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Gun symbol on Criterion’s Yojimbo cover

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    I spend some of my lunch breaks helping people with their Kurosawa-related questions over at Yahoo Answers. Today, however, I encountered a question that I am not sure I can answer: what exactly is the source/meaning of the gun symbol in the (new) Criterion Yojimbo’s cover?

    I suspect that it is just something Criterion created, but does it actually appear in the film? If you know more, head to Yahoo Answers.



    I love film theory so bare with me, I try to keep it short, since I am bad at typing properly what I intend to say.

    This is of course my take on it, but I am fairly confident its correct.

    Some short background:

    The gun in Kurosawa films is rather important, especially its appearance in films regarding the master-less samurai.(Stray Dog the is very important and full of symbolisms, but completely different in use compare to the samurai movies)

    Its use in Yojimbo, and to some extent Seven Samurai is the same. Signaling that a highly disciplined man, a master of the sword is no match for a cocky idiot with a gun.

    Around this time period these films are set in, the thinking of Japanese ruling class begins to change with the beginning of Western influence and their weapon technology. Its with this that Japan begins to move towards large numbers and superior weapons, over men of honor and skill to protect in later press its will. This continues for sometime, before Japan finally shuts its self off from outsiders.


    What we see in Yojimbo is the early stages of this, and soon Sanjuro(main character in Yojimbo) discovers that perhaps his skills with the sword will not get him as far as they did in the past. What is required is intelligence to overcome the future, and pending death of the samurai way.

    Although merely a background instrument, the movie pivots around the gun very quietly but its importance appears to be critical in Sanjuro’s development in Yojimbo

    There are many key scenes in which the gun is presented and short of watching the movie again, only these come to mind but there are several more.

    Picture 1, Clearly a group of drunk idiots, that ordinary present little challenge or at least a equal match to the clan off camera. However the off camera clan doesnt attack and in fact even steps back upon the central character flashing and shooting a gun. A gun something to fear, something that can kill with ease, something new, a mystery to most. This is the first scene(that I can recall) where it presents a important role.

    scene 1

    Another important shot is Sanjuro(off screen, hand only), feeling threating reaches for his sword, in which case would normally protect them. However upon reaching for the sword the on screen guy, with obvious overeagerness and overconfident pulls out the gun and points it towards Sanjuro’s face causing him to abandon his attack.

    It here where what could be safely assumed Sanjuro actually fears to some extent the guy with the gun. This is somewhat of a shock, as Sanjuro fears not a superior swords man, but a young kid with no skill, or discipline, the complete opposite of what Sanjuro represents. This could be perhaps the Sanjuro’s realization that intelligence and discipline are more important then sword skill and discipline.

    scene 2

    Hope that makes sense, and it is likely because of this, that the gun makes a appearance on the box. It to me at least plays a important part to the film.

    I never noticed the symbol before, but based on what I mention, makes a fair amount of sense to have on it. As for the symbolized look of the gun on the cover, its properly merely looks.

    No such symbol represents any clan, also the clans are much older then the time period the guy gets the gun, so it rules that out.

    It could of course simply give some respect to Kurosawa’s influence on the Westerners, but I think its more then that.

    (I will messing about my server in a few days, so if two pictures from Yojimbo dont appear, let me know.)



    Thanks for the extended meditation on the subject, Jeremy! It made me want to see the film again. 🙂 I haven’t watched a Kurosawa film in a while — I don’t know where the days go.

    I can, by the way, only see one image out of the two (scene 2 doesn’t show).



    Well, I got a bit carried away, and dont even think I really answered the question, but I was sitting at a airport bored out of my mind.

    So in which case I would just say, the gun plays a important role in the movie, and would make sense to use it on the DVD, even if it is nothing more then filler to make it look better- which I believe it was just that.

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