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Ah, yes: the Yakuza film. A story about honor, brotherhood, tradition, and loyalty. Well that was until this film series came around. Battles Without Honor and Humanity [1] is a series of films, directed by Kinji Fukasaku, director of the Japanese portion of Tora! Tora! Tora! and Battle Royale. They are set in post-war japan, just following the end of the war. In particularly, it centers on a certain former soldier, named Shozo Hirono (played by Bunta Sugawara), as he navigates the Yakuza underworld and claws his way to the top, surrounded by liars and schemers. The series is adapted from a series of newspaper articles, by journalist Kōichi Iiboshi, that were rewrites of a manuscript originally written by real-life Yakuza, Kōzō Minō, while he was in prison. giving the movies a documentary or biographical feel.

The films are, in order:

  • Battles Without Honor and Humanity
  • Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Deathmatch (or Deathmatch in Hiroshima)
  • Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Proxy War
  • Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Police Tactics
  • Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Final Episode

Following these films, Fukasaku directed yet a another series. These include:

  • New Battles Without Honor and Humanity
  • New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Boss's Head
  • New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Boss's Last Days
  • Aftermath of Battles Without Honor and Humanity, the series finale.

What is so striking about these films, is the gritty world they present, a stark contrast to period pieces that were the Yakuza films that came before. It presented a dark vision of modern Japan that influenced Japanese cinema from then on. The series was such a success, it is commonly called the "Japanese Godfather."

This film series provides examples of::

  • Black and Gray Morality: Really, no one is good in this series. For one thing, they're all Yakuza, which makes them evil by default. But there is really not a single descent person in the cast. While some, like Hirono, do actually cherish the Yakuza honor code, they find it nearly impossible to keep it in the immoral surroundings they find themselves in, and even they turn to assassinations, and murder just to stay alive.
  • Boring but Practical: Knives and sticks aren't as cool looking as Katanas, but they get the job done, quickly and efficiently.
  • Genre Deconstruction: This series brutally deconstructs everything about the Yakuza. Instead of the loyal brothers they were in older films, here they are conniving, greedy, vicious lying bastards, willing to sell their own sworn brothers down the river. The Yakuza code is portrayed as a joke, and every time honored tradition of the Yakuza is seen as outdated, foolish, or even just plain crazy. The main character is a man who actually wants to hearken back to the old ways and honors the code, but soon finds that such ideals have no place in the dirty world he finds himself in.
  • Double Tap: Actually more like There Is No Kill Like Overkill. In this series, almost nobody gets shot just once. More like two to ten times. Justified, in that almost no one dies with one bullet, and most of the cast prioritize getting the shots off over accuracy.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Once again, everybody is guilty of this. Bosses backstab their underlings, underlings backstab their bosses, underlings get backstabbed by the people they were backstabbing with, etc
  • Combat Pragmatist: There is no fair fight in any of these films. Its almost always somebody jumping somebody else.
  • Crapsack World: Japan, post-war, is portrayed as chaotic, lawless place, where a man can't walk down the street without risk to his safety and well being. Even in his own home, he may be shot in his sleep. The Yakuza have politicians in their pocket, and the police are initially at a loss to keep up
  • Former Regime Personnel: Many former soldiers from Imperial Japan make up the Yakuza in these films, including Shozo Hirono
  • Gullible Lemmings: Poor Hirono was this in the first film, and spent years behind bars for it. Thankfully, he learned by the end of the film.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Averted. While the Yakuza do use them, they are hard to hide, making knives more practical, and guns just work so much better. This is made apparent in the first film, where Hirono goes after a Yakuza that is using one. Hirono's answer? A pistol.
  • Sleazy Politician: Work with the Yakuza from time to time
  • Took a Level In Badass: Hirono has to, if he wants to survive
  • World War II: The series starts just after war ends in Japan, and carries on for decades afterward.
  • Yakuza: Duh.


  1. original Japanese title was Jingi Naki Tatakai; it was marketed, in America, as The Yakuza Papers, in Australia, as Tarnished Code of the Yakuza, in Canada as Battles Without Honour and Humanity, and elsewhere as War Without a Code
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