Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tokyo Fist

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1995 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 87m


Shinya Tsukamoto ventures outside his Tetsuo trappings to deliver further explorations of the ‘New Flesh’ in boxing movie garb.

On Arrow Channel from Friday, September 22nd.

This review is an amalgam of my reviews for What’s On In London and Manga Mania.

Right from its opening angled camera of gym sparring partners, everything about apparent boxing movie Tokyo Fist is relentless. Apparent because this is the latest highly idiosyncratic offering from Japanese filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto, the crazed genius behind the brilliant if unhinged Tetsuo films. Don’t be fooled by the boxing gloves – this is another round in the director’s ongoing engagement with the ‘New Flesh’, minus the science-fictional surface trappings.

Underpinned by another memorable Chu Ishikawa score, it opens in typically bravura fashion with slanted tracking camera shots of sparring partners in a gym, morphing moments later into a visual wipe in the manner of a knockout punch as a fist hurtles towards the viewer and the images disintegrates via a stop-motion iris constructed of offal.

The plot has an insurance salesman whose career is foundering run into an old school friend who is now a professional boxer. The salesman’s wife is expressing dissatisfaction with her marital lot and is soon to become attracted to the toned muscles of the boxer’s body (while at the same time violently repelling his actual physical advances on her). The outraged salesman picks a hopeless fight with the boxer but is unceremoniously floored with a punch. He resolves to take up the sport to defeat his rival. His wife, meanwhile, begins altering her flesh by means of tattoos and increasingly extreme forms of body piercing.

As frequent iris out wipes executed with bloody, stop-framed offal suggest – and as admirers of the Tetsuo outings would expect – this is a violently brutal journey of the humdrum human body from its mundane, everyday state through almost unimaginable metamorphosis. Like the scene where the protagonist repeatedly beats his head against the concrete wall of an underground car park, it pushes and pushes and pushes – without ever allowing the viewer the luxury of a (science fiction) genre safety net. A fist in the face might sound off-putting, but one directed as well as this makes for bravura cinema.

Reviewed for UK theatrical release, Friday, April 4th, 1997.
The above is an amalgam of my reviews for What’s On In London and Manga Mania.

Trailer (Third Window Films):

Original Japanese trailer (no subtitles):

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