Andreas Johansson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointments. Lund University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK. The Netflix movie The Outsider has been widely criticised for a variety of reasons. The film centers on Nick Lowell (Jared Leto) - an American former prisoner of war who becomes a member of a Yakuza clan in 1950s Osaka. The Guardian dismissed the film as having "a fetishistic relationship to Japanese elements that could have only come from someone who sees them as exotic, rather than intuitively understanding their place in society". I was intrigued to see it for myself, having interviewed at least 30 members of a Yakuza family during two intense weeks in 2015 when I was researching the meaning of symbols in their tattoos. From my observations there are a number of problems with the way the Yakuza is represented in the film. A gain in the organization? Straight away, the strangest thing is that a foreigner - a gaijin - gets to become a member of a Yakuza family.
39;d be initiated by the main boss of the organisation.
Not only that, but Lowell quickly rises to become a member with key responsibilities - at one point he becomes the main boss's bodyguard. This is pretty unlikely - certainly at the speed with which our hero achieves this distinction in the film. Yakuza organizations tend to have a clear structure with several bosses on many different levels. In this case Lowell performs his initiation rite (sakazuki) with the main boss of the family. In reality it might take years for a new member to get such a privilege - a new member might even work under several bosses before he gets to perform the initiation rite. And even then it's unlikely he'd be initiated by the main boss of the organisation. It is a typical gangster movie, but the context does not feel unique to Japan. It seems that Yakuza symbols are used to enhance the feeling that the main character is simply entering another world.
39;s fingers to a rival boss.
Before being accepted into the Yakuza family, Lowell performs the traditional finger-cutting ritual known as yubitsume. In this ritual the Yakuza member cuts off a part of his finger and hands it over to the boss - in Lowell's case two of his fingertips, which he presents to the boss. But the scene lacks context and explanation - in the film the boss sends Lowell's and another member's fingers to a rival boss. In real life, I know of one instance where a Yakuza boss cut off his own finger and sent it to a rival boss to apologize for one of his clan's behavior. In the film we appear to get a combination of popular scenarios depicting this ritual, and it really doesn't ring true. Lowell also gets a traditional Japanese tattoo. He is tattooed with a koi carp - a famous symbol for Japanese gangsters. Yakuza members I have spoken with say the koi fish represents a wish to climb the hierarchy of their organisations, which Lowell certainly does.
39;t come across in the film.
But again, there is very little context for this tattoo. In fact, Yakuza tend not to refer to them as tattoos, but irezumi - which has a deeper spiritual meaning than is evident in the film. If you are following the traditional ways, the irezumi master would interview you too see that your irezumi fits your personality best. It's a significant physical and spiritual commitment - a traditional irezumi might take more than 200 hours to complete and the content of the tattoo could be very personal. Again this commitment doesn't come across in the film. These Yakuza are also very smartly dressed - they all seem to prefer to wear suits - and Lowell is accordingly dressed in a suit when he is initiated into the Yakuza family. But that's not really the case - they tend to wear what they like. It feels a little like the suits are there to give the film a bit of a old-fashioned mobster feel, which doesn't really work. What does ring true is the overall picture of the Yakuza as living to a certain code, or nobility. In the early part of the movie, Lowell is beaten up in jail by prison guards for saving a Yakuza member's life. The Yakuza member then swears an oath that he will get his members to pick Lowell up from prison when he gets out, which they do.
They have also been used by company bosses to intimidate labor unions..
To explain this perception of the noble gangster you have to delve into the Yakuza's long history. Exactly how Yakuza organizations came into existence is open to debate - but there is a recurring image in both popular culture and academia of the Yakuza as descended from the Samurai, protecting the poor against the evil shoguns is widespread. But the jury is out - and in fact in more recent times Yakuza organizations have worked with the police (when the US president, Dwight D Eisenhower, scheduled a visit to Japan in 1960 they were asked to help protect him from street demonstrations). They have also been used by company bosses to intimidate labor unions.. Having said that, in their own worldview Yakuza members do not see themselves as bad guys. They frequently call themselves ninkyo dantai (honourable organisations) which follow the Samurai code, the bushido, a set of rules and moral values. The Outsider leans heavily on these mythological narratives - at one point showing Yakuza members fighting with Samurai swords. So the critics are right in the main. The Outsider is filled with romantic cliches and decontextualised symbols. But it does get one thing right - being a Yakuza is likely to mean a life of fragile, shifting alliances with the risk of a fast and painful death.
