Communion of Blood (film)

Ti no Sakazukigoto
Ti no Sakazukigoto film poster.png
International limited release poster
Directed byEisen Sinoda
Produced bySadakazu Anzai
Kousuke Katou
Sawao Yuhara
Written byEisen Sinoda
Screenplay byYorinobu Mizuno
Eisen Sinoda
StarringNaomori Ikeda
Hideomi Endou
Haruya Haida
Rokurou Umemura
Kizaemon Moriyama
Music byHiroe Yanagidate
CinematographyMasayuki Suzuki
Edited byMarie Edamura
Tukiko Inoue
Eitarou Kaida
Production
company
Distributed byTakasimaya Motion Pictures
Release date
Running time
130 minutes
CountrySenria
LanguageSenrian
Budget€9.7 million
Box office€38.0 million

Ti no Sakazukigoto (Senrian: 띠노싸까수끼고또, literally "sake cup affair of blood"), released internationally as Communion of Blood, is a 2021 Senrian yakuza film written and directed by Eisen Sinoda, produced by Sadakazu Anzai, Kousuke Katou, and Sawao Yuhara, and starring Haruya Haida, Naomori Ikeda, Hideomi Endou, Rokurou Umemura, and Kizaemon Moriyama. The film, set in 1970s Senria, focuses on Arinaga Ibayasi, a member of a fictional yakuza gang, as he struggles with his father Sigenaga's abrupt suicide, his desire to leave the gang, his loyalty to his comrades amidst a gang war, and his fascination with Lysandras Maehara, a sadistic dekasegi who becomes the gang's new leader.

Communion of Blood premiered on October 19, 2021, at the 82nd Montecara Film Festival, and saw a subsequent cinematic wide release in Senria on October 29 and globally on November 19. It also won or was nominated for [further accolades once kylaris has film accolades other than the beco aureo].

The film grossed €33.2 million (¥4.3 billion) domestically, making it the fifth highest-grossing film of the year in Senria, and another €4.8 million internationally. The movie also received general critical praise, with particular praise going to the acting of Ikeda, Umemura, and Arata, and to the film's accuracy to its setting, with members of yakuza groups reportedly praising its efforts to accurately depict the internal organization of a yakuza gang. Some Senrian critics regarded the film as an "old-fashioned" yakuza film, which merited both praise and criticism in critical circles; additionally, the film received criticism from some dekasegi organizations over the character of Maehara.

Plot

The year is 1977. Tosihide Kagawa (Koizumi), the oyabun of the Toriyama-gumi, and his lieutenant and probable successor Sousuke Hurihata (Tanaka) are killed in an attack on the Toriyama-gumi by the Namigata-gumi, a rival gang that has close ties with the local police department. The Toriyama-gumi's officers convene to discuss who will succeed Kagawa as leader, with consensus quickly forming around Sigenaga Ibayasi (Ikeda), Kagawa's chief of staff and a deeply respected member; however, before an agreement is reached, Sigenaga abruptly commits suicide by shooting himself in the chest.

Dairoku Ueyama (Endou), one of the Toriyama-gumi's regional bosses, tells Arinaga Ibayasi (Haida), Sigenaga's son and one of Dairoku's personal subordinates, that he is being floated as a leadership candidate due to his parentage. Arinaga tells Ueyama that his father had long felt guilty for what he had done as a member of the gang and likely committed suicide for that reason, and admits that he wants to find a way to leave Toriyama-gumi, as he believes his father would have wanted. Dairoku is shocked and tries to encourage Arinaga to remain with the gang, saying they need him in their war against Namigata-gumi, but also agrees to tell the officers that Arinaga is unwilling to become the new oyabun; shortly thereafter, Dairoku meets with the officers and falsely claims that Arinaga is unwilling to become the new oyabun as he considers himself too young and believes the position should go to a more senior member.

