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Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen
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Author:  Yojimbo [ Sun Mar 08, 2009 9:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

OK, it's time to provide something substantive for people to sink their teeth into. (I'm sure some of you knew this was coming...)

Following is an off-the-top-of-my head rundown of some similarities between the stories of Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961) and Watchmen. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, I wholeheartedly suggest seeing Yojimbo.


.......Yojimbo......................................Watchmen

- The puppetmaster.....................................Puppets on strings
- Crime gangs as antagonists.........................Governments as antagonists
- The anti-samurai.......................................The antihero
- Decline of civilization in Japan......................Same in New York/the world
- Sanjuro ...................................................Rorschach
- Sanjuro ...................................................Ozymandias
- Sanjuro ...................................................The Comedian
- Intrigue & conspiracy.................................Same (duh)
- Turning the samurai mythos on its head.........Same for the superhero mythos

These are somewhat deliberately vague, and some are also fairly broad. Feel free to discuss, add, subtract, tell me that I'm nuts, etc.

{Tired of editing to try to get this to look like some semblance of formatting.}

Author:  Necrometer [ Sun Mar 08, 2009 10:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

Yojimbo wrote:
- Sanjuro ...................................................Rorschach
- Sanjuro ...................................................Ozymandias
- Sanjuro ...................................................The Comedian
:|

Author:  Yojimbo [ Sun Mar 08, 2009 10:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

Sorry, the original title of this was supposed to be "Thematic and other parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen," but it was too long for the subject line.

Author:  WhittakerFurnesse [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

Heh, interesting. Yojimbo definitely reflects Kurosawa's later, pessimistic attitude toward human nature. As late as Seven Samurai he seemed to think that people could get along and work together. Yojimbo doesn't have much of that optimism.

I would actually draw more of a parallel between Yojimbo and V for Vendetta. V and Sanjuro are both cynical people trying to bring about a more ideal state of affairs by essentially assassinating the bad guys. V is operating in a country where the leaders are repressive, and he prefers a state of anarchy to being ruled by them. Sanjuro is operating in a town where both sets of "leaders" (the two gangs) are evil, and he prefers killing all of them to letting one of them succeed.

I see the parallels to the Comedian, Rorschach and Veidt too though. It's basically a "no more heroes" attitude. "No one is really worthy of being a leader; the closest we can come to a hero is someone who reserves his violence for people who try to control other people. But make no mistake, these 'heroes' are not admirable or morally superior either."

How about "I'll need two coffins. Maybe three." = "One-nothing. Your move." :)

Author:  Whimper [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

Yojimbo: a film. Has some characters, and they do some stuff. There are also some plot elements- things that happen in the story. Sorry if I'm being vague.

Watchmen: also a film. Note that it also has characters, who do things. This has plot elements in its story too, just like Yojimbo. The parallels are uncanny, if you think about it.

Author:  The Veidt Method [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

Whimper wrote:
Yojimbo: a film. Has some characters, and they do some stuff. There are also some plot elements- things that happen in the story. Sorry if I'm being vague.

Watchmen: also a film. Note that it also has characters, who do things. This has plot elements in its story too, just like Yojimbo. The parallels are uncanny, if you think about it.

Dear God! :o

Author:  Yojimbo [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

For Whimper: The obviously deep thought you put into your response aside, I left my post deliberately vague in order to allow others to post without possibly coloring their answers with my opinions. You'll also notice that I am talking about the stories, not the movies themselves. Thus this was posted in the Talk about the GN forum instead of the Movie forum.

Watchmen is a spiritual descendant of Red Harvest and Yojimbo in that each story took its particular genre and turned it on its head (superhero, detective, and samurai fiction respectively). (Btw, Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett, is a fairly quick and interesting read and is probably the most likely of the three to be currently available at your local library.)

For Whittaker: As far as the characters, I was going for more specific similarities for each, and in different ways.

Rorschach: Sanjuro is slovenly and unshaven, roaming around with a toothpick in his mouth (not really your standard ronin), similar to Rorschach's lack of personal hygiene. Kurosawa asked Mifune to play Sanjuro as if he were a dog or wolf, which I see as very similar to Rorschach's 'dogged' pursuit of his prey. While he doesn't wear a mask, Sanjuro is as feared by the rest of the village as Rorschach is by the inhabitants of New York City, especially the criminal element. Each has his own relatively inflexible code, though Sanjuro's is more relaxed than you'd expect from bushido.

