Ichi The Killer

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Ichi the Killer (2001) is the English title of the Japanese movie 殺し屋1 / Koroshiya Ichi. Based on the manga Koroshiya 1 (Koroshiya Ichi) by Hideo Yamamoto, the film was directed by the legendary Takashi Miike.

While in many respects a traditional Yakuza film depicting an objectionably lawful man's world of sex, violence and honor, Ichi the Killer actively questions the motivation of sexuality and violence within this world. Title character Ichi (Nao Omori) is a sadist only driven to arousal by the helpless desperation of women in need and can only be sexually satisfied by violent murder.

Many modification practices are featured in the film. The lead character Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) is a yakuza masochist. Allusions are made throughout the film that Kakihara is only loyal to the Anjo gang because he is completely in awe of his gang boss and the violence Boss Anjo could give him. His face bears three long scars, presumably gifts from his boss, and he has a very fetching razorblade smile— the corners of his mouth are cut open as far as his cheeks—which is held together by a pair of cbrs. Kakihara also has a tongue rim piercing, which at one point in the film is removed along with part of his tongue as an act of yubitsume. Kakihara's quest for Boss Anjo, at first an obsession of love, soon becomes a quest to find the man who could cause such pain to his beloved sadist boss, for certaintly this man could cause Kakihara the greatest pain (pleasure) of his life.


There is also a prominent scene in the film where Kakihara tortures another gang's member with the assistance of a superman suspension and some cheek skewering, convinced through misinformation that he knows the whereabouts of Boss Anjo. Nipple removal and amputation also featured in the movie. As with many newer Yakuza epics, Ichi the Killer questions the social definition of Yakuza culture as a heteronormative, masculine, outlaw culture steeped in deep traditions of honor and piety. While many other films (some by Miike) have questioned the sexual motivation within Yakuza families as homosocial, Ichi the Killer is one of the first films to suggest that Yakuza sexuality could be of a purer BDSM relationship, devoid of sexual penetration altogether.


  • The opening credits involve a voyeuristic Ichi spying on a man beating a woman. When discovered, he runs off leaving a puddle of semen on the doorstep, from which the film title emerges. Miike confirms that it was real semen.

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