Text: | Print|

Chinese mourn Japan's iconic on screen 'tough guy'

2014-11-19 08:44 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping
Veteran Japanese actor Takakura Ken [File photo]

Veteran Japanese actor Takakura Ken [File photo]

Japanese actor Ken Takakura may have inspired some of the greatest movie lines in Asian film, but for fan Chen Danqiu the stoic actor inspired a love of trenchcoats.

With the announcement of Takakura's death on Tuesday, whose roles as an on screen tough-guy earned him the accolade as one of Japan's greatest actors, Chinese fans have taken to the internet to mourn the cinema legend.

"I also like horse riding, Hokkaido, Japanese novels from the 1970s and 1980s - all because of him," Chen, a cultural commentator, wrote in an article commemorating the deceased 83-year-old, who died of lymphoma on Nov. 10.

On China's social networking platforms, fans of the renowned star paid respects and declared their love by circulating his popular lines from the hit movie Manhunt, the film that made Takakura a household name.

The tightly knit suspense film, starring Takakura as an upright procurator who struggles to prove his innocence after being framed for a crime, was among the first batch of Japanese movies allowed into China in 1978, shortly after the country's decade-long Cultural Revolution.

Boasting a career spanning half a century and roles in some 200 films, he is perhaps best known to Western audiences for his role as a Japanese police officer alongside Michael Douglas in the 1989 Hollywood film "Black Rain".

His iconic cool exuded on screen captured numerous hearts in China. "For me, he doesn't represent an actor, but an image, an image that epitomizes bravery, loyalty and stoic strength..." Chen wrote, recalling that Takakura started a fad for sunglasses, trench coats and well-trimmed temples among hipsters over three decades ago.

Zhang Xiaohui, a 49-year-old in north China's Tianjin city, said he watched Manhunt in the cinema three times when it was released. "The tickets of the movie were very scarce. At the time I saw a man who had obtained one at the cost of 10 packets of cigarettes - several times more expensive than the actual ticket cost," he said.

He said before the movie was imported, foreign films at the time came from socialist countries and were mainly about revolutions. "Meanwhile, the male roles portrayed in Chinese movies were often good-looking sissies. But Takakura, he projected a completely opposite, masculine image as an Eastern man on the screen," he said.

Unsurprisingly, he became a heartthrob for Chinese women at the time. "As a child, I sneaked a peek at a love letter my mom wrote to my dad. In it she said, 'At the first sight you looked like Ken Takakura'. That's how I got to know the name," said a user on microblog Sina Weibo.

The veteran actor helped redefine the image Chinese males hoped to obtain for an entire generation. His style was widely mimicked by Chinese actors in the 1980s, said professor Shi Chuan, vice chairman of the Shanghai Film Association.

Famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou, whose 2005 work "Riding Alone for Thousands Miles" starred the Japanese actor as a father, also expressed his grief. "I can't believe this, my old friend is gone. I can merely express my deep condolence, and wish him happiness in the heaven," he wrote on Sina Weibo.

The director previously told media that he has long idolized Takakura and the film, a heartwarming story of a Japanese father who travels to rural China to fulfill the wish of his dying son, was tailor-made for him.

Shi believes the role of the loving father marked a major change to Takakura's consistent "tough guy" image on screen and reflected a shift in Japanese men's mentality.

"In the 1970s, with the economic boom, they fixated on career and neglected family. In the twilight of their life, they paid the price and began to fix the problem," Shi said.

Even though Japanese movies have been marginalized by their U.S. counterparts seen in Chinese cinema today, Zhang Xiaohui said the current clout of Hollywood blockbusters and stars in China could not compare with that of Takakura and the "horizon-broadening" Japanese movies three decades ago.

Now, Takakura has become less-known among Chinese teens and those in their early 20s. However, many of them are enthusiastic about other forms of Japanese culture, such as cartoons, cosplay, music and fashion, regardless of turbulent China-Japan ties.

China and Japan have seen their relations sour since the Japanese government's "purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands in 2012. Earlier this month, Chinese president Xi Jinping and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe held their first meeting since the duo took office, in a sign of thawing ties between the neighbors.

"Movies represent culture. A country's culture would make you like the people and the country," Zhang Xiaohui said.

Comments (0)
Most popular in 24h
  Archived Content
Media partners:

Copyright ©1999-2018 Chinanews.com. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.