by Chris MaGee
Okay, consider this story an open letter to North American distributors like Funimation, Viz Pictures, but especially AnimEigo. All you AnimEigo folks do such a wonderful job bringing lesser known Japanese classics to DVD (I have your discs of Kon Ichikawa's "Revenge of a Kabuki Actor" and "47 Ronin", as well as Hideo Gosha's "The Geisha" on my shelf as I type this) and you're making history by bringing out the first four films in the mammoth Tora-san series this November. You're releasing films that have defined Japanese pop culture for the past four decades, films that most North American audiences either haven't heard of or have only had a vague knowledge before they picked up an AnimEigo release. So, here's just a heads up as to which Japanese pop culture icon you should bring onto your roster next: Yusaku Matsuda.
While tons of people have heard of such Japanese tough guy actors like Ken Takakura and Sonny Chiba there are still quite a few who haven't heard of Matsuda. Not sure how, he's the father of current superstar Ryuhei Matsuda, so most people would have heard his name before even if just as a footnote. Over his 17-year career he starred in two dozen films and TV series and redefined cool with his rockstar looks and no nonsense persona. Sadly his life and career were cut short in 1989 after he lost his battle with bladder cancer. It was really too bad because he'd just starred opposite Ken Takakura and Michael Douglas in Ridley Scott's "Black Rain", a film that was supposed to be his breakout North American debut.
It's been 20 years since Matsuda passed away and now according to Asian Blueray Guide Kadokawa Entertainment is prepping to releasing a four-disc DVD box set to commemorate the actor. Included in the set are "The Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (Yomigaeru Kinro)", "The Beast to Die (Yaju Shisubeshi)", "Proof of the Man (Ningen no Shomei)" and "Detective Story (Tantei Monogatari)", all great films, but as I write this these are onlty available (in Toronto at least) on sub par Chinatown bootleg discs. What a shame! What's really sad is that the Kadokawa box set is coming with no, I repeat no, English subs (?!?!)
So, AnimEigo (or Funimation, or Viz Pictures) please... chase after Kadokawa Entertainment, do what you need to do and make Yusaku Matsuda's films available here in North America. The fans will definitely thank you. Oh, and while we're at it... maybe a Yusaku Matsuda CD? Check out the star belting out "Yokohama Honky Tonk Blues" below to see what I mean.