Yakuza Graveyard (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A detective recently transferred to a new precinct deals with troubles from his past and the corruption of his superiors as his allegiances shift closer to the yakuza crime family he was assigned to bring down.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The 1976 yakuza neo-noir Yakuza Graveyard (Yakuza no Hakaba: Kuchinashi no Hana) from Fukasaku Kinji (Battle Royale) is one of the films that helped to usher in the new era of gritty, violent yakuza crime films.

Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari, Graveyard of Honour) is a detective born in Manchukuo transferred to a new precinct. He has been struggling to overcome his guilt from widowing the woman who is now his lover. He is assigned to head the yakuza task force in an effort to bring down the crime families. It turns out he has been setup for failure. As Kuroiwa gets further involved in the investigations – and becomes involved with the half-Korean wife of one family’s jailed boss — he realizes that his superiors are only trying to put their hands on the scales in favor of one family with which they are corruptly involved. His allegiances slowly begin to shift away from the police department and towards the crime family he has been pursuing.

Fukasaku’s handling of this material is brilliant. While the violence is visceral (by 1976 standards) it is the interactions between the characters that drives the film. Kaji Meiko as the half-Korean wife of the crime family boss is a brilliant femme fatale. There is a denouement where she is single-handedly responsible for the ultimate flip in allegiances for Koroiwa. Kaji’s portrayal in sympathetic and commanding.

The film also tackles the treatment of Koreans in Japan. The half-Korean wife only tolerated as the boss’s “half-breed whore,” or the Korean interim boss who must do more to prove himself. This is a shocking amount of socio-political topicality for a Japanese crime film from 1976 and also one that cuts to the heart many of the social issues that plagued and continue to plague the post-World War Two Japanese society.

  • Watari Tetsuya in Yakuza Graveyard (1976)
  • Watari Tetsuya in Yakuza Graveyard (1976)
  • Yakuza Graveyard: Limited Edition Blu-ray (Radiance)
  • Yakuza Graveyard: Limited Edition Blu-ray (Radiance)
  • Yakuza Graveyard: Limited Edition Blu-ray (Radiance)

The Video

Yakuza Graveyard was transferred in high definition by Toei and provided to Radiance as a high definition digital master for this release. The 35mm Toeiscope film is encoded in 2.35:1 AVC 1080p. This is a very grainy, gritty looking film that often has an almost cool, blueish cast on the color palette. There are no harmful anomalies from the transfer and encodement like edge enhancement, noise, or macroblocking visible. It looks natural and has a fair amount of shadow detail. The overall detail is strong despite the murky look thanks to the coarse granularity present.

The Audio

The original Japanese monaural audio is provided in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. It is a fair track given the limited channels and recording technology of the time. Audio is clear with only some slightly noticeable clipping. The packaging and promotional notes for this disc all incorrectly state this as having LPCM 2.0 Mono. There is no quantifiable difference in audio quality between lossless DTS-HD Master Audio and LPCM.

The Supplements

Radiance again loads one of their releases with high quality bonus features for this Yakuza Graveyard release. Numerous contemporary interviews, a visual essay, and a 32-page booklet with essays.

  • Kazuya Shirahashi (1080p; 00:14:36) – In this interview director Kazuya Shirahashi (Blood of Wolves) discusses Yakuza Graveyard and what makes it unique among the films by director Kinji Fukasaku and scriptwriter Kazuo Kasahara. Filmed exclusively for Radiance in Tokyo, October 2022.
  • The Rage and the Passion (1080p; 00:12:10) – This visual essay by Tom Mes explores the collaborations between Fukasaku and actress Meiko Kaji that culminated in Yakuza Graveyard.
  • Trailer (1080p; 00:03:12)
  • Gallery (1080p)

Limited Edition Contents:

  • Limited edition of 3000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable
    OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings
  • Limited Edition 32-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mika Ko on the representations of Koreans in the yakuza film, and newly translated re-prints of a contemporary review and writing by screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara.
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow

The Final Assessment

Yakuza Graveyard is a riveting, emotionally taxing, and viscerally violent film that offers a stylish film style, quick pacing, and superb acting. This release from Radiance carries on the young label’s so-far consistent level of overall quality. Highly recommended.


  • Rating Certificate: Not Rated
  • Studios & Distributors: Toei Company | Radiance
  • Director: Fukasaku Kinji
  • Written By: Kasahara Kazuo
  • Run Time: 96 Mins.
  • Street Date: 16 May 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English
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A detective recently transferred to a new precinct deals with troubles from his past and the corruption of his superiors as his allegiances shift closer to the yakuza crime family he was assigned to bring down.Yakuza Graveyard (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)