Minakata Eiji

The news services are reporting that the great comedian, Minakata Eiji, a member of the slapstick team the Chanbara Trio, passed away on February 26, 2010, of cirrhosis of the liver. He was 77. 

Minakata actually started out in real chanbara films at Toei in the 1950s, usually playing the guy who gets cut up. In 1963 he formed the Chanbara Trio with some of the other "kirareyaku" at Toei, including Yamane Shinsuke. Members changed over the years, but their schtick usually involved them running around on stage in samurai attire with Minakata slapping one or another with a huge paper fan (harisen). 

I have a special place in my cinematic heart for Minakata because he played the hitman in Kitano Takeshi's Sonatine (which I will actually be showing at the Athenee Français next week). It's a great role, and also reveals Kitano's genius in casting a comedian as a killer. Minakata appeared closer to home with other Trio members in Kitano's Getting Any?

He was a great performer and will be missed.

Here is the Chanbara Trio doing their version of Kunisada Chuji. Minakata, of course, is the one with the fan.

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