The gang's officers struggle to agree on who should replace Kagawa following Sigenaga's death and Arinaga's refusal. Factions form around Dairoku; Hirokazu Hyokai (Moriyama), Hurihata's second-in-command; and Masamura Takeda (Miura), another regional boss. Meanwhile, Dairoku, Arinaga, and three of Dairoku's other underlings - Kaizi Yamagata (Iwao), Hideo Aikura (Matumoto), and Tadao Tanida (Busuzima) - go to aid Lysandras Maehara (Umemura), who runs a lucrative drug smuggling operation crucial to the Toriyama-gumi's finances and has requested their help in quashing a competitor. Meeting with Dairoku, Arinaga, and the others, Lysandras behaves affably if glibly. Led by Dairoku and guided by Lysandras, they successfully attack and wreck the rival operation's headquarters; Arinaga watches as Lysandras taunts and slowly kills a member of the rival operation, Risaburou (Ogawa).

Still unable to come to an agreement regarding succession, the gang's officers turn to divination. Dairoku interprets the cryptic results of the divination as referring to Lysandras; while many officers are hesitant as Lysandras is not a formal member of the Toriyama-gumi, Dairoku convinces them to summon him for a meeting. Lysandras's affable behavior during the meeting and the lack of better explanation for the divination results convince enough of the officers, and he is made the new oyabun. The gang's officers affirm their loyalty to Lysandras with the traditional ritual of sharing sake from a single cup.

As oyabun, Lysandras announces that the Toriyama-gumi will expand its war against the Namigata-gumi in order to cement the Toriyama-gumi's dominance and get revenge for the murders of Kagawa and Hurihata. He also develops a personal rapport with Hirokazu, naming him both chief of staff and lieutenant. Lysandras and Hirokazu begin leading a series of raids on Namigata-gumi hideouts and affiliates; these attacks are brutal but effective, and it soon becomes clear that Namigata-gumi is on the retreat. Masamura Takeda, backed by some other regional chiefs, encourages Lysandras to resolve the conflict before police become involved, but Lysandras brusquely dismisses the suggestion and insists that he will see Namigata-gumi completely destroyed. These actions, Lysandras's increasingly cocksure and domineering behavior, and his periodic contempt for certain Senrian and yakuza traditions, raise concerns among the gang's officers, but their rapid success against Namigata-gumi mutes such criticism. Meanwhile, Lysandras takes an increasing personal interest in Arinaga, repeatedly inviting him to private conversation; when asked why, he tells Arinaga that he knows that Arinaga is a potential rival for leadership, and wants to keep him close.

Lysandras leads an attack on a bousouzoku gang that is affiliated with Namigata-gumi; Arinaga goes along at Lysandras's insistence. Lysandras slits the throat of the bousouzoku gang's leader, Kanehiro (Okumura), and deliberately covers himself in Kanehiro's blood. During their private meetings, Lysandras tells Arinaga about his origins; born to second-generation Senrian immigrants to Aucuria, Lysandras's father abandoned the family during his early childhood, leaving him with his physically and sexually abusive mother. As a teenager, he killed his mother and fled to Senria in hope of finding work, but faced mistreatment as a member of the diaspora for his lack of familiarity with "proper" Senrian culture and was unable to make a living, ultimately establishing himself as a criminal. He compares himself to Arinaga, saying they were "both born into trouble", and encourages Arinaga to embrace the violence of criminal life, calling it a form of liberation. Arinaga internally recalls that Sigenaga also joined the yakuza after being abandoned by his parents and left unable to make a living, but is repulsed by the idea that his father might have similarities with Lysandras and that his only options might be to embrace violence, as Lysandras has, or be destroyed by guilt, as Sigenaga was.

