It is in her nature to resist, to defy what is expected of her, first in allowing herself to be seduced by an employee of her father, then in suggesting to him that they should run away together to be married while her parents are away, threatening to throw herself from a bridge should he not conform to her will, so it should be no surprise to the men who kidnap her that she should resist.

Sold out by the man they went to for shelter to brothel owner Tokubei who says he will make her “the finest geisha” in Fukigawa first she is presented to tattoo artist Seikichi who uses her perfect skin as a canvas for his art, creating upon her a vampiric golden orb-weaving spider.

Forever marked and shamed, Otsuya cannot go back to her old life, the spider her downfall and her power, the woman who was once barefoot and carefree in the snow now manipulating the men who would control her, setting them against each other, killing them without ever taking hold of the sword herself: “I can only live by feeding on man.”

Based on the short story by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki published in his 1910 collection Shisei (刺青), Irezumi (入れ墨), “Tattoo,” was adapted by Onibaba‘s Kaneto Shindô and directed by Yasuzô Masumura, a carefully crafted and inevitably tragic piece set during the Edo period from a director more associated with contemporary Japanese drama and satire such as Giants and Toys, A Wife Confesses and Black Test Car which draws on aspects of Kabuki theatre in its themes and presentation.

Originally released in Japan in early 1966 and now presented in a new 4K scan for Blu-ray for Arrow, Masumura’s frequent collaborator Ayako Wakao of An Actor’s Revenge is Otsuya, the cursed and vengeful seductress who adapts and makes every situation work to her advantage, turning her inked back on any notion of a respectable woman of Japanese society.

Irezumi described by Japanese cinema scholar David Desser as “a deceptively elliptical thriller” in his commentary, Arrow’s new edition also contains an introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns and visual essay by scholar Daisuke Miyao focusing on the technical aspects of “clarity and contrast” achieved by cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa who had previously worked with Akira Kurosawa on Rashomon.

Irezumi will be available on Blu-ray from Arrow from Monday 21st June



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