The Emperor and the Wolf


I recently finished reading a massive book on the lives of both Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune entitled, “The Emperor and the Wolf.” I wasn’t very well versed in either’s work, so I downloaded and watched a bunch of their films as I read. The book’s timeline is in chronilogical order, and covers what each artist was up to at every stage of their careers. So it was nice to be able to watch the film in that order as well. What an education!

This book is huge. Certainly the biggest book I’ve read (minus a certain Tolkien tale). Yes, a lot of the book could have been ommitted, in fact most of it could. But then it wouldn’t be the ultimate Mifune/Kurosawa resource, and I wouldn’t be posting about it. It would be just another book on Kurosawa or Mifune, and unlikely both.  Weighing in at around 800 pages, one might ask themselves if it’s worth the read. To which I scream, “Yes!”. But it’s unlikely I’ll read it again so I’m selling mine on Amazon (mine’s the cheapest one at $52). This book has become something of a rarity, with new copies commanding several hundred dollars. Buy it used! Buy mine!

Every fact imaginable on the pair of cinematic legends is presented in this book. The author spent around a decade travelling around the world, conducting interviews, and doing research for this book. Something tells me it could have ended up ever larger than it did. Highlights for me were how Kurosawa came up in the Toho studio system, how Mifune was discovered by chance, and how each artist flowered when in the presence of the other. Other highlights include: family issues, threats from fans, drinking problems, ego problems, etc. I didn’t get a chance to watch a lot of Mifune’s films that weren’t directed by Kurosawa, so that’s next on my list.