Ryousei Teruya (Kitano), the oyabun of the Namigata-gumi, tells Yasurou Akaike (Arata), the local police commissioner, that he is arranging a peace conference between Namigata-gumi and Toriyama-gumi, and wants a representative from the police present so that he can tell Toriyama-gumi that a negotiated settlement is the only way to prevent police involvement; Akaike dispatches the assistant commissioner, Kento Waseda (Tunoda), to represent the police at the meeting. At the peace conference, Lysandras initially behaves amiably, before abruptly murdering Teruya, capturing Waseda, and forcing the other Namigata-gumi members present to flee. A few days later, Dairoku tells Arinaga that the officers, led by Takeda and shocked by Lysandras's actions at the peace conference, are contemplating attempting to depose him; Arinaga, disturbed but fascinated by his conversations with Lysandras, is unsure of what to do and tells Dairoku he needs time to think before he commits. Lysandras continues to summon Arinaga for private conversation; on one such occasion, he encourages Arinaga to join him in torturing the bound and gagged Waseda. Arinaga refuses, eliciting a bemused reaction from Lysandras.

Open conflict begins between Toriyama-gumi and the police. One evening, Arinaga is stopped by police and brought to meet with Akaike, who tells Arinaga that the police want him to act as a double agent on their behalf. Arinaga initially refuses, fearing that this might get his fellow gang members killed, but after Akaike offers Arinaga the police department's assistance in helping Arinaga leave the gang and assume a new identity, Arinaga tells Akaike that he'll consider the offer. Meanwhile, at the meeting of the Toriyama-gumi's officers, Lysandras states that he is aware of the efforts by Dairoku and Takeda to depose him. He murders Takeda and Dairoku while Hirokazu and his underlings keep the other officers in the room; Lysandras deliberately drenches himself in blood again, then uses some of Takeda and Dairoku's blood to fill a sake cup, forcing the surviving officers to drink from it as a reaffirmation of their loyalty. Arinaga learns of this and tries to confront Lysandras, but backs down after Lysandras challenges Arinaga to shoot him. Afterwards, Arinaga calls Akaike and agrees to become an informant.

With his opposition within the gang intimidated into submission, Lysandras meets with Iemon Nagamura (Yamakage) and Seihou Dogura (Yokohama), the leaders of Azeti-gumi and Dogura-gumi, two other yakuza gangs in the area. Nagamura and Dogura are worried that police involvement might result in a broader crackdown on their gangs as well, but Lysandras uses their shared antipathy towards Namigata-gumi to convince them to stand with Toriyama-gumi and prepare for a showdown with Namigata-gumi and the police, telling them that a decisive victory will destroy Namigata-gumi and force the police to retreat. As Toriyama-gumi, Azeti-gumi, and Dogura-gumi prepare for the confrontation, Arinaga relays information about their preparations to the police; Akaike informs him that the police will launch their attack three days before the scheduled showdown, hoping to catch the allied gangs off-guard.

Arinaga, shortly before the scheduled police attack, tries to leave the Toriyama-gumi headquarters but is caught by Hirokazu, who realizes that Arinaga is attempting to flee and attacks him. As they fight, the police launch their raid, killing Hirokazu and mistakenly opening fire on Arinaga; unable to escape, Arinaga flees into the headquarters. The police steadily push into the building, killing most of the gang's members. Arinaga eventually ends up in the oyabun's office with Lysandras, who has retreated there after killing Waseda and being shot in the leg. Arinaga draws his pistol and threatens to shoot Lysandras, telling him that the situation is doomed; Lysandras says that the final act of violence in his life ought to be performed by someone who will appreciate it, steals Arinaga's pistol, and shoots himself in the same way that Sigenaga did. As the police enter the room, Arinaga surrenders and is taken into custody.

Following the battle, Arinaga meets again with Akaike at the police station; Akaike provides him with forged papers for a new identity and offers him a job in the police department. Arinaga accepts the papers but refuses the job offer, saying he intends to get as far away from the criminal world as possible. Akaike warns him it will be difficult for Arinaga, as someone who spent his entire life within the yakuza, to find a job or adapt to normal life; Arinaga says he'll take the risk, walking out of the room and into an uncertain future.

