Takashi Miike makes a lot of films. A LOT of films. His career has produced everything from childrens’ fairytale movies, to glorified girl-band promotional films to the insane no-holds-barred thrillers for which he is best known. But 2007 saw him score his biggest commercial success to date, outstripping his gun-for-hire work on .

The film in question is Crows: Episode Zero, loosely based on the popular manga Crows by Takahashi Hiroshi that appears in “Monthly Shonen Champion” magazine and boasts a readership of over 30 million. The fact that the movie adaptation was a hit in Japan is hardly surprising.

The other contributing factor is that the movie is actually pretty good! It tells the story of Genji Takaya (Shun Oguri), the son of a yakuza boss, who transfers to Suzuran Boys’ High, the ‘School of Crows’, infamous for being the roughest school around. His reason for transferring is to conquer the school and unit the pupils under him – a mythological achievement even his own father failed in pursuit of.

Arrayed against him is the ‘boss’ of each of five classes, including the feared Tamao Serizawa (Takayuki Yamada), himself looking to control Suzuran. Genji must best or convince each class boss to join his side to try and assemble a gang capable of standing up to Serizawa and his imposing force.

The plot unfurls in an extremely predictable manner, hitting all the comic book bases – right down to the ridiculous haircuts that look like manga characters brought to life. There are the usual loyalty and brotherhood moments you’d expect, not to mention the perfunctory love interest in the form of Ruka Aizawa (Meisa Kuroki), seemingly introduced just to she can be put in peril and require rescue.

Balanced against this, though, are some nice ironic humour touches and, most importantly, some excellent fight sequences. The black-clad combatants kick each other in the chest with regularity, culminating in a massive all-in ruckus in the rain. It is stylised, but invigorating stuff and amidst it all it becomes easy to forgive the cliches.

A solid movie, rather than a spectacular one, Crows: Episode Zero is a crowd-pleasing mainstream effort from Miike – and its success has meant that the sequel is already in production with an April 2009 release date cued up.

Extras:

  • Meet The Characters
  • Behind The Scenes Gallery
  • The Japanese Premiere Screening
  • Production Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Promotional Shots

Available on DVD from Madman Entertainment

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