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New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Complete Trilogy
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 6 Discs
FEATURES
  • Beyond the Films: New Battles Without Honor and Humanity, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane
  • New Stories, New Battles and Closing Stories, two new interviews with screenwriter Koji Takada, about his work on the second and third films in the trilogy
  • Original theatrical trailers for all three films
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Reinhard Kleist
  • Illustrated collector's book featuring new writing on the films, the yakuza genre and Fukasaku's career, by Stephen Sarrazin, Tom Mes, Hayley Scanlon, Chris D., Marc Walkow, and Toshiko Adilman

New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Complete Trilogy

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Kinji Fukasaku
2017 | 283 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $99.95 | Series: Arrow Video
MVD Visual

Release Date: August 29, 2017
Review Date: September 7, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

In the early 1970s, Kinji Fukasaku's five-film Battles Without Honor and Humanity series was a massive hit in Japan, and kicked off a boom in realistic, modern yakuza films based on true stories. Although Fukasaku had intended to end the series, Toei Studio convinced him to return to the director's chair for this unconnected, follow-up trilogy of films, each starring Battles leading man Bunta Sugawara and telling separate, but fictional stories about the yakuza in different locations in Japan. In the first film, Bunta Sugawara is Miyoshi, a low-level assassin of the Yamamori gang who is sent to jail after a bungled hit. While in stir, family member Aoki (Lone Wolf and Cub's Tomisaburo Wakayama) attempts to seize power from the boss, and Miyoshi finds himself stuck between the two factions with no honorable way out. In the second entry, The Boss's Head, Sugawara is Kuroda, an itinerant gambler who steps in when a hit by drug-addicted assassin Kusunoki (Tampopo's Tsutomu Yamazaki) goes wrong, and takes the fall on behalf of the Owada family, but when the gang fails to make good on financial promises to him, Kuroda targets the family bosses with a ruthless vengeance. And in Last Days of the Boss, Sugawara plays Nozaki, a laborer who swears allegiance to a sympathetic crime boss, only to find himself elected his successor after the boss is murdered. Restrained by a gang alliance that forbids retributions against high-level members, Nozaki forms a plot to exact revenge on his rivals, but a suspicious relationship with his own sister (Chieko Matsubara from Outlaw: Gangster VIP) taints his relationship with his fellow gang members.


PICTURE

Arrow Video presents a new dual-format box set featuring Kinji Fukasakuís New Battles without Honor and Humanity Trilogy, featuring the films New Battles without Honor and Humanity, The Bossís Head, and Last Days of the Boss. All three films are presented on their own individual dual-layer Blu-ray (and DVD) discs in their original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. All three films are also encoded at 1080p/24hz high-definition.

All three films are about the same in terms of quality picture-wise: theyíre simply ďokay.Ē Arrow is working with masters supplied by Toei and not fresh new scans, and while I can definitely say they are not awful that is about the limit to good things I can say. Theyíre dull looking films, by design I assume, with the occasional burst of colour, but even then the colours still come off fairly flat and drab looking. Detail is severely limited and the image can always look a little bit fuzzy, limiting textures and depth. Also not helping is the fact black levels are incredibly murky, milky even, and they can severely limit and crush detail in the shadows.

Surprisingly the source materials appear to be in good condition and damage is very limited, primarily to a few minor marks and bits of dirt. Most of the films look very clean. Still, the digital presentation itself severely holds back the image and itís a shame Arrow couldnít do new scans.

Detailed reviews for each title:
New Battles without Honor and Humanity, The Boss's Head, Last Days of the Boss

6/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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New Battles without Honor and Humanity

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New Battles without Honor and Humanity

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New Battles without Honor and Humanity

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The Boss's Head

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The Boss's Head

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The Boss's Head

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The Boss's Head

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The Boss's Head

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Last Days of the Boss

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Last Days of the Boss

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Last Days of the Boss

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Last Days of the Boss

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Last Days of the Boss

AUDIO

All three films present their monaural audio in lossless 1.0 PCM. Theyíre all severely flat and lack fidelity and present music and sound effects that also come off edgy. The distortion can be a bit worse for The Bossís Head, where everything is delivered with a rather flat thud. The first film, as the opening notes points out, does have an audio drop about 53-minutes in, but this was purposely done to take out a racial slur referring to Koreans. All prints apparently have this drop so there was nothing Arrow could do about it. Outside of that one issue I didnít detect any other drops.

Detailed reviews for each title:
New Battles without Honor and Humanity, The Boss's Head, Last Days of the Boss

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The box set spreads special features across all three titles in the set. Each film comes with a theatrical trailer while the first and second films also include a teaser trailer.

New Battles the film also comes with an introduction by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane. For less than 10-minute Yamane talks a little about what led to this film after Fukasaku finished the original five film series (basically the other films made so much money Toei wanted the series to continue). But Fukasaku went in a bit of a different direction with the new trilogy, creating three films that didnít have anything to do with one another. I still havenít seen the original films (I missed out on the original set now going for ridiculous prices) so this was a nice little primer, and it was a relief to discover I didnít need to see the original films to enjoy these ones (though I did learn that only one actor reprised their role from the original series, linking them in at least a minor way).

The set then features a new interview with screenwriter Koji Takada who was brought in to work on the last two films. His interview has been spread over the discs for The Bossís Head and Last Days of the Boss. For the first 12-minute part he talks about how the new trilogy compares to the original series and what he was able to contribute, addressing he had issues dealing with the one characterís addiction in the film. The second part, running 17-minutes and found on the last title, Takada explains how the increased freedom he was allotted allowed him to take this film in a different direction, making it more of a mystery film. He also explains why the film can feel like itís all over the place: various real-life incidents influenced him as he was writing, calling for him to go back and change things around.

Itís underwhelming that what is, altogether, a rather lovely looking 3-disc box set only sports features that total less than an hour (including the trailers), as interesting as they are. What does somewhat remedy this is Arrowís 58-page booklet. There are first three essays, each covering one film in the set, respectively written by Professor Stephen Sarrazin, author Tom Mes, and writer Hayley Scanton, with the last two focusing on the women and their importance in these films. There is then an excellent essay by writer Chris Desjardin about Toeiís Yakuza features followed by one on Fukasakuís other works outside the Battles films written by writer/home media producer Mark Walkow. The booklet then concludes with a personal remembrance of the filmmaker written by Toshiko Adilman, who worked as an interpreter and coordinator for Fukasaku. As usual with Arrowís booklets itís a substantial addition on its own and almost makes up for the lack of much else on the discs themselves.

Detailed reviews for each title:
New Battles without Honor and Humanity, The Boss's Head, Last Days of the Boss

5/10

CLOSING

I have to say this set looks lovely in hand but it is, overall, a somewhat underwhelming release. The presentations are okay, nothing really special, just better than DVD (though again Arrow could only work with what Toei supplied to them) and the features are slim, though at least comes with an excellent booklet. A little disappointing.




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