In Remembrance: Kinji Fukasaku

     Kinji Fukasaku, the Japanese director behind the Japanese segments of the Pearl Harbor epic Tora! Tora! Tora! and the controversial Battle Royale passed away on January 12, 2003 of prostate cancer. He was 72.

     Fukasaku, a native of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, has announced he had cancer in September 2002 but had continued with preparations for his latest film while still undergoing treatment.

     He joined the Toei Company in 1953 and made his directing debut with 1961’s Hakuchu no buraikan (aka Greed In Broad Daylight).

     He first gained some notoriety for the comedy Kurotokage (aka Black Lizard) in 1968. In 1970 he came to the attention of mainstream American audiences as the director of the Japanese segments of the Pearl Harbor epic Tora! Tora! Tora!, having taken over the position after Akira Kurosawa had dropped out of the production.

     In the `70s he helmed a series of hard noised crime pictures including the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series. He would move from crime thrillers in the late 70s/early 80s, teaming with actor Sonny Chiba for the sword and samurai fantasies The Yagyu Conspiracy, The Fall of Ako Castle and Legend of the Eight Samurai

     His 1982 film Kamata Koshin-Kyoku (The Fall Guy) won many awards for its backstage look at film production.

     Since 1996, Fukasaku had served as head of Japanese director’s guild where he worked hard to get more Japanese filmmakers recognized internationally. In 1997 he was awarded the Japanese government’s Medal with Purple Ribbon for his accomplishments in film.

     In 2000, he released the controversial Battle Royale. Although seen by most as a scathing comment on Japanese society, it was still denounced for its copious realistic violence on the floor of the National Diet, Japan’s parliament. He would be nominated for the Best Director and Best Screenplay award from the Japanese Academy for the film.

     In 1996, he underwent an operation for prostate cancer, but it later spread to other parts of his body. Even though he had been diagnosed with bone cancer he had begun shooting on Battle Royale 2 on December 16, 2001. He would turn over the directorial reins to his son Kenta, who also served as the film’s writer and producer, just a few days later on December 21 after being hospitalized with severe pain. He had hoped to return to work following the New Year.

     In an interview which appeared on at the time he announced his illness, Fukasaku indicated that he wasn’t going to let his cancer slow him down.

     “When I finished Battle Royale I knew I still wanted to work,” he stated. “Having cancer was one thing; having something unfinished in my life leaves me with an unpleasant feeling. I did not want to conclude my life with any regrets. I thought an action sequel to Battle Royale would satisfy that desire . . . But I don’t mind if I die during the shoot. I am emotionally prepared for the last moment . . . I’m emotionally ready for death. Now I want to have some fun and nothing gives me as much pleasure as making a movie.