One of two first ever series from Japan, Kinpika (Videoplugger), premieres October 4, 2022 on MHz Choice!

MHz Choice’s series from Japan, the five-episode saga, Kinpika, is a violent crime-family saga with revenge as the over-riding motive for all of the action.

Based on Jiro Asada’s novel, three malcontents are brought together by Gon, an honest police officer, who arrested Kenta Sakaguchi (BRAVADO/GUTS), a former soldier in the Tenso crime family, for murder. After 13 years in prison, no “family” member comes to meet him. The second malcontent, Hidehiko Hirohashi (BRAINS), served a prison sentence for his boss, Ryuzo Yamauchi, the politician who took a bribe while planning to become the next Prime Minister. Kusakabe, the journalist, forces Hirohashi to expose him and to bring him to justice. The third member of this dishonored group, Sgt. Isao Ogawara (MUSCLES), attempts to fight a one-man war against the spilling of Japanese blood overseas. In full military regalia at a meeting of the Chiefs-of-Staff, he shoots himself – yet misses only to be disgraced and dishonorably discharged.

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Kiichi Nakai as Kenta Sakaguchi in Kinpika

Police work is also compromised as the Commissioner and Gon seek the mole in their organization; they are unaware initially that Sakuma is on Tenso boss Iwamatsu’s payroll. Sakuma masterminds the murder-for-hire of Kenta and the kidnapping of Fukushima’s daughter. Gon unites these men and offers them a job. He sets them up in an old, unused lavish home where he tells them that they should focus their talents and energies to fight unfairness by bringing criminals to justice; in other words: seek revenge through legal means and illegal means — whenever necessary.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold” according to French author, Eugene Sue (1804-57), in his novel, “Mathilde: memoires d’une jeune femme” (6 vols.; 1841). This latter-day variant of the original French expression was popularized in the 1982 film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” as a Klingon proverb. Revenge has been a popular theme since the Biblical era, finding expression in literature (including comic books), music and dance (opera and ballet), cinema and TV (animation/video games and manga). Even though KINPIKA is a TV show, it is indebted to all the live-action and digital variations of the “Revenge” theme as well as some famous cinematic depictions of gangsters in “White Heat (1949),” “The Petrified Forest (1936),” “Little Caesar (1931), “The Godfather (1972),” “Goodfellas (1990),” and on TV, “The Sopranos (1999-2007).”

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Kinpika on MHz Choice

Japanese gangsters – Yakuza –- were once the heroes not the villains. Like the ninja of feudal Japan, who operated as secret mercenaries hired for covert operations including espionage, sabotage and assassination, the “Tendency Films” followed suit by depicting heroic actions on behalf of the downtrodden. Yakuza films trace their origins to the 1930s “Tendency films” (socially-conscious, left-leaning films of the 1920s-30s) whose popular historical outlaws stopped abuses suffered by common people at the hands of powerful, corrupt leaders. From the 1960s onwards, director Kinji Fukasaku’s violent realism in his 1973 film, “Battles without Honor and Humanity” became the inspirational template for all future Yakuza films. Multi-layered corruption and vices with endless iterations enhance the unquenchable thirst for this indelible film genre.

The personalities of these three rogues take time to meld into a cohesive, effective, hard-hitting unit working under police knowledge but outside the law thereby enabling them to provide proof of illegal deeds and bribe-based legislation, graft, fraud and embezzlement as well as prison for a non-offender taking the rap for the more powerful in the four major units of Japanese society – the Prime Minister’s office in the government (Finance Ministry); the Defense Ministry (Armed Forces); the Police Force, and the Yakuza. The last entity operates within and without the law through flunkies who are rewarded with endless money flowing to government bureaucrats and contracts on the Yakuza payroll as well as into private accounts. Asada‘s vile muck-raking and arsenic-laced expose relies on substantial research for these realistic portrayals of every form of vice and corruption laid bare. This 2016, five-episode series was written by Shin’ichi Hisamatsu, directed by Masaki Nishiura, and produced by Kiyomi Asano and Yasuyuki Azuma.

Kiichi Nakai, so named by internationally-celebrated director, Yasujiro Ozu, was the son of well-known character actor, Keiji Sada. Nakai has worked for many famous directors including Matsubayashi, Ichikawa, Shinoda, Takita, Hirayama, Zhang Yimou and many others. In his lengthy Japanese and Chinese film career, he has played a variety of roles. In KINPIKA, he plays the lead — Kenta Sakaguchi –- lethal gangster and all-around nice guy.

Yusuke Santamaria — the singer and actor — portrays the bespectacled-Hidehiko Hirohashi. His work can also be seen on both Netflix and Amazon Prime having worked for many renowned directors including Miki, Kudo, Motohiro, Kurosawa, Sato and others.

Pierre Taki, who portrays Sgt. Ogawara, is the front man for synthpop music group, “Denki Groove,” when not acting in film and on TV; or voicing and dubbing animation/video games. In 2001, he appeared in NYC with the always-in-demand Japanese actor, Hideyuki Tanaka, in the “Prince Tongha” exhibit.

Gon – appropriately – has the final words: “Side with the Weak Against the Strong!”

EDITOR’S NOTE: We happily discovered Dr. Pearl Brandwein while reviewing MHz Choice subscriber feedback on our programs and, after reading a half dozen or so of Dr. Brandwein’s insightful reviews, all of us here at MHz Choice had the same thought: We need to get the good doctor to write for us! Enjoy! -MHz Choice

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