It's almost Halloween, and what better way to spend October than watching psychological thrillers? If you're looking for an anime filled with suspense, amazing storytelling, and dynamic characters, Naoki Urasawa's 2004 anime series Monster gives us all of these things and more. It focuses on the life of Dr. Tenma, a brilliant Japanese brain surgeon working at Eisler Memorial Hospital in West Germany, 1986. He's the hospital's rising star and engaged to the daughter of the hospital's director when he's suddenly faced with a moral dilemma that shakes his core, forcing him to make life -changing decisions. An innocent man dies because Dr. Tenma followed orders to treat a patient of higher social and political status. He is devastated and horrified as the widow confronts him, realizing what following these orders had entailed. This is a huge turning point in his life and the beginning of our story. This moment leads him to make a decision that alters his life in ways he couldn't even begin to imagine. The dilemma Dr. Tenma had to face is one that is brought up throughout the entire series: is every life equal? Obviously, the answer is "yes," and Dr. Tenma tries to convey this time and time again.
Starting because of the innocent man dying because he wasn't deemed as a priority by the hospital, Tenma performs surgery on a boy with a gun shot wound despite receiving orders to treat the major first. When Dr. Tenma decides to help this boy, he's completely unaware that he's reviving a "monster" and the antagonist of this story. Almost immediately, Dr. Tenma is faced with tragedies and mystery at the hands of this ten-year-old boy. Most of Monster takes place 10-12 years after this point, following a string of murders occurring around Germany. It doesn't take long before Dr. Tenma is standing face to face with the murderer, who then reveals that he was the young boy Tenma brought back to life ten years prior: Johan Liebert. He shoots Dr. Tenma's patient right before his eyes and walks away like a true psychopath: cool, calm, and menacingly slow. Thus begins Dr. Tenma's journey to take Johan down, pulling him out of the shadows and into broad daylight to prevent any more murders from happening. This proves to be no easy task, though, and Dr. Tenma soon discovers there is far more than meets the eye in his journey of rectitude. The plot of Monster is imaginative, with a well executed story. The mysteries, plot, and characters are all woven together so seamlessly, and everything made perfect sense as the story progressed, while also managing to surprise at every turn. The plot is beyond compelling and riddled with depth and intrigue.
The characters are carefully developed along the way-heroes, villains, and everyone in between.
Urasawa did a great job making the characters three-dimensional and real. These characters weren't good or bad, or cookie-cutter images of other characters. They were each their own person and brought something unique to the story. They made us reflect, they made us cry, and they made us feel. Every episode brings something new and enthralling. The characters are carefully developed along the way-heroes, villains, and everyone in between. There are a lot of different types of villains in Monster (with the big bad boss being Johan Liebert), which is a big part of what makes this series so great. There's not just one bad guy and a bunch of lackeys, but multiple villains of all calibers, with various levels of evil versus humanity, none of which are the same. Even Johan's followers have their own individuality as villains. Each one brings something different to the table, and we tend to hate each of these villains (or love to hate them) for different reasons.
First and foremost, there's Johan. If you like incredibly eerie, disturbing villains-the calm and collected ones that are secretly serial killers-you've come to the right place. Johan's the main antagonist of this story and Dr. Tenma's worst nightmare come to life. He constantly taunts the doctor and murders anyone in his way-sometimes for no reason at all other than he simply can. As the show progresses, secrets are revealed and more tragedies occur. We realize just how bad Johan really is and how much he seems to hustle as a villain (seriously, where does he find the time)? He is easily one of the creepiest villains in all of anime. Everything he does is meticulous, and he can't interact with anyone without ruining their lives or convincing them they're useless and unworthy of love, or even life itself. He's calculated, intelligent, and has no remorse; he knows exactly what he wants to do and will accomplish it at all costs. He isn't predictable either, which gives the story all the twists and turns it needs to be made even more interesting. While Johan is the calm, creepy evil mastermind, there are others walking adjacent paths, such as the recurring villain Roberto. This man is so easy to hate, which makes him a good villain in its own way. In contrast to Johan's insidiousness, Roberto's more of a brute force/macho man villain that you know can beat the life out of you without breaking a sweat. While Johan uses mind games to win his wars, Roberto uses his inhuman strength and size to barrel through obstacles and demolish his enemies.