Kiyoshi Atsumi holds the world record for starring in the most movies that feature the same character.  He portrayed the loveable loser Torajiro Kuruma in 48 films that were produced by Shochiku Studios between 1969 and 1995.  Now AnimEigo plans to begin releasing the Tora-San movies here in the states with a boxed set of four films, the Tora-San Collector’s Set Vol.1, that is due this November.


The hapless hero of the Tora-San series is a traveling salesman who visits a different area of Japan in every film.  He invariably meets a beautiful young girl and promises to help her if she ever comes to Tokyo.  When the girl shows up, Tora-san quickly falls in love, but his shy efforts to help the damsel in distress always end up with the girl falling for somebody else.


Forty-six of the Tora-San films were directed by Yoji Yamada, who also wrote every film in the series.  Yamada, who directed the Oscar-nominated film The Twilight Samurai, managed to invest the Tora-San movies with a quiet humanity that made the films about the kind-hearted vagabond, which are known in Japan as Otoko wa Tsurai yo (literally “It’s tough being a man.”), resonate with Japanese audiences.  Extending as they do over four decades, the Tora-San movies also provide an unparalleled panorama of postwar Japan as well as deep insights into the Japanese character.


The Tora-San movies were so popular with Japanese audiences that they inspired a live-action TV series as well as a TV anime and a statue of Tora-san, which stands, suitcase in hand, in front of the Shibamata station in Tokyo.