Cast

  • Naomori Ikeda as Sigenaga Ibayasi, chief of staff at the start of the film, who commits suicide out of guilt for his actions as a member of the gang
  • Hideomi Endou as Dairoku Ueyama, a regional boss in the Toriyama-gumi, laconic, diligent, and effective
  • Haruya Haida as Arinaga Ibayasi, Sigenaga's son and Dairoku's right-hand man, who wants to leave the yakuza life
  • Rokurou Umemura as Lysandras Maehara, a member of the senkeizin, affable but cocky and cruel, Toriyama-gumi's oyabun for most of the film
  • Kizaemon Moriyama as Hirokazu Hyokai, Maehara's right-hand man and chief of staff, the gang's best fighter
  • Sumihiro Miura as Masamura Takeda, one of the gang's regional bosses and, eventually, an ally of Dairoku against Lysandras
  • Hayao Arata as Yasurou Akaike, a cynical, perceptive, amoral police commissioner

The film also features Sukenobu Koizumi as Tosihide Kagawa, the oyabun of the Toriyama-gumi at the start of the film, killed in an attack by the Namigata-gumi; Kazuo Tanaka as Sousuke Hurihata, Kagawa's right-hand man and heir presumptive, killed in the same attack; Aritomo Wakiya as Eisaku Midorikawa, Murasige Gusukuma as Saburou Tokura, Yukio Tokioka as Azumo Kazikura, and Genzirou Yosimoto as Masasige Saeki, other regional bosses within the Toriyama-gumi; Ryuuhei Iwao as Kaizi Yamagata, Yahiro Matumoto as Hideo Aikura, and Daizen Busuzima as Tadao Tanida, other subordinates to Dairoku and Arinaga's comrades; Katasi Kitano as Ryousei Teruya, the oyabun of the Namigata-gumi, a rival gang closely aligned with the police, and Touru Nakazima as Eizou Oukawara, Teruya's right-hand man; Nobutomo Tunoda as Kento Waseda, Akaike's pliable, weak-willed assistant commissioner; Kanemaru Yamakage as Iemon Nagamura and Kiyosi Yokohama as Seihou Dogura, the oyabun of Azeti-gumi and Dogura-gumi, two other local gangs; Ikurou Ogawa as Risaburou, a member of the rival smuggling operation who is killed by Maehara; and Akira Okumura as Kanehiro, the leader of the bousouzoku gang affiliated with the Namigata-gumi.

Production

Development, writing, and casting

Filming and cinematography

Music and sound design

[original soundtrack]

[era-appropriate diegetic music for atmosphere]

Themes

[outcasts, violence begets violence, etc]

Marketing

Release

Communion of Blood premiered on October 19, 2021, at the 82nd Montecara Film Festival. It saw a cinematic wide release in Senria on October 29, and was released globally on November 19.

Reception

Box office

[fifth-highest-grossing film of 2021 in senria; did okay but not great in int'l markets]

Critical response

Communion of Blood received critical praise both domestically and internationally, with particular praise going towards the film's story, acting, and setting. Kazuo Kawada of the Keisi Sinbun wrote that "the film provides a compelling narrative through its characters, all of whom have strong personalities that are masterfully brought to life by the actors". Much of the praise focused specifically on the acting of Haruya Haida, Rokurou Umemura, and Hayao Arata; Tobias Hess of The Standard wrote that that "the scenes between the characters of Arinaga and Lysandras take on a special energy, wherein Haida perfectly captures Arinaga's fascinated discomfort and Umemura similarly captures Lysandras's demented, devil-may-care affectation", while Saemon Harada declared that "it would be hard to imagine a more perfect actor than [Arata] for the role of Police Commissioner Akaike". Keitarou Sakamoto, writing in La Senrie, said that "the cinematography of Masayuki Suzuki manages to simultaneously capture the nuances of the acting by the film's stars and the details that firmly and convincingly plant this film within the 1970s, a decade too often overshadowed in Senrian media by the 1960s before it and the 1980s after it". Weranian critic Wolfgang Herzschlag described the film as "a classic drama-thriller which confirms Eisen Sinoda as a master of the cinematic craft", while Cassien cinema blogger Stéphane Delestre-Escoffier said that it was "sure to become a must-see among Senrophile communities".

