Although based on a true story, this film owes a lot to The Godfather, which was released a couple of years before. However, there are quite a few differences. For a start, there are many more main characters. At least twenty. And they are introduced at such a rate as to make it impossible to follow the lot. No less than ten characters are introduced (each with a name and description subtitle) in the first two minutes. The key word for this film is - chaotic. The opening scene is of Japan just after the end of WWII. The camera uses the now-familiar form of WobblyScope, tumbling all over the place as it chases the young thugs who chase misbehaving GIs and then run away. The progression is highly episodic from there. Although Shozo is the lead character and narrator, much screen time is spent on at least a dozen others. Really, if you are non-Japanese, like me, you'd need a map of all the characters and their changing relationships to have any hope of following the story. However, this is not a big problem because, mainly, it is one of the aspects which the filmmaker is trying to convey. That the people who were drawn into these gangs often had nothing much else to do, and were not particularly men of honour. The Japanese title refers to the total breakdown of the old code, where honour was everything. The only character who acts with anything like honour here is Shozo, who looks continuously stunned as powerplays and double-deals swirl around him. This film is a terrific antidote to the "honourable gangster" films. Well-worth watching. Also, it produced at least 4 sequels, all starring Bunta.
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