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Ichi (2008). Female stars and gender representations in the Zatoichi franchise

Ichi (2008). Female stars and gender representations in the Zatoichi franchise

Wroot, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0002-6827-728X (2023) Ichi (2008). Female stars and gender representations in the Zatoichi franchise. In: Chan, Felicia, Elliott, Fraser and Willis, Andrew, (eds.) Women in East Asian Cinema: Gender Representations, Creative Labour and Global Histories. Edinburgh University Press, UK, pp. 79-92. ISBN 978-1399504942; 978-1399504928; 1399504924

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The majority of the Zatoichi films made in Japan reflect gender biases that are systemic of the contexts in which they were made, and the perception of female stars, in terms of their popularity and commercial viability within certain roles. The Zatoichi film and TV series has typically been interpreted through its leading Japanese men – from Shintaro Katsu, to later iterations by Takeshi Kitano in 2003, and Shingo Katori in 2010. Katsu originally played the blind masseur who wandered 18th century Japan, with a sword hidden in his cane, in 26 films from 1962 to 1989, as well as in 100 TV episodes (broadcast from 1974 to 1979). There was also the gender-flipped reboot released in 2008, Ichi, where Haruka Ayase played the sword-wielding protagonist. This was a potential turning point for the franchise, and chanbara (sword action) films in 21st century Japanese cinema. Following earlier examples, such as Azumi (2003) and Azumi 2 (2005), here was another film that could show how one of Japan’s most popular genres can be led by Japanese female stars as much as male ones. However, since the relative critical and commercial disappointment of Ichi, the most successful domestic and international chanbara films continue to be male-dominated – from 13 Assassins (2010) to Blade of the Immortal (2017) and the Rurouni Kenshin franchise (2012-2021). Nonetheless, the production context of the film demonstrated how the film’s studio and producers were aiming for commercial success due to the cast and crew involved. This chapter will situate the case study of Ichi (2008) within established findings concerning franchise media, studio production contexts, popular culture and star personas.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Japanese cinema; world cinema; gender representation; genre cinema; samurai cinema (chanbara)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Stage and Screen
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2023 10:30

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