Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa
Cast: Takumi Kitamura, Yuki Yamada, Yosuke Sugino, Mio Imada, Nobuyuki Suzuki, Gordon Maeda, Hiroya Shimizu, Hayato Isomura, Shotaro Mamiya, Ryo Yoshizawa
Runtime: 2 hrs
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence & Nudity)
Released By: Encore Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 21 October 2021
Synopsis: Takemichi Hanagaki leads a dead-end life in a run-down apartment while working part-time at a job for a younger manager who treats him like an idiot. Then one day, he learns that a girl he used to date during his hooligan days in middle school, Hinata Tachibana, and her brother, Naoto, have been murdered by the Kanto area’s most villainous hoodlums, Tokyo Manji. The very next day, Takemichi is standing on a train platform when he is suddenly pushed onto the tracks. But instead of dying, Takemichi is transported ten years into the past where he is reunited with Hinata’s younger brother, Naoto. “10 years from now, Hinata and you will be killed” he tells Naoto, thus altering the future. Hinata still doesn’t survive, but Naoto does, becoming a police detective. Returning to the present day, Takemichi recruits Naoto’s help in returning to the past to crush Tokyo Manji and save his Hinata’s life once and for all. All Takemichi needs to do to travel through time is to shake hands with Naoto in either the present or the past. But to save Hinata and break free from a life of running away, Takemichi must take on Kanto’s most powerful syndicate, the Tokyo Manji gang!
Tokyo Revengers is a live-action adaptation of an ongoing popular manga series of the same name which started in 2017, and has since accumulated 10 million copies in sales. Though published in a weekly manga magazine targeted at males, the manga series is also well loved by the female audience for its cool characters, interesting story and character development. The story centres on Hanagaki Takemichi (played by Kitamura Takumi), a freeter in his 20s who leapt back in time after being pushed onto the train tracks, on the same day he learnt that his highschool sweetheart and her brother got killed by a Tokyo Manji gang, the strongest anti-social syndicate group in Kanto. As the same happenings start to replay in his ‘past’, Takemichi discovers that he holds the power to undo things in the ‘past’ such that undesirable outcomes can be avoided in his ‘present’. Once convinced that he’s a good-for-nothing, Takemichi decides to toughen himself up to impact the change that only he can.
Delinquents, time leap, sci-fi, brotherhood and romance. Who would have known that these elements would stand a chance to work so well together? The time paradox, the ‘device’ of how Takemichi time travels, the character development of each character are definitely strong points and what makes the story interesting. The movie stayed true to the narrative of the manga, and did an incredibly great job in telling the story within the runtime of the movie. Seeing how the characters’ costumes, hairstyles and setting come to life on screen so accurately definitely gives you goosebumps. The dedication from both the cast and production team in reproducing the Tokyo Revengers world on screen was admirable. Take for instance, to retain the fact that Draken is a character who is tall in build and towers over the rest, Yamada Yuki wore 15cm insoles for the entire film, including all the fight scenes. He never once complained, nor showed fatigue at the filming set. He’s also a fan of the manga series, and insisted that he use his own hair to cut and dye in the same hairstyle as Draken, instead of wig/costume.
This movie also shows that the hard work of the staff forms an important backbone of the film, and sets up the film for win. The producer of the movie, Okada Shota, is a fan of the original manga series and started with the vision of having this iconic work of this generation adapted for the screen. The cast was an assembly of the faces representative of the emerging generation, who not only had the looks, but had substance in acting. For instance, even the director was impressed with the way Kitamura iterated his role of Takemichi. Borrowing the words from the director, “Just by the way Kitamura-kun pours his enthusiasm into the role of Takemichi, it’s something worth watching for 2 hours.”
Further on casting, the production team also saw eye-to-eye and felt no one else other than Yoshizawa Ryo suited the role that’s idolised and admired by many. Producer Okada even commented to say if Yoshizawa Ryo were to turn down the offer of Mikey, it might put a setback to this entire Tokyo Revengers movie project. That was how strong the vision he had in casting right Takemichi, Mikey and Draken. Also for the only rose among the thorns, Imada Mio was casted as Tachibana Hinata. Exactly like what the producer aimed for, in picking out a person who is an influencer and fashion icon among young girls. Her likeability and cuteness definitely doesn’t lose out to any of the other eye candies on screen.
In terms of the action choreography, the gang fights were done right too. Oftentimes, ‘mass fight’ might mean ‘mess fight’. However, for the action sequences in Tokyo Revengers, there are so many exciting things happening on screen, it’d make you wish to have expanded peripheral vision to take in every single detail!! The action choreographer and director is helmed by veteran Morokaji Yuta, who has been involved in a great range of works, spanning from movies, drama series and stage plays, including long-running stage play Endless SHOCK (2004 - 2018), Takizawa Kabuki (2012, 2014 & 2020). After working with Yoshizawa Ryo on Tokyo Revengers, he also worked with Yoshizawa Ryo on this year’s NHK Taiga drama series (historical drama), ‘Reach Beyond the Blue Sky’. The flexibility and agility of each actor was key in bringing out the action as well. In particular, the scene towards the end involving Takemichi and Kiyomasa was particularly exhilarating. It will surely keep you at the edge of your seat, while you watch the action and story unfold.
All in all, there is practically nothing one could nitpick on Tokyo Revengers. There are plenty of reasons why Tokyo Revengers is the highest grossing live action movie of 2021 in Japan. The pace of the movie was good, entertaining from the start till end, and it was enjoyable for both manga fans and non-fans alike. The wicked mix of great casting, eye candies, incredible vision, strong narrative and exciting sequences all contributed to propelling it to achieving JPY 700 million in box office sales within 3 days. Though the filming of this movie got interrupted twice because of the state of emergency declarations in Tokyo since March 2020, these setbacks didn’t deter it from emerging strong, much like Takemichi.
(You will have at least one takeaway from the movie: one does not need to be the strongest in order to change your destiny)
Review by Tho Shu Ling