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(Kurôzu zero II) (Japan)

  Publicity Stills of
"Crows Zero II"
(Courtesy of Encore Films)

In Japanese with English & Chinese Subtitles
Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Shun Oguri, Meisa Kuroki, Kaneko Nobuaki, Sosuke Takaoka, Takayuki Yamada, Haruma Miura
RunTime: 2 hrs 13 mins
Released By: Encore Films & GV
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://www.encorefilms.com/

Opening Day: 17 September 2009


Adapted from the outrageous manga by Hiroshi Takahashi, this sequel to CROWS ZERO continues the story of Takiya Genji (Oguri Shun), the son of a powerful yakuza boss who had transferred to the gang-ridden Suzuran All-Boys High School with one goal in mind: unite the school's many, warring gangs under one banner, and prove to his father that he can handle the family business.

However, several months after the events of CROWS ZERO, trouble brews again when thugs known as “The Army of Killers,” from rival high school Hosen Academy threaten Suzuran High aka the ‘School of Crows.’

The ruthless ‘Army of Killers’ is after the blood of an ex-leader of Suzuran High, who is just released from reformatory for killing the leader of Hosen H two years back. Desperate, the wanted man lays low by attempting to join the local Yakuza. A rejuvenated Hosen decides to revenge their former leader’s death on the entire Suzuran school instead, while in-fighting at an increasingly disunited Suzuran High makes them even more susceptible to the Hosen menace. Can Genji and the boys stave off this threat from their greatest rivals yet?

Directed by Takashi Miike, the internationally-prolific and highly controversial Japanese filmmaker, the live-action CROWS franchise is Miike’s most commercially successful work to date. CROWS ZERO II was released in Japan earlier this year with resounding success (the box office for its opening weekend was an astounding 145% of the first installment)!

Movie Review:

There is a revered place in Japanese pop-culture for punks- the equivalent of our local 'ah bengs' or 'pie kias'- epitomized in countless mangas and films. Hiroshi Takahashi’s "Crows Zero" is one such manga, the comic first published in 1981 for eight years in the Shonen Champion magazine and subsequently sold 42 million editions in paperback editions.

Thanks to the rabid fan-base, Takeshi Miike’s "Crows Zero" easily became the controversial director’s biggest box-office hit. That success no doubt paved the way for this sequel, which picks up immediately after the events of the first film. Having defeated the top man Serizawa (Takayuki Yamada), Genji Takaya, the quick-fisted son of a yakuza crime boss, however finds his goal of uniting the disparate factions at Suzuran High School a tougher task than he imagined.

Things get even trickier when a Suzuran alum, the lanky Kawanishi (Shinnosuke Abe), is released from reformatory two years after fatally stabbing the boss of the rival Hosen gang and stumbles back into Suzuran territory while fleeing from Hosen punks thirsty for vengeance. An act of provocation by the volatile Genji upsets the truce between the Suzurans and the Hosens, setting the stage once again for a bloody showdown between the two gangs.

It’s necessary first and foremost to suspend your disbelief to fully appreciate what goes on in "Crows Zero". There are no teachers nor classes over at Suzuran, the walls are filled with graffiti and how well you survive in school or for that matter graduate, really depends on your natural-born ability to fight and your determination to win. Over at this school of punks, honor, dignity and respect are won through good ol’ fisticuffs.

It’s also best if you have at least a smattering of knowledge of the characters in the first film and their relationships with each other, since "Crows Zero 2" is really a continuation of what has been built up in its prequel. That bit of background will do you well in understanding the relationships among the various Suzuran characters- besides Genji and Serizawa, there’s also the dim-witted yet fiercely loyal Makise Takashi (Takahashi Tsutomo), the brilliant schemer Izaki Jun (Takaoka Sousuke), and Genji’s very-beautiful hip-hop singer girlfriend Aizawa Ruka (Kuroki Meisa).

Much of what happens before the climactic fight is really filler that develops from the relationships already established in "Crows Zero", as well as introducing the Hosen punks- their explosive goateed leader Narumi (Nobuaki Kaeko), his laconic Michael Jackson-lookalike fighter Ryo (Go Ayano) and the blond-haired younger brother of their murdered leader Tatsuya Bito (Haruma Miura). Still, director Miike deserves credit for making these new characters instantly distinguishable from the Suzuran gang and building enough story to avoid relegating them to mere cardboard opponents.

Once again, Miike proves his firm grip on the tone of his material. Taken too literally, it is easy for the fantasy world of manga to appear too cartoonish even in a live-action adaptation. But Miike captures perfectly the macho-coolness of his punk characters, never allowing their ultra-serious posturing to descend into caricature. He even manages to inject some well-placed instances of deadpan humour within, and the result is great fun.

But of course, the highlight of "Crows Zero 2" is really the fistfights mano-a-mano. Yet again, Miike doesn’t disappoint- the brawls come fast and furious and packed with ferocity. Unlike "Crows Zero" where the action was more stylized, this sequel keeps the fights realistic to great bone-crunching effect. The final showdown will especially please fans of the manga, as individual characters get their own screen time to show off their unique moves against their well-matched opponents.

Yes, there’s no denying that "Crows Zero 2" is pure fantasy, an ode to that unruly, rebellious id inside every one of us. And what better way to indulge in such temptations and more than "Crows Zero 2", packed with pretty boys, cool posturing and fun ass-kicking scenes. This is one manga adaptation that gets the spirit of its source right and translates it into pure visual energy and velocity.

Movie Rating:

(Pretty boys, cool posturing and fun ass-kicking scenes- "Crows Zero 2" is pure manga fantasy done right)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. Crows Zero (2007)

. Big Bang Juvenile A (2005)

. Three Extremes (2004)

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