Ichi the Killer (film)

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Ichi the Killer
Original Japanese poster
Directed by Takashi Miike
Produced by Akiko Funatsu
Dai Miyazaki
Written by Screenplay:
Sakichi Satō
Hideo Yamamoto
Based on Ichi the Killer 
by Hideo Yamamoto
Starring Tadanobu Asano
Shinya Tsukamoto
Nao Omori
Alien Sun
Music by Karera Musication
Seiichi Yamamoto
Cinematography Hideo Yamamoto
Editing by Yasushi Shimamura
Distributed by Media Blasters (USA)
Release dates
  • September 14, 2001 (2001-09-14) (TIFF)
  • December 22, 2001 (2001-12-22) (Japan)
Running time 129 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese (some parts in English)

Ichi the Killer (殺し屋1 Koroshiya Ichi?) is a 2001 Japanese film directed by Takashi Miike, written by Sakichi Sato, and based on Hideo Yamamoto's manga series of the same name. The film is notorious amongst moviegoers due to its extremely graphic violence. The film has received widespread controversy and is banned outright in several countries due to its high impact violence and graphic depictions of cruelty. In 2009, The Norwegian Media Authority reacted to the film and later classified the film as Rejected and banned the film due to "high impact violence and cruelty" and the film is still banned in Norway, but available for home video purchase.[1] The film has been banned outright in Malaysia since the film's distribution date in 2001 due to "very high impact violence & offensive depictions of cruelty" The film is banned uncut in Germany, and classified as "adults only" in a "heavily cut version".


While alone with a prostitute, crime lord Anjo is brutally murdered. As an expert cleaning crew run by Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto) removes any trace of his body, Anjo's gang and the other crime lords assume he and the prostitute fled town with ¥3 million of the gang's money. Only Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), Anjo's sadomasochistic enforcer, believes Anjo is still alive. Jijii feeds Kakihara rumors that suggest Suzuki (Susumu Terajima), a member of a rival clan, has kidnapped Anjo. Kakihara captures Suzuki and tortures him, but when Suzuki turns out to be innocent, Kakihara slices off the end of his own tongue and offers it to Suzuki's boss (Jun Kunimura) as penance.

Other than killing Anjo, Ichi also kills a pimp who regularly brutalized a prostitute named Sailor that Ichi patronizes. When Sailor attacks him, Ichi kills her as well. Later, Ichi helps a boy named Takeshi by saving him from bullies; Takeshi is the son of Kaneko, one of Kakihara's henchmen.

Using Suzuki, Jijii manages to have Kakihara kicked out of the syndicate, but the entire Anjo gang defects with him. When he learns that Anjo was killed by Ichi, Kakihara kidnaps and tortures Kano, a former member of the Anjo gang who is helping Jijii. Kakihara also becomes fascinated by Ichi, imagining him to be someone who can truly fulfill his masochistic urges.

Jijii, it is revealed, is secretly orchestrating events in order to pit yakuza clans against one another, with the help of Ichi (Nao Omori). Though a normally unassuming and cowardly young man, Ichi becomes homicidal and sexually aroused when enraged. Jijii is able to manipulate Ichi's weak personality by implanting several false memories — a high school rape in particular — and uses the unstable Ichi as an assassin.

Kakihara enlists the help of a pair of corrupt twin police detectives, Jirô and Saburô (Suzuki Matsuo), to find Myu-Myu, a prostitute connected with Ryu Long, a member of Jijii's gang. Unable to get information from her through torture, Saburô sniffs her to get Long's scent and tracks him down. Though Long attempts to outrun the brothers, he is captured by Kakihara.

To turn Ichi into a complete killer, Jijii has Karen, Anjo's woman and Jijii's friend, seduce Ichi by pretending to be the woman in his false memory. When Ichi becomes confused by Karen's claims that she desired for him to rape her, he kills her. Jijii calls Kakihara to let him know Ichi is coming to kill him.

Kaneko, Kakihara and Ichi chase each other to a rooftop. Due to Jijii's psychological manipulation, Ichi believes that Kaneko is his brother and confronts him. Kaneko shoots the side of Ichi's leg, causing Ichi to slit Kaneko's throat in front of Takeshi. Takeshi attacks Ichi as he lies on the roof begging for forgiveness. Kakihara realizes Ichi cannot hurt him and inserts skewers into his ears to drown out Ichi's cries. Suddenly he sees that Ichi has chopped off Takeshi's head. Ichi charges Kakihara, embedding one of his razor-bladed boots in the center of his head. Kakihara falls from the roof to his death. However, when Jijii finds him, Kakihara has no wound in his head; he hallucinated Ichi's attack as he jumped to his death while Ichi cried.

