Probably a more accessible effort, at least from a pure narrative perspective, than many of Seijun Suzuki's more outlandish films, Kanto Wanderer tells the story of two rival Yakuza gangs and a man caught in the middle. Centered around Katsuta, a feared bodyguard for the Izu, Kanto Wanderer paints a portrait of a man who is bound by his code of honor and loyalty, doing whatever is necessary to protect his boss from the overly-ambitious rival crime-lord Yoshida, who is growing desperate to control more of the illegal gambling dens in the area. When an old flame reemerges in his life, Katsuta finds his loyalty tested, as his lust for this femme fatale threatens to derail his oath and allegiance to his master. Kanto Wanderer is a film that deconstructs the advantages and faults of loyalty, most notably the debilitating effect it can have on independence. Through Katsuta, and other young characters in the film, most notably Hanako, a young woman who becomes intrigued by the Yakuza, Suzuki's film truly evolves into a tale of wasted youth, being a subtlety seething commentary on the old traditions, where 'the code', duty, and honor essentially strip away ones independence and their ability to forge their own path. Suzuki does show some acknowledgement to the ethical benefits of honor, but it's hard to argue that Kanto Wanderer is a film about the more negative aspects of these Japanese traditions, especially when considering the fate of Katsuta, who ends up in prison by the end of the film. From a stylistic standpoint, much of Kanto Wanderer is a more subdued effort than some of Seijun Suzuki's well-known films such as Branded to Kill or Tokyo Drifter, featuring a more subdued style of well choreographed camera movements to tell its story. Towards the end, things ramp up though, with Suzuki bringing his impressionistic imagery out to play in a series of sequences which finds Katsuta following through on his oath to his master, with Suzuki using primarily harsh reds and calming blues to express this lead-characters moments of rage, violence, and ultimately sadness. Seijun Suzuki's Kanto Wanderer struggles a bit with pacing issues in the early going, most notably due to a narrative that is straight-forward but convoluted, but as the film progresses, it becomes an interesting Yakuza film that questions age-old traditions and seems to suggest the need for the youth of Japan to forge their own path.
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