Toson Shimazaki's 1906 novel Hakai was a pioneering piece of social realism tackling the thorny issue of the burakumin, the descendants of feudal era 'untouchables' who remained on the very lowest rung of the Japanese caste system, subject to virulent prejudice and virtual apartheid. The protagonist, Raizo Ichikawa, refuses to accept his lot in life, and, bound by his father's dying wish that he conceal his lowly beginnings, takes a job as a teacher in a regular school. Still, the example of a famous burakumin writer and activist makes him consider that his people's lot will not be improved by such subterfuge, and he becomes consumed by a desire to confess his true identity. Brooding b/w camerawork gives due weight to the proceedings, as Ichikawa turns the screws on this agonising dilemma. Dedicated performances and Wada's lucid screenplay are the load-bearing beams, as it were, but Ichikawa's expressive imagery makes the difference between worthy social drama and a close to unforgettable piece of cinema. To begin, a doomed black bull with a tear in its eye exemplifying dignity in the face of overwhelming odds; to close, a blanket of snow on the film's final act obliterating the landscape of memory.