Akira Kurosawa infoThrone of Blood – Akira Kurosawa info http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/feed/ Fri, 19 Oct 2018 02:48:43 +0000 http://bbpress.org/?v=2.5.14-6684 en-US http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-2559 <![CDATA[Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-2559 Sun, 30 Mar 2008 19:21:44 +0000 minx_c Hello.

I am currently writing a seminar paper on Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. I chose to analyze the contrast of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play and Lady Asaji in Kurosawa’s film. Due to an article on Kurosawa’s film by Donald Richie, I was wondering about the “evil spirit”, played by the actress Chieko Naniwa. I am not sure about the function of this “spirit”. Donald Richie talks about a “witch”, whereas in the film this character is called “evil spirit”. I am not sure if this character is male, female or neutral. And if it is a he, she or it, what consequences does that have? I do not know if spirits or ghosts are gendered in Japanese culture. Would a female spirit have other functions or character traits than a male or a neutral one? I hope that someone can help me with that topic.

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to your reply.

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3551 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3551 Sun, 30 Mar 2008 22:12:31 +0000 Jeremy This is can get rather complicated and I can only offer a bit of help. Beside being just my opinion, most of my concepts of witches in Japanese culture arrives from the study of Japanese directors Kaneto Shindo and Makaki Kobayashi that often deal with witches, and only a small bit of Noh studies.

Kurosawa in Throne of Blood is arguably pulling more on the Noh conventions (Japanese musical dramas) rather then the pure Shakespearean concepts. Shakespeare themes largely centered around christianity, in which Kurosawa makes some changes to fit buddhist concepts .

The Japanese often use the term “evil spirit” rather then “witch” as witch derives from the pagan, christian traditions which would be absent in Japanese Noh. However that are in the end both the same thing.

In Noh, evil spirits do have genders and can be male or female. In Throne of Blood the witch I believe should be considered a male, basing this on my limited knowledge of zen buddhism, as well that in Noh typically if the main character is a evil spirit they are represented as male.

The function of this witch is death and destruction, that entice the evil that is in all men’s hearts.

I dont know if a female spirit would have traits that are different then what a male spirit would have, they all seem to be able to represent the same thing. The use of female or male, tends be decided on the role in which the spirit plays, if the spirit come after a men’s mind for power, then it would be male, but if the spirt comes for men’s lust then it would be female.

Again I’m limited in what I can offer, perhaps if you offered a more specfic question I could focus on that area, I’m also at the disadvantage of not in some time watching Throne of Blood, and having difficulty remember what is needed to answer your questions.

There are some rather crafty members here that may be able to offer much better advice, you should take what I said lightly and do a bit of checking before considering anything to be of absolute fact, but I did offer only what I believe is correct.

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3552 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3552 Tue, 01 Apr 2008 08:19:55 +0000 Vili Maunula Jeremy clearly knows more about the Tokyo school of wizardry than I do, so I don’t really have anything to add in that sense, except that Kurosawa has noted that the witch was particularly based on a similar character in the Noh drama Kurozuka.[1]

It is, however, interesting how Kurosawa also seems to have taken the Weird Sisters and dropped the trinity but introduced the spinning. In that sense, he has traded one quality of the Norns with another.

Ultimately, how to interpret Macbeth has always to me centrally depended on what you consider the Sisters as actually representing. The cosmogony of the play is, after all, very different if the three are only witches or evil-doers, rather than the Fates or seers of future events. Kurosawa, to me, seems to make the case that she is, indeed, a real spirit.

But perhaps the real reason why you ask about the witch when you are really writing about Lady Macbeth is the theory often put forward that Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth might be either one of the three witches, or Hecate herself? I personally wouldn’t think that the interpretation is encouraged in Kurosawa’s version (to be honest, I’m not so sure if it works in Shakespeare, either).

In any case, you might consider getting hold of James Goodwin’s Akira Kurosawa and Intertextual Cinema. In it, Goodwin spends about 20 pages discussing the film and Shakespeare, with a few pages devoted to Lady Macbeth / Asaji.

Ultimately, however, if you are writing about Lady Macbeth / Asaji, I think you could do worse than to read into Noh conventions. Throne of Blood is, in the end, almost as much Noh as it is Shakespeare, and perhaps with no character is this more true than with Asaji.

[1] Mellen, Joan. “Interview with Akira Kurosawa”. In: Bert Cardullo (ed.). Akira Kurosawa: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2008. (p. 65)

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3553 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3553 Tue, 01 Apr 2008 19:48:09 +0000 Jon Hooper Just a footnote to the excellent above posts. I’d always thought that the witch or evil spirit was female. At one point Washizu says of her: “That woman’s words may well be part of a dream.” I think Kurosawa is also playing on the Macbeth tradition of identifying Asaji/Lady Macbeth with the witch(es). Both seem to have insight into the secret desires of Washizu. Ambition in Throne of Blood is to some extent a female impulse, contrasted with the more open and direct male impulse of martialism.

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3554 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3554 Tue, 01 Apr 2008 22:20:49 +0000 Jeremy Sanjuro got me thinking…

The witches could be androgyne characters, in MacBeth Shakespeare avoids any explicit classification, as the weird sisters look female but have beards.

However, I dont know of any specfic notations of androgyny in Noh, there are plays that do not give a specfic gender, but none go into length about the issue. Often when a spirit gender is not mention the mask they wear are describe as an female mask or a male mask and can switch back in forth.

I think the main reason for that androgyne characters are avoid in Noh as it would undermined the power structure and require a alternate society.

Going back to what I said earlier, being the that the evil spirit is dominate and to some degree the main character it would point to a male.

I cant however explain the quote that Sanjuro offered, nor can I deny that indeed the evil spirit does give off some impulses of female.

