Director Sion Sono has come up with his most ingenious film yet: a Warriors-esque action film done as a rap action musical that has so many insane moments that you will not want to take your eyes off the screen.
Tokyo has split into many areas, each run by a different gang. The gangs that control the areas are the Shinjuku Hands, the Shibuya Saru, the Kabuchicho Gira Gira Girls, the Nerima Muthaf**kaz, the Bukuro Wu-Ronz, and the peaceful Musashino Saru. The Bukuno Wu-Ronz are led by the insane Mera, who has joined forces with the insane Buppa, a sadistic gangster whose family is practically as insane as he is. The reason for this alliance? To wage war on the Musashino Gang, who are considered the “peacekeepers” of the Tokyo Tribes.
Mera has a personal grudge against Musashino member Kai, this really giving him the motivation to start a war. Buppa sends his gang, the Waru, to wreak havoc on the Tokyo Tribes when they learn that Buppa’s boss, the High Priest, has warned Buppa that Erika, the priest’s daughter, is missing and is somewhere in Tokyo. The High Priest wants to sacrifice her to become the “Devil of Asia” because she is a virgin. However, Erika disguises herself as Sunmi, a call girl who plans to destroy Buppa. When Kai saves her from Mera, whose attempt to kill him results in the death of best friend Tera, the other Tribes decide the only way to stop Mera and Buppa is to unite all the other tribes in a showdown to end all showdowns.
Sion Sono is definitely a filmmaker whose work can be said to be quite interesting. One must respect him for not caring what the haters say and make the movies he wants to make. Perhaps more known for horror films and films filled with teen angst perhaps, this film truly takes the cake as to what he wanted to do. Based on a popular manga by Santa Inoue (who appears in the film, showing his support to the filmmakers), Sono came up with something ingenious to appeal to not only his audiences of his work, but perhaps those who are looking for something different.
The idea in mind? Make the film a rap action musical with throwing in virtually so much madness that it will make you not want to keep your eyes off the screen. That’s right. Most of the dialogue in the film is performed in rap form. While there have been strange musicals such as the 1975 cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show and the introduction of South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Cannibal! The Musical, the rap approach in this film is something fresh and inviting. Even more surprising, it works? We even get a bit of some narration from the character of MC Show, played by Shota Sometani, who is introduced in a five-minute long take that opens the film. This film truly has it all: human furniture (not in the way you would think either), random places to see the main villain in a thong, swordfighting, capoeira, exciting martial arts action, shots of excessive nudity, and a literal wheel of death! One seriously needs to just not take anything serious when seeing this film and just enjoy the ride.
The cast truly embraces the craziness of the film. A combination of actors and musicians make up this eclectic cast. The main villain Mera is played by Ryohei Suzuki, who played Ryu Nakagawa in the live action adaptation of Gatchaman. Suzuki truly absorbs the madness as the sex-crazed, manically violent Mera, leader of the Bukuro Wu-Ronz. When you hear why he has this personal grudge with our hero Kai, you will ask one simple little question: Are you really (censored) serious? The answer is a resounding yes! As for the hero Kai, who unites all the other tribes, musician Young Dais makes a very good film debut performance as someone who just wants to keep the peace like his fellow Saru member Tera, who can be compared to perhaps the character of Cyrus in The Warriors, a respectable gangster who was the peacekeeper who all the other tribes befriended. Riki Takeuchi shows perhaps the most demented he ever displayed on screen as warlord gangster Buppa, who pretty much can be compared to Scarface. There is even a reference to the famous film where he has a globe where instead of the saying “The World is Yours”, it’s a retaliatory statement: F**k Da World!
The final half-hour is the all out showdown, but even before that, the film has some exciting action and stunt sequences that are in a word, wild! The high priest’s two henchman are a trickster martial artist named Kemakachi and a very burly African-American who feels no pain and just can send his adversary flying with even just a flick. One of Buppa’s enforcers is played by Japanese wrestler Yoshihiro Takeyama. Nana Seino pulls off some pretty nifty kicks as Erika, but it’s her sidekick Yon who really steals the fight scenes with his amazing capoeira skills. The action choreographer, Toshirô Takuma, did a great job with the action. And for those who will want to know, Takuma goes by another name familiar with Japanese action films: Tak Sakaguchi of Versus and the upcoming Re:Born.
In conclusion, Tokyo Tribe is perhaps the wackiest film this reviewer has ever seen, but that is meant in the best way possible. The combination of rap dialogue, Japanese madness, and insane action truly makes this a more than worthy viewing! As a matter of fact, this is definitely worth buying for one’s collection! Sion Sono really did it this time and as a film geek, I am proud to have seen this!
WFG RATING: A+
Nikkatsu presents a Django Film production in association with From First Production Co. Director: Sion Sono. Producers: Yoshinori Chiba and Nobuhiro Iizuka. Writer: Sion Sono; based on the original manga by Santa Inoue. Cinematography: Daisuke Sôma. Editing: Junichi Itô.
Cast: Ryohei Suzuki, Young Dais, Riki Takeuchi, Nana Seino, Shunsuke Daito, Shota Sometani, Yosuke Kubozuka, Shoko Nakagawa, Yui Ichikawa, Denden, Takuya Ishida, Ryuta Sato, Joey Beni.