films seen
average score
Japan - 67 years old
Alive and kicking
more info

The root of Japanese punk cinema, even more so than Tsukamoto. Gakuryu (aka Sogo) Ishii is one of Japan's greatest hidden treasures, a director with a wild and fierce oeuvre that also holds some surprisingly subtle and emotional films.


Mirrored Mind

2005 / 61m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
Mirrored Mind poster

A perfect score and absolutely stunning visuals transport you to a different world, only to let go of you 60 minutes later, comforted and touched by the film's protagonist's struggle.

Punk Samurai Slash Down

Panku-zamurai, Kirarete Sôrô
2018 / 130m - Japan
Fantasy, Action
Punk Samurai Slash Down poster

Gakuryu Ishii is a true blessing for cinema. At first, I figured Punk Samurai Slash Down was just a slightly subdued, tongue-in-cheek take on the jidaigeki genre, but don't be fooled. The film gets progressively weirder and builds up towards a finale that escapes description. Ishii delivers a sprawling comedy that piles on surprise after surprise and had me in stitches for most of its half-hour-long finale. This is how you do comedy.

Electric Dragon 80000V

2001 / 55m - Japan
Sci-fi, Fantasy
Electric Dragon 80000V poster

If you don't mind the raging soundtrack, silly storyline, over-the-top performances and stark black and white visuals, this is a film you can watch over and over without ever getting bored with it.

That's It

2015 / 109m - Japan
That's It poster

A blast. Energetic, mysterious, fun and wild, it's one big, entertaining mess. The film looks amazing, sounds great and the actors are all on top of their game. Up there with Ishii's best

Dead End Run

2003 / 59m - Japan
Crime, Musical
Dead End Run poster

A fun, varied and classy anthology film where Sogo Ishii allows himself to showcase his more experimental side while leaving room for some softer touches.

Bitter Honey

Mitsu no Aware
2016 / 105m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
Bitter Honey poster

A mad mix of drama, fantasy and comedy. Gakuryu Ishii returns with a beautiful film that defies genre conventions and creates a world of its own. It's a handsome tribute to Ren Osugi and another stellar performance for Fumi Nikaido. Riveting cinema.

Isn't Anyone Alive?

Ikiteru Mono wa Inainoka
2012 / 113m - Japan
Comedy, Mystery
Isn't Anyone Alive? poster

Let yourself be carried away by Ishii's unique sense of comedy coupled with a strong and mysterious build-up. In the end he might have changed his name, but he can't hide his talent

Labyrinth of Dreams

Yume no Ginga
1997 / 90m - Japan
Romance, Mystery
Labyrinth of Dreams poster

Even though it's not a typical Ishii film, there are enough stylistic remnants to please the fans while at the same time making sure it's not just a rehash of his earlier films.


Gojo Reisenki: Gojoe
2000 / 138m - Japan
Gojoe poster

Maverick director Gakuryu Ishii takes on the jidaigeki genre and tries to find a way to inject a blockbuster project with his energetic signature style. It makes for a rather slow but meticulous start, ultimately building up to an epic showdown. Interesting characters, nicely shot and sporting an extremely satisfying ending. Not Ishii's best, but quality film making that is a lot of fun to watch.

August in the Water

Mizu no Naka no Hachigatsu
1995 / 117m - Japan
August in the Water poster

Probably one of his most accessible films, though there is still plenty of wonder and authorship to be admired.

Angel Dust

Enjeru Dasuto
1994 / 116m - Japan
Romance, Thriller
Angel Dust poster

Tokyo Blood

1993 / 37m - Japan
Drama, Experimental
Tokyo Blood poster

A short but interesting anthology film where Ishii tepidly explores his more introverted self in 4 unrelated shorts. The punk influences are still there, but they flare up in short bursts and never truly climax. The quality is pretty consistent and there are moments of greatness here, but overall it's just a little too short and restrained to be truly impressive.

The Crazy Family

Gyakufunsha Kazoku
1984 / 106m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
The Crazy Family poster

Asia Strikes Back

Ajia no Gyakushu
1983 / 30m - Japan
Sci-fi, Music
Asia Strikes Back poster

One of Gakuryu Ishii's early cyberpunk shorts. It's not really a typical narrative, instead Ishii shot the footage to use it as backing video for the concerts of one of his punk bands. That makes the short a little disjointed, on the other hand Japanese cyberpunk isn't really known for coherent narratives, so who cares.

Read all

There's an underlying plot about psychic soldiers who fight wars from an underground bunker. They start a revolt and manage to make their way to the surface. Bits and pieces that work well within the setting of the film, but in the end it's all pretty garbled and messy, with Ishii paying more attention to mood and atmosphere.

