Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 3rd, 2017
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1995 (Shinjuku Triad Society), Japan, 1997 (Rainy Dog), Japan, 1999 (Ley Lines)
Director: Takashi Miike
Writers: Ichirô Fujita (Shinjuku Triad Society), Seigo Inoue (Rainy Dog), Ichiro Ryu (Ley Lines)
Cast: Kippei Shîna, Tomorowo Taguchi, Takeshi Caesar, Ren Ohsugi (Shinjuku Triad Society), Shô Aikawa, Li Wei Chang, Shih Chang, Xianmei Chen, Jianqin He (Rainy Dog), Kazuki Kitamura, Tomorowo Taguchi, Dan Li, Naoto Takenaka, Michisuke Kashiwaya, Samuel Pop Aning, Shô Aikawa, Far-Long Oh (Ley Lines)
BluRay released: January 16th, 2017 (UK), January 24th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running times: 101 minutes (Shinjuku Triad Society), 94 minutes (Rainy Dog), 105 minutes (Ley Lines)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 18 (UK), R (USA)
Sound: LPCM Stereo Japanese (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $49.95 / £24.99 (UK)
The Black Society Trilogy was directed by Takashi Miike, a prolific and diverse filmmaker who has left his undeniable mark in every genre he has worked in. Other notable films directed by Miike include, Audition, Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Deadly Outlaw: Rekka, Imprint, Sukiyaki Western Django, 13 Assassins and Lesson of the Evil.
Shinjuku Triad Society: A hard-boiled cop finds himself caught in the middle of a gang between the triads and the yakuza.
Rainy Dog: A Japanese hit-man stranded in Taiwan finds himself the cross-hairs of the brother of crime boss he assassinated.
Ley Lines: Struggling to fit in and wanting to get out of Japan, a group of Chinese friends concoct a plan to rob a crime boss.
Though all these three films are linked by their subject matter. They are a trilogy in name only, since all three films are stand-alone stories that work independently of each other. Their narratives are well constructed and they all feature color characters which make each film all the more entertaining. Another strength of these film’s narrative is that they present three unique tales that make any of their aforementioned similarities an afterthought.
From a production standout, there are no areas where these films are lacking. Pacing is never an issue as all three films move at a brisk momentum and when it comes to visuals it is already crystal clear that Takashi Miike has already found his footing as a filmmaker. Performance wise the entire cast all very good in their respective roles. With the standout performances being, Tomorowo Taguchi (Shinjuku Triad Society) in the role of Wang a psychotic Chinese born gangster who deals in the organ trade, Shô Aikawa (Rainy Dog) in the role of Japanese hit-man named Yuuji and Kazuki Kitamura (Ley Lines) in the role of Ryuichi, one of the friends looking to escape Japan.
Standout moments in Shinjuku Triad Society include, a scene where a young woman who is being integrated by the police and when she refuses to talk one of the detective’s smashes a chair over her face. Another stand out moment includes, a scene where the Yakuza are ambushed by the triads. Standout moments in Rainy Dog include, a scene where the hit-man is in a car on the war to the airport and he crosses paths with the man looking to avenge his brother’s death. Another standout moment includes, the film’s finale which has moment that clearly influenced scene from Kill Bill Volume 1. Standout moments in Ley Lines include, a S & M scene where a pimp hooks up a prostitute with sadist. Another standout moment includes, a scene where the crime boss tortures a man who has information about those responsible for taking his money. In this scene, he pours water in the man’s mouth through a funnel like contraption that is attached to the man’s face.
When compared to Takashi Miike more well-known films, these three films are tame in comparison. With the most extreme of these three films being, Shinjuku Triad Society and on the opposite end of the spectrum, Rainy Dog is the most subdued of these three films.
The three films included as part of this release are spread over two 50 GB dual layer BluRay’s and all of the films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. There are no issues with DNR or compression and when compared to these film’s previous North American home video release from Artsmagic, these HD transfer for this new release are superior in every way.
Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM audio mix in Stereo and removable English subtitles have been included for this release. It should be noted that other languages besides Japanese that are spoken in these films include Mandarin (Chinese) and Taiwanese. And before each film there is text that tells how to tell the difference between each language by the way the subtitles are presented. Dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. The more ambient aspects of the soundtracks are well represented and all three films sound robust when they need too.
Extras for this release are spread over two discs.
Extras on disc one include, trailers for Shinjuku Triad Society (1 minute 25 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and Rainy Dog (1 minute 28 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and audio commentaries for Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog with Takashi Miike biographer Tom Mes, who provides insightful commentary for each and a detailed account of the background info for the cast & the crew.
Extras on disc two include, a trailer for Ley Lines (1 minute 41 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), two interviews – the first interview with Shô Aikawa titled Stray Dog, Lone Wolf (21 minutes 42 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and the second interview with director Takashi Miike titled Into the Black (45 minutes 7 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and an insightful and detailed audio commentary with Tom Mes for Ley Lines.
Topics discussed in the interview with Shô Aikawa include, V-Cinema and various films within this genre that he has worked on, Takashi Miike, how he made the transition from musician to acting, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Rainy Dog, Ley Lines, Dead or Alive, he compares V-Cinema to Nikkatsu action cinema of the late 1950’s and 1960’s and how the roles he was being offered started to change once he turned 40.
Topics discussed in the interview with Takashi Miike include, his admiration of Bruce Lee, film school and his mentor director Shohei Imamura, Vengeance is Mine, his origins as a filmmaker, guerrilla style filmmaking, the creative freedom he had as the beginning of his directing career, The Black Society Trilogy, the cats, themes explored in these three films, his thoughts about these three films, the filmmaking making process in Japan, making films in Taiwan and other films topics related to filmmaking.
Rounding out the extras is a slip cover, reversible cover art and a forty-page booklet with cast & crew info for each film, three essays -the first essay is titled A Love Story Both Sickening and Sweet: Shinjuku Triad Society written by Samm Deighan, the second essay is titled Cities of Sadness: Rainy Dog written by Tony Rayns and the third essay is titled We’ve Gotta to Get Out of this Place: Ley Lines written by Stephan Sarrazin an information about the transfers. Overall The Black Society Trilogy gets a first rate release from Arrow Video.
Note: These films are also being released by Arrow Video on DVD.