The film's editing and cinematography were generally regarded as competent and effective, but by and large did not get the same praise as the acting and setting. The film's soundtrack was similarly received; Eldmark's Erik Nyqvist declared that "there is nothing especially inspired about the soundtrack, though of course it is not bad - it hits all the right notes, and captures the mood of scenes perfectly well, but it simultaneously treads the obvious path for this sort of thriller". However, other critics - such as Tarou Miyazawa and Albert Vacquier - did praise the film's use of diegetic music as contributing to its atmosphere and setting.

The relationship of Communion of Blood to broader trends in yakuza film became an area of intense debate, particularly in Senrian critical circles. Some critics and cinephiles argued that the film represented a return to the classic ninkyou eiga style as a result of its focus upon an honorable outlaw torn between duty and desire; Iesada Satomura, writing for senryuueiga.sn, stated that:

...while the film is set in the 1970s, it largely rejects the developments that occurred in yakuza film during that decade and the decade following, instead opting for a narrative focused upon a righteous criminal born into the life through no fault of his own, torn between loyalty to his comrades-in-arms and his desire to escape the life, as he thinks his father would have wanted - a plot line that, were it not so well-executed, would risk feeling trite.

Similarly, Akie Dobayasi wrote that "Communion of Blood feels like a classic because its narrative is right out of the classic ninkyou eiga of the mid-20th century". Others, however, argued that it belonged to the zituroku eiga style, which emerged in the 1970s, for depicting the yakuza as ruthless, violent, and treacherous; Genta Kaneto declared that:

It is frankly baffling that anyone was able to look at the characters of Maehara and [Hirokazu] Hyokai and come to the conclusion that this was a traditionalistic movie about honor among thieves; the various gangs in the film all operate by some toxic mixture of brutality, betrayal, and caprice... the revelation that Arinaga Ibayasi must act upon, before it destroys him like it destroyed his father, is that there is no honor in criminality.

The Nisisenryuu Sinbun reported that the film received praise from actual yakuza members for its efforts to depict the internal hierarchy of a yakuza gang with reasonable accuracy; the newspaper quoted an anonymous member of an Isikawa gang as saying that "usually such films just depict the yakuza as an amorphous mass around some boss, or - if they're foreign - depict us as the Etrurian or Soravian mafia; so it's good to see an effort at depicting the system of oaths, the distinction between a [right-hand man] and the regional bosses". Sinoda, quoted in the same article, responded that rigor was put into depicting the internal structure of the gang to make sure that the succession to Tosihide Kagawa made sense, adding that "the praise is flattering but, of course, it is somewhat awkward to receive praise from such sectors of society".

Communion of Blood was widely criticized within the dekasegi community, with criticism focusing upon the character of Lysandras Maehara. Sergio Nisioka, president of the Association for Diasporic Senrians in the Homeland, released a statement which declared that:

Dekasegi are rarely depicted in Senrian media, and when they are, are almost always depicted negatively as "bad Senrians"... It is disappointing to us that a film such as this, which has such a high profile, chose to include a dekasegi character who is unstable, violent, and deluded, and to place so much emphasis on the idea of diasporic Senrians and dekasegi as individuals who do not know how to be "good Senrians".

Maehara's actor, Rokurou Umemura, told the Senria Daily Post in an interview that he thought criticism of the character by dekasegi was "understandable, but misdirected and based in misunderstanding", adding that "the point of Lysandras's character is that he was not born broken, but rather that forces too powerful for one person to overcome broke him... Lysandras, like Sigenaga, turns to crime because he has no other options left, because he has been given none; so even though he's a villain, he's sympathetic, and he has a parallel to Sigenaga and to Arinaga as well."

Accolades