My point?- I dont know, Sanjuro just got me thinking 🙂

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3555 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3555 Tue, 01 Apr 2008 22:50:56 +0000 Jon Hooper I have almost no knowledge of Noh and find what you have written very interesting. The only thing that sticks in my mind is reading somewhere that Kurosawa wanted Asaji to physically resemble the Noh mask of a demon – but I’d need to recheck this. It’s probably in Richie, Prince or Galbraith as they’re the main texts I have. I certainly remember, by the way, feeling that while I took the spirit to be female it did come across as being somewhat androgynous. There is a sense, I think, that the character is a manifestation of Washizu’s covert lust for power, just as Asaji may be as much the voice of Washizu’s secret desires as a plotter and manipulator who bends his will. Aspects of a male consciousness, then; aspects of Washizu himself. Of course, I have no basis for this other than my own subjective impressions, and wish I knew more about Noh conventions and could remember more of Shakespeare.

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3556 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3556 Tue, 01 Apr 2008 23:50:07 +0000 Andrew Not much to add to this very interesting discussion, except to mention a useful source: Keiko McDonald’s book ‘Japanese Classical Theater in Films’ contained some very interesting info on the Noh influences on ‘Throne of Blood’ and ‘Ran,’ in particular.

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3557 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3557 Wed, 02 Apr 2008 00:12:12 +0000 Jeremy Well, I dont have much basis for my impressions myself, my studies are rather limited.

Thanks Andrew, I was just looking for a book to buy on Japanese classical theater.

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3558 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3558 Wed, 02 Apr 2008 07:20:05 +0000 Vili Maunula I would say that the the witch is a woman in Kurosawa, just like the wyrd sisters are women in Shakespeare. At least they are constantly referred to as such. As for the beards in Shakespeare, in contemporary tradition in England, witches were said to wear beards, so I don’t think that it is necessarily an attempt to androgynise those characters, but rather to simply mark them as witches.

Sanjuro’s point that “Ambition in Throne of Blood is to some extent a female impulse, contrasted with the more open and direct male impulse of martialism.” is interesting, and I would think worth exploring. It would seem to me that Lady Asaji is even more pushy towards that ambition than is her counterpart Lady Macbeth.

It is also an interesting point that the witch, just like Asaji, would in a manner reflect the secret desires of Washizu. Earlier on, I marked that to me the key (or at least “a key”) to interpreting Macbeth is in the nature of the witches’ prophecy. While in Shakespeare, I feel, it is never made absolutely clear what the witches actually are, in Kurosawa I would say that nothing is really offered for us to consider the witch’s words as anything but real knowledge of the future events.

If so, that would mean that Washizu’s world is to a large extent predetermined. In the case of the original play, by the way, this is a notion that many Shakespearean critics tend to be unhappy about and go to great lengths to refute, despite of the idea offering an interesting meta-theatrical reading. Whatever the case with Shakespeare, in Kurosawa I feel that the idea of a predetermined storyline corresponds well with Mifune’s acting — I constantly feel that he is trying to get a hold of the storyline, wrestling in vain to stop the wheel of fortune from turning. His ultimate downfall occurs when he stops doing that, and starts to believe in the prophecy as the truth — that nothing could harm him as long as the forest stays still.

Now, if the witch and Lady Asaji are indeed some type of reflections of Washizu’s secret desires, would it mean that what he is wrestling with is not the world but himself? That the turmoil is not with external but internal forces? That his downfall takes place when he finally gives into his desires?

Kurosawa’s use of the Noh masks as a basis for many of the characters in The Throne of Blood is discussed in many different sources. One place is the Mellen interview that I already quoted earlier. In it Kurosawa gives the following connections between characters and masks:[1]

Lord Washizu – Heida (“This was the mask of a warrior.”)

Lady Asaji – Shakumi (“This was the mask of a beauty no longer young, and represented the image of a woman about to go mad. The actress who wears this mask, when she gets angry, changes her mask for one the exes of which are golden-colored. This mask represents the state of an unearthly feeling of tension and Lady Macbeth assumes the same state.”)

The warrior murdered by Washizu and who comes back as a ghost – “the mask of the apparition of a nobleman of the name of Chujo”.

The witch – Yamanba

Perhaps someone with more knowledge (or better googling skills) than me can shed more light on these masks.

I’ll keep Japanese Classical Theater in Films in mind, thanks for the tip Andrew! It seems to be available in a number of places, but will have to wait as I just spent my this month’s Kurosawa allowance on Rashomon related materials.

[1] Mellen, Joan. “Interview with Akira Kurosawa”. In: Bert Cardullo (ed.). Akira Kurosawa: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi, 2008. (p. 65)

http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3559 <![CDATA[Re: Throne of Blood]]> http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/throne-of-blood/#post-3559 Wed, 02 Apr 2008 20:24:38 +0000 Jon Hooper I’ve read through Vili’s post and I think my memory was at fault regarding the “demon” – I think it was more a case of my western prejudices imposing themselves on my reading of the film. Richie says that the appearance of the witch is based on the Noh ghost-mask. I had to look up Yamanba as the extract from Mellen does not provide any explanation. I’m not sure how reliable the info is but Wikipedia has the following:


What is quite funny is that when I initially entered Yamanba I was directed to the Ganguro and Yamanba page, which are fashions, the latter being based on the Yamauba of folklore. The link is here:


It struck me that the two ganguro in the subway bear a more than passing resemblance to Kurosawa’s witch. The Yamanba picture is less clear, but having googled pictures I can see the resemblance between the fashion and Kurosawa’s witch. Obviously she would look quite fashionable in modern day Japan.

Apologies if most of this is common knowledge to other users of the forum – I really should make an effort to educate myself more in Japanese culture.