Years later, Jijii's corpse hangs from a tree in a park. A young man resembling an older Takeshi leaves the park with a group of schoolchildren.

Cast and roles[edit]

Actor Role
Tadanobu Asano Kakihara
Nao Omori Ichi
Shinya Tsukamoto Jijii
Alien Sun Karen
Susumu Terajima Suzuki, of the Funaki gang
Shun Sugata Takayama, of the Anjo gang
Toru Tezuka Fujiwara
Yoshiki Arizono Nakazawa
Kiyohiko Shibukawa Ryu Long
Satoshi Niizuma Inoue
Suzuki Matsuo Jirô & Saburô, twin corrupt detectives and Anjo gang members
Jun Kunimura Funaki
Hiroyuki Tanaka Kaneko, Anjo's bodyguard
Moro Morooka Coffee shop manager
Houka Kinoshita Sailor's lover
Hiroshi Kobayashi Takeshi, Kaneko's son
Mai Goto Sailor
Rio Aoki Miyuki
Noko Morishita Pub Patron
Setchin Kawaya Pub Proprietor
Yuki Kazamatsuri Yakuza Girl
Sakichi Satô Man Kicking Ichi
Kaori Sugawara
Hideo Sako
Mako Takeda
Masataka Haji



Director Takashi Miike intended for the author of the original manga, Hideo Yamamoto, to write a script entirely in manga form, but the idea fell through when Yamamoto felt he could not complete it due to writer's block.


The soundtrack was written and produced by Japanese band Boredoms, credited as "Karera Musication", under the direction of ex-guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto and percussionist/band leader Yoshimi P-We.[citation needed]


As a publicity gimmick, vomit bags were handed out at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to those attending the midnight screening of this film. Similar bags were handed out during the Stockholm International Film Festival. Reportedly, watching the movie caused one person to throw up and another to faint. In January 2009, The Norwegian Media Authority learned of this incident and the film was banned in Norway. The film has been banned in Malaysia since the movie's distribution date. It later caused controversy in Germany and the film was banned there too. The film remains banned in all these countries as of 2009.[2]


Tom Mes has suggested that the film is in fact a very sophisticated assessment of violence and its relation to the media and implicating the audience. He writes that "It's a paradox, but Ichi the Killer, a film that sets new boundaries in the portrayal of violence and bloodshed, takes a strongly critical stance towards the portrayal and the consumption of the violent image. However, it does so without ever taking a moral stance towards either the portrayal or the consumption, thus circumventing any accusations of hypocrisy on the part of the director. Miike does not moralise or chastise, but provokes the audience into questioning their own attitudes towards viewing images of violence. He steers them into a direction but leaves it up to them to draw their own conclusion".[3] Mes is also very critical of the edits made to the film. He argues that "The film as a whole is a completely cohesive unity, in that all of its parts are absolutely crucial to the functioning of the whole. Any attempt at censorship or toning down the violence will have the opposite effect and will in fact make the film more exploitative and thereby undermine its critical stance. Excising scenes of violence, particularly the 'painful' scenes, will harm the symbiosis between the 'playful' and the 'painful' violence, which forms the basis for Miike's critical approach". The themes that were made in Ichi The Killer were very controversial in other countries and resulted in censorship. Notably in Norway when the Norwegian Media Authority (Norway's board of people that rates movies) banned the film because of extreme violence and also because they learned of an incident at the Stockholm Film Festival that the film caused two people to vomit and faint while watching it and also because of its infliction of violence "is potentially harmful to children and adults" Since Ichi The Killer has been classified as "Rejected" in Norway, this means that the film cannot be screened, sold or possessed anywhere in the country. Any person caught screening or selling the film in Norway can face arrest with possible fines/imprisonment.[4]


The film is followed by a prequel, 1-Ichi. Nao Omori reprises his role in the prequel, playing a younger version of Ichi.


  1. ^ http://cdon.no/film/ichi_the_killer_%28import%29-8367424
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Tom Mes, 'Ichi the Killer', in Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik (eds) The Cult Film Reader (Maidenhead : McGraw Hill/Open University Press, 2008), p. 361.
  4. ^ Mes, p. 367.

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