The Yakuza Papers Volume 1 (Battles Without Honor & Humanity) is the first film in a series of five movies. Together, these tell the story of the rise and fall of a group of young men who become part of the Yakuza crime syndicate.
Battles Without Honour & Humanity is set in Hiroshima, Japan, spanning 10 years from 1946 to 1956. Starting out in the bombed-out markets of post-war Hiroshima, The Yakuza Papers Volume 1 follows the life of Shozo Hirono as he gets pulled into the world of the Yakuza, after shooting a member of the organization.
The film is known for its brutal and realistic portrayal of the Yakuza and the violence that encapsulates them. It explores brutal & bloody Yakuza power struggles and depicts corrupt and dirty deals, made behind closed doors.
The Yakuza Papers Vol 1 is a film that is both intense and thought-provoking. It’s considered a classic of the Japanese gangster genre. The movie is often highly regarded by critics & film enthusiasts for its powerful storytelling and strong performances; particularly from the leading star Bunta Sugawara, who won a best actor award for his portrayal of Hirono.
How Was The Yakuza Papers Vol 1 Received Critically?
The Yakuza Papers Volume 1 or “Battles Without Honour and Humanity,” was overwhelmingly critically acclaimed upon its release in 1973; it could even be argued that it is the most critically acclaimed Yakuza movie of all time.
Critics praised the film for its gritty and realistic portrayal of the Yakuza and the violence and corruption that surrounds them. The film’s depiction of the power struggles and dirty deals that take place within the Yakuza was seen as both intense and thought-provoking.
The film was a commercial success and was followed by four sequels which also received critical acclaim. The series is considered one of the most important and influential contributions to Japanese Yakuza & crime films.
It won the 1974 Kinema Junpo Awards for Best Film, Best Actor (Awarded to Bunta Sugawara) & Best Screenplay (Awarded to Kazuo Kasahara). In 1990, Kinema Junpo magazine tied the movie (with Akira Kurosawa’s High And Low) in position 11 on their “best 20 movies ever produced in Japan” list. It raised through the ranks come 2009, when they placed it 5th on a list of the “Top 10 Japanese Films of All Time,” further recognising the film’s impact and influence within Japanese cinema.
About the Director – Kinji Fukasaku
Kinji Fukasaku was a Japanese film director and screenwriter, known for his work in the crime and action genres. He wrote and directed more than 60 films during his career and is considered one of the most important and influential figures in Japanese cinema history.
Fukasaku began his career in the 1950s, working as an assistant on various films, initially beginning at the production company Toei in 1954. He made his directorial debut in 1961 with the film “Drifting Detective: Tragedy in the Red Valley”. From here, he went on to direct a variety of films in different genres, including crime dramas, action films and science fiction.
Fukasaku is well known for his gritty and realistic portrayals of violence, corruption and the criminal underworld. His crime films often dealt with themes of honour, loyalty and the parallels between good and evil. He was known for his innovative and dynamic filmmaking style and ability to create intense and suspenseful action scenes.
Fukasaku’s work has been widely recognized and praised by critics and film enthusiasts. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades throughout his career and his films are considered classics of Japanese cinema.
Fukasaku sadly passed away in 2003 at the age of 72, after a battle with prostate cancer. His legacy lives on through his films which are still widely watched and appreciated by many today.
Other Films in the Battles Without Honor and Humanity Series
This is the first film in a five-part series directed by Kinji Fukasaku. Here is a quick insight into the other 4 films. You can click the respective links to learn even more about each movie.
- The Yakuza Papers Volume 2 – Hiroshima Deathmatch (Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Deadly Fight in Hiroshima): Shoji Yamanaka, a former Kamikaze pilot, is sent to prison after getting involved in a fight over a cheating accusation in a gambling den. Here, he befriends Shozo Hirono, the main protagonist of Yakuza Papers Volume 1.
- The Yakuza Papers Volume 3: Proxy War – Set in 1960, a time of political and social turmoil in Japan; various factions begin to scheme and form covert alliances, to gain power and eliminate their rivals. Once again starring Bunta Sugawara as Shozo Hirono.
- The Yakuza Papers Volume 4: Police Tactics – Set in 1963, exploring the notorious government crackdown on Yakuza organizations, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Hirono and his associates must navigate this new situation whilst trying to maintain their standing within the criminal underworld.
- The Yakuza Papers Volume 5: Final Episode – Set in the mid-1960s, as Hirono remains in prison, his rival works to legitimize the remaining gang syndicates, rebranding them as a political party called the Tensei Coalition.
New Battles Without Honor & Humanity
There is also an unconnected trilogy of films directed by Kinji Fukasku (New Battles Without Honour & Humanity the Complete Trilogy). These are separately called:
- New Battles Without Honour and Humanity
- The Boss’s Head
- Last Days of the Boss
Playing different characters in each, Bunta Sugawara is the lead in each film. They tell separate tales about the Yakuza and are set across different areas of Japan.