Mishima’s character in the yakuza film “Afraid to Die“ actually dies in the end.
In “Patriotism,” Mishima famously filmed himself going through the motions of hara-kiri four years before he eventually committed suicide in almost exactly the same manner.
In “HitoKiri,” he plays Tanaka Shinbei. When Shinbei’s sword is found at a high official’s assassination scene, he quickly commits seppuku. Given the actor, that’s hardly a spoiler.
As a still, this is one of the most menacing images I’ve ever seen of Mishima.
The film itself seems to be particularly relevant to Mishima’s concerns in 1969, which is when it was filmed. According to IMDB, the film was released February of 1970*, just months before Mishima’s own late November exit.
Hitokiri translates roughly to “manslayer.” The alternate title of the film, Tenchu!, was a battle-cry, meaning “divine punishment.”
Hitokiri is a cinematic retelling of the tale of The Four Hitokiri of the Bakumatsu. These warriors opposed the shogunate and favored the restoration of the Emperor to power. This role was chosen with artful precision. Not only did Mishima’s character commit suicide, but the Four Hitokiri, like Mishima, were supporters of the Emperor. Mishima’s private army, the Tatenokai, were a spiritual army sworn to “shield” the ideal of the Emperor.
Apparently, Mishima also sang the film’s theme song (!!?!?!). I’m working on that…
Review of Hitokiri on Midnight Eye
Review of Hitokiri on Movie Feast
Review of Hitokiri on Lard Biscuit Enterprises
* At least in the USA. I was unable to find a Japanese release date, but it couldn’t have been much sooner if the film was produced in 1969.
h/t the Werwolf Ensemble guys, who told me about this film.