‘Retribution’: Kiyoshi Kurosawa and the Karma of Crimes Committed and Forgotten


Image credit: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

It’s commonplace, especially in movies, for serial killers to be characterized by the types of persons they target and the method with which they kill, creating a profile that’s complete with “signatures.” However, how does one make sense out of a series of murders, which indicate a serial killer, yet the evidence ultimately leads to different suspects? In Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2006 film Retribution, Detective Yoshioka Noboru (played by Yakusho Koji) is on the case of an unknown woman in red (Hazuki Riona) who was drowned in sea water. Moreover, other murders are committed in the same manner, as the killer has gone out of his or her way to drown their victims in salty water, leaving them face-down. Eventually, Detective Yoshioka and his partner, Miyaji Toru (played by Ihara Tsuyoshi), are led to a doctor (Nakamura Ikuji) who’s killed his son (Satô Takahiro) and an office worker (Okunuki Kaoru) who’s killed her boss (Nomura Hironobu). What Yoshioka is struck by is the latter individuals’ mutual explanation that they wanted to “wipe their lives clean.”


Image credit: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Retribution is more than a murder mystery. It’s also a ghost story. The woman in red is apparently haunting Yoshioka, but why? Is she a restless ghost who needs her killer found in order to find peace? Or is she after something else? Yoshioka’s confusion about why the woman in red is troubling him slowly metamorphoses into neurosis as clues about the murder, such as a missing coat button, start are pointing at him. Compelled by the murders, the woman in red (labeled “F-18” by the medical examiner, played by Muraki Jin), and his conscience, Yoshioka is on a personal quest to solve the deeper mystery behind the killing. Will finding her killer finally relieve Yoshioka of his tormenter or will he discover something far worse? Retribution is a gritty portrayal of what happens when otherwise ordinary people are afflicted with a despair that turns them into killers. It’s also a portrayal of what happens when the killer’s or killers’ reality becomes Yoshioka’s. Only when he remembers what he saw when he rode a ferry by a mysterious black building years ago will Yoshioka understand what’s happening to him and who he really is.



Image credits: Kiyoshi Kurosawa



  1. areaderofliterature · August 23, 2015

    I love both the Japanese detective genre and ghost stories, so this seems like a perfect fit for. Is this movie hard to come by?

    I get what you mean by serial killers having a “signature.” Take a look at shows like Criminal Minds and the like. It’s a cliché at this point.


    • pima1963 · August 23, 2015

      I’m glad to know that you like Japanese movies so much, especially ghost and detective stories. As for ‘Retribution’, I purchased it from Amazon instant video. However, it’s available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ucIHA6hN_4 Hopefully, this is viewable where you live. Thank you for the recommendation, by the way. I’ll take a look at ‘Criminal Minds’. I’m also a fan of the French crime drama ‘Engrenages’ (‘Spirals’).


      • areaderofliterature · August 23, 2015

        You must love Japanese movies. Your blog is littered with reviews of them. I’m off to have a look at the titles that look interesting.

        Thank you for checking for me! Youtube is indeed available in Indonesia.

        Criminal Minds is a pretty formulaic American crime drama. I think it’s on its ninth or tenth season now.


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