The Secret History of Japanese Cinema: The Yakuza Movies

32 Pages Posted: 15 May 2006

See all articles by Federico Varese

Federico Varese

University of Oxford Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 14, 2006


This article explores the interplay among economic imperatives within the entertainment business, the mafia's role in the creation of its own media image, and the production of gangster films. Taking Japan as a case study, the paper shows that, when given the chance to influence the content of gangster movies, crime bosses have portrayed themselves as benevolent patriarchs and a positive force in society, rather the anti-heroes of classic American gangster movies. In Japan, such a choice had, however, the unintended consequence of a decline in audience interest and eventually led to the demise of studio yakuza movies. Ultimately, the paper shows that that mafia control over art can lead to the death of art - something that is bad for the mafia, as well.

Suggested Citation

Varese, Federico, The Secret History of Japanese Cinema: The Yakuza Movies (May 14, 2006). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 22/2006. Available at SSRN: or

Federico Varese (Contact Author)

University of Oxford Faculty of Law ( email )

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Oxford OX1 3PUQ, Oxfordshire
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