Shinya Tsukamoto admitted that this was his first, although not the last, film to involve a strong woman and Hizuru, played by the very eye catching Kahori Fujii, is certainly a strong character. One that develops into a self aware and self-confident individual in touch with her own personality and feelings. An interesting woman who discovers her physicality and her raw animal instinct. The character of Hizuru is the backbone of the ultra violent Tokyo Fist (1995) she is someone we see change as the film proceeds. Involving the perceived act of self-harm through body piecing’s and tattoos and the taboo of violence carried out by and on women. Where as body violence is generally accepted as a release for certain types of men, in this movie via boxing, it is not generally accepted where women are concerned. Hizuru, although used to the metal abuse given by her husband, discovers that she enjoys receiving physical pain turning her on sexually.
Tsuda Yoshiharzu (the directors first attempt at playing a leading character role) is a hard working insurance salesman for a large corporation who lives a normal and stable life. At the request of his boss he visits a Tokyo boxing gym where he meets Kojima Takuti an old high school classmate turned boxer (played by the Shinya’s younger brother Koji). Tsuda does not won’t anything to do with his old friend but the boxer finds out where he lives and visits his flat to find his wife Hizuru on her own, Kojima makes a play for her but she turns him down. When Tsuda finds out he confronts Kojima who gives our salary man a good beating. After this incident Hizuru goes to watch Kojima box in a tournament when her husband finds out they have a public fight in a restaurant. She gradually becomes more and more obsessed with him and moves in with the boxer. Tsuda knows that he will have to fight to get his wife back so he joins the boxing gym with the sole intent of beating his rival in a physical fight. Attending an arranged meeting with his wife under the motorway to attempt reconciliation, Tsuda gets beaten quite badly by her but he knocks her down with one blow to the face, she gets up brushes herself off and walks calmly away. We witness Tsuda banging his head against a concrete stanchion in frustration. Hizuru returns and beats him again quite mercilessly. On her return to the boxer she instigates frantic sex. In the meantime Kojima is preparing for the fight of his life with a fighter that has already killed an opponent.
As I said previously this is a very violent film but one that goes so much deeper than just purely glorifying the act of violence. Tsukamoto claims that the film is the study of the relationship between Tokyo and peoples love and hate they have for the city, although Tokyo is a symbol that could in fact be any large city. It may be about boxing but its no Rocky type hero drama, its shows quite graphically the gritty realism and hypertension involved in the sport. The boxing ring is a metaphor for boundary’s surrounding a city, the soundtrack of beating fists represent life, living and death. If nothing else the director, in what is probable his best film, provocatively askes his audience the question: is it wrong for a woman to desire physical violence and to put herself in a situation where violence is forthcoming? Tom Mes in his guide to Japanese Film opines that this movie is one of the more potent feminist statements of the 1990’s. This movie has a new digital restoration released on Blu- ray so now’s the best time to sample Japanese cinema at its best.