Ishii's punk aesthetic is already well-developed here. The soundtrack is raw and loud, the setting is grungy and dirty and the camera work explosive and intense. If Japanese cyberpunk is your thing then Asia Strikes Back delivers in spades, if not then there's probably nothing here for you. Not quite up there with Ishii's best, but a lovely treat for cyberpunk fans either way.

Burst City

Bakuretsu Toshi
1982 / 115m - Japan
Sci-fi, Action, Music
Burst City poster

A pivotal release in Sogo (currently Gakuryu) Ishii's career. It's the mother of all Japanese punk films, a feature that would go on to inspire a small but impactful niche. It's not quite as cyber as many of its offspring though, more rooted in punk rock culture, which is exactly why I didn't quite love it as much the second time around.

Read all

In a futuristic Tokyo, chaos reigns. Underground anti-establishment groups clash with punk bands and their admirers. Meanwhile, the police are trying to get a grip on the conflicts sprouting up left and right, but their involvement only seems to make matters worse. There's only one possible outcome for this insane pressure cooker.

The cinematography is lively, the plot is chaotic but works wonders for the type of material we're dealing with here, and the performances are extremely energetic. It's just the score that wasn't quite harsh enough and left me wanting a little. The ending does go full-out, it just takes the film a little too long to get there.


1981 / 34m - Japan
Shuffle poster

An Ishii short that feels like a prelude to Tsukamoto's Tetsuo. The camera work isn't as manic or crazy as Tsukamoto's early masterpiece, but the soundtrack is absolutely stunning and makes this a tense and riveting experience. If it had been twice the length this could've been a masterpiece, but fans of Japanese cyberpunk cinema should definitely give this a go.

Crazy Thunder Road

Kuruizaki Sanda Rodo
1980 / 95m - Japan
Crazy Thunder Road poster

Charge! Hakata Street Gangs

Totsugeki! Hakata Gurentai
1978 / 70m - Japan
Charge! Hakata Street Gangs poster

Early Gakuryu/Sogo Ishii film. It feels a bit like a late 60s Wakamatsu feature, only sporting the first signs of the lively punk aesthetic that would come to define Ishii's work. It's nowhere near as impressive or effective as in his later films though, so this is mostly for those interested in Ishii's roots, or for people who think regular Ishii is a bit much.

Read all

Two homeless punks get themselves into trouble when they get a hold of a gun and get mixed up in criminal affairs. It doesn't take long before both the police and a local crime syndicate are on their tail, all they can do is run and hope they'll survive their ordeal. It's a pretty barren plot, then again plot has rarely been Ishii's main concern.

The camera work and editing are energetic, though they're nothing compared to later Japanese (cyber)punk films. The actors are mediocre and the soundtrack isn't quite as demanding yet. Ishii's style clearly had some ways to go, but fans will no doubt appreciate the first, tentative steps to what would be the prelude to the comeback of Japanese cinema.

Panic in High School

Koko Dai Panikku
1978 / 94m - Japan
Panic in High School poster

Another micro-shorts anthology. They were relatively popular for a while, but they rarely lived up to their potential. With just a single minute to make an impression, directors were given a tricky challenge. One that proved a bit too daunting for most involved, as too many of the entries failed to make an impact.

Read all

This isn't so much a real film as it was an experience though. There doesn't remain a proper copy of this anthology since it was only screened once, then burned right after. I usually stray from watching low-quality recordings, but with nothing else available, it was either that or not watching it ever.

There are some interesting names here, but few of them stand out. The goals of the project are lofty, but it's all very conceptual and the films themselves never really match or strengthen the project's ideals. It's a good thing that the score is pretty interesting, which at least kept me going. Not all that interesting.

1/2 Man

1/2 Mensch
1986 / 48m - Japan
Documentary, Music
1/2 Man poster

Pure Ishii punk. But also a lot of Einstürzende Neubauten of course. A peculiar project where Ishii takes a location and a band and tries to construct a visual poem with them. At times, it felt a bit too much like a stage performance (only without an audience), but when it becomes more abstract it does show a lot of potential.

Read all

Think of it as an Umfeld avant-la-lettre, only with a huge dose of 80s industrial and noize. The problem is that I don't have that much with the latter. The music was a little underwhelming, the vocals were just terrible and the impact wasn't nearly as impressive as it was clearly meant to be.

The location (an abandoned factory) was cool (though a bit predictable) and the industrial vibe comes across pretty well, it's just that it all feels a bit tame by modern standards. I'm sure I would've loved this 30 years ago, for its time it's also a very cool project, but give just me some modern-day industrial techno instead.