbo (Minbo no Onna in Japanese), also known as Minbo: The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion is a 1992 dark comedy film directed by Juzo Itami. This unique film offers a satirical take on the Yakuza, exposing the absurdity and vulnerability of their lifestyle.
Minbo follows the story of a young, determined lawyer named Mahiru Inoue (played by Nobuko Miyamoto). Hired by representatives of a hotel targeted by the Yakuza, she aims to help them deal with their extortion and intimidation tactics.
Mahiru is fearless, intelligent and unafraid to stand up against the gangsters, despite the danger she faces. As she uses her legal knowledge and cunning strategies to outwit the criminals, the hotel staff learn to stand up for themselves. With its blend of humour, suspense and drama, Minbo is a captivating portrayal and unique take on the Yakuza movie genre.
How was Minbo Received Critically?
Minbo has been met with critical acclaim both domestically and internationally. Critics praised the film’s unique approach to addressing the Yakuza’s presence in Japanese society, highlighting its mixture of satire and hard-hitting realism. Nobuko Miyamoto’s portrayal of Mahiru Inoue was particularly well-received, with many lauding her performance as a standout aspect of the film.
Despite a positive reception, the film also faced controversy due to its unflattering depiction of the Yakuza. Itami was attacked by Yakuza gang members shortly after the film’s release. This was an incident believed to be a retaliation for his negative portrayal of the crime syndicate.
It is also speculated that this confrontation was the catalyst that led to Itami’s eventual death in 1997. It was rumoured that Itami intended to make another movie portraying the Yakuza. Sadly, this was never to be as he was found dead in a parking lot after an apparent suicidal leap from his office building. You can read more about the death of Juzo Itami here.
Nevertheless, Minbo’s success and impact are undeniable, as it sparked a conversation about the Yakuza’s influence in Japan and the need for society to stand up against their criminal activities.
About the Director – Juzo Itami
Juzo Itami (born Yoshihiro Ikeuchi) was a Japanese film director, actor and screenwriter known for his satirical and socially conscious films. Born in Kyoto, Japan, on May 15, 1933, Itami initially pursued a career in acting before transitioning to directing in the 1980s. His directorial debut, “The Funeral” (1984), was a critical and commercial success, earning numerous awards and establishing him as a prominent figure in the Japanese film industry.
Throughout his career, Itami tackled various social issues in his films. Other notable films by Itami include “Tampopo” (1985), a comedic exploration of Japanese cuisine and “A Taxing Woman” (1987), which focuses on the challenges faced by a female tax inspector. Itami’s films are characterized by their wit, humour and incisive social commentary.
Juzo Itami passed away on December 20, 1997, but his work continues to be celebrated and enjoyed by audiences around the world. As a fearless filmmaker who confronted societal issues head-on, his films have left a lasting impact on Japanese cinema and society.