Ozymandias: He is the puppetmaster in Watchmen, just as Sanjuro is in Yojimbo, although while Sanjuro plays both ends against the middle, Ozy plays everyone against each other. Both have a specific goal of improving the lot of the people around them, even if the scale of the sacrifice differs. (However, those who meet their ends in Yojimbo almost universally deserve it, where Veidt sacrifices innocents for his 'greater good.')

The Comedian: He's the 'happy killer;' as a matter of fact, about the only time he seems truly at peace is when he's fighting. Sanjuro's life is about fighting. They're both killers for hire. Both seem to have a fatalistic view of the world, although Blake doesn't seem to have much of a goal beyond the fight, where Sanjuro tries to improve the world.
---
Interesting point regarding V/Sanjuro, although I think V is as much about revenge as he is about freeing the people from the tyrannical PM and his government. I also think both are so far beyond their opponents that they never truly fear them. Sanjuro trusts no one in the village, where V has Evey at least (and, eventually, the support of the common man). Also, the people of the village are generally weak-willed and fearful, while the people in V for Vendetta are strong enough to rebel once they're shown the way.

Love the quotes, too, btw. :)

Author:  The Veidt Method [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

Yojimbo wrote:
Watchmen is a spiritual descendant of Red Harvest and Yojimbo in that each story took its particular genre and turned it on its head (superhero, detective, and samurai fiction respectively).

You're describing an entire type of literature. It's called satire.

Author:  Yojimbo [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

The Veidt Method wrote:
Yojimbo wrote:
Watchmen is a spiritual descendant of Red Harvest and Yojimbo in that each story took its particular genre and turned it on its head (superhero, detective, and samurai fiction respectively).

You're describing an entire type of literature. It's called satire.


It's a very specific form of satire, and nowhere near the entire category. The vast majority of modern satire is comedic in intent; none of the three stories I mentioned was done with any comedic purpose so far as I can tell.

Unlike most satires, these stories are oriented directly on the tenets of the genres themselves.

Each is also considered a seminal work in its genre.

Author:  The Veidt Method [ Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

Yojimbo wrote:
The Veidt Method wrote:
Yojimbo wrote:
Watchmen is a spiritual descendant of Red Harvest and Yojimbo in that each story took its particular genre and turned it on its head (superhero, detective, and samurai fiction respectively).

You're describing an entire type of literature. It's called satire.


It's a very specific form of satire, and nowhere near the entire category. The vast majority of modern satire is comedic in intent; none of the three stories I mentioned was done with any comedic purpose so far as I can tell.

Also unlike most satires, these stories are oriented directly on the tenets of the genres themselves.

Watchmen is definitely, to some extent, comedic in purpose. It seeks to point out the flaws and prod the absurdities in the idea of the superhero. Dollar Bill's death? The high levels of homosexuality in the Minutemen? The anecdote about having to pee in your costume? A hero who can't get it up without his costume? The Dr. Manhattan threesome? Veidt's ridiculous creation?

I would honestly say that as a whole, Watchmen is a comedy portrayed through the lens of seriousness. It is supposed to be absurd. It is supposed to be ridiculous and laughable. It is supposed to be nudge-nudge-wink-wink at every turn. The characters themselves acknowledge this. Watchmen is funny, in a strange, serious way.

Author:  Yojimbo [ Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

The Veidt Method wrote:
Watchmen is definitely, to some extent, comedic in purpose. It seeks to point out the flaws and prod the absurdities in the idea of the superhero. Dollar Bill's death? The high levels of homosexuality in the Minutemen? The anecdote about having to pee in your costume? A hero who can't get it up without his costume? The Dr. Manhattan threesome? Veidt's ridiculous creation?

I would honestly say that as a whole, Watchmen is a comedy portrayed through the lens of seriousness. It is supposed to be absurd. It is supposed to be ridiculous and laughable. It is supposed to be nudge-nudge-wink-wink at every turn. The characters themselves acknowledge this. Watchmen is funny, in a strange, serious way.


Just because some of the characters tell jokes doesn't make it a comedy. For theater of the absurd, it sure has a lot of seriousness and violence.

But this thread has been derailed enough. Did you have a comment on the original topic?

Author:  DCR [ Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Thematic parallels between Yojimbo and Watchmen

Hm. I've watched Yojimbo at least as often as I have read Watchmen, and I can see why we who love one also love the other.
I do see Sanjuro's parallels to the Comedian, Ozzy and Rorschach, but... there are many movies out there with parallels like that.

And Sanjuro does save the world (the village), and in the end we don't feel he killed any innocent people by doing so.

Perhaps Veidt should have learned from the ronin...

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