Renowned Japanese film director Kinji Fukasaku, known for such works as the yakuza movie series “Jingi Naki Tatakai” (“War Without a Code”), died of prostate cancer Sunday at a Tokyo hospital, his family said. He was 72.
Fukasaku, a native of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, announced he had cancer last September but went on to begin the filming of “Battle Royale II.” The original “Battle Royale” of 2000 sparked controversy with its depiction of killings involving junior high school students.
In late December, shortly after he began filming, Fukasaku was hospitalized after his condition deteriorated.
Fukasaku, who was married to actress Sanae Nakahara, joined film studio Toei Co. in 1953. He became involved in the “War Without a Code” series in 1973, earning box office success and critical acclaim with his realistic portrayal of yakuza conflicts.
In 1970’s “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” a Japan-U.S. collaboration depicting Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Fukasaku and Toshio Masuda worked on the Japanese side after director Akira Kurosawa abandoned the project.
In 1982’s “Kamata Koshin-Kyoku” (“The Fall Guy”), he portrayed film production behind the scenes, for which he won many awards.
“The greatness of director Kinji Fukasaku is that he created a dynamic, revolutionary film called ‘War Without a Code’ within the system of a major film company, Toei,” film critic Yoshio Shirai said.
“Moreover, he managed to expose the postwar black market on the big screen, making it a political postwar movie that excelled in a true sense.
“And although different in style, he followed the same theme through in ‘Battle Royale.’ He was the last director to create full-blooded Japanese films.”
He had headed the Director’s Gild of Japan since 1996. In 1997, he was awarded the government’s Medal with Purple Ribbon for his accomplishments in film.