Film

Curator's Note

 "Be it a boring film or an interesting film, a film that makes money is a good film."
—Haruki Kadokawa

Akira Kurosawa famously refused to shake his hand, but Haruki Kadokawa reveled in his public image as a controversial overreacher. He cultivated his reputation as savior of Kadokawa Publishing, inventor of the "media-mix" strategy, initiator of the 1970s blockbusters, revolutionizer of the film and media business, box office king, producer of over 70 films and director of six, a prize-winning haiku poet, record-breaking sailor, unrepentant eccentric and head priest of his own Shinto shrine. Kadokawa was a mid-size publishing company when it announced, to great ridicule, that it was entering film production and focusing on a media mix strategy that marketed the novel, the film and the soundtrack together. Ten years later Kadokawa had produced six of the 10 most successful films in Japanese film history.

While an older generation of film critics despised Kadokawa and his films as a step towards depoliticization and a totalizing consumer culture, Kadokawa's media mix captured the burgeoning anything-goes atmosphere of 1980s pop culture in Japan. After an initial phase of ever-bigger scale blockbusters, Kadokawa turned to marketing idols and employing young directors who would come to define 1980s Japanese cinema through a curious but fascinating mix of arthouse experimentation and pre-bubble era pop sensibility. Auteurs such as Nobuhiko Obayashi, Shinji Somai and Yoshimitsu Morita would make some of their defining films for Kadokawa, crackling with energy and quirky creativity. Very few who were young in the 1980s were left untouched by Kadokawa's wild grip on pop culture. Indeed, Kadokawa Film defined an era--and laid the groundwork for the vibrant Japanese media ecology of today.

Alexander Zahlten is an Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, and was Program Director for Nippon Connection Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany from 2002 to 2010.


 

Interview with Kadokawa film music producer Ko Ishikawa

Music was a central element in the Kadokawa media mix from the beginning, and the company was the first to actively promote and sell film soundtracks, generating some of the biggest pop hits of the 1980s. In this exclusive interview, film music producer Ko Ishikawa provides some behind-the-scenes information about the music selection process—as well as insight into the controversial producer Haruki Kadokawa. Special Thanks to Masu Hiroshi Masuyama (MAM/Tokyo).

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