- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Tokyo Tribe

| August 19, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Tokyo Tribe.

This film is insane. The film has so much going for it that it is hard not to enjoy this film. Sure you might walk away from the film not knowing really what happened. But god damn, will you enjoy watching this film unfold. I’m not really sure how to launch into this review so I will say this upfront, this is unlike any film you have probably ever seen. But that might not be a good thing.

Tokyo Tribe is a Japanese action film from director Sion Sono. Sono is previously known for Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, another action film, and Love Exposure, a bizarre romance film. This film fits into that bizarre culture that he has established in his previous films, but this film is balls-to-the-wall insane. Tokyo Tribe, or known in Japan as Tokyo Tribes2, is based on a long time established manga/anime called Tokyo Tribes2. I didn’t know this going into the film, but when I found this out, it didn’t surprise me in the least. The action and the comedy are very similar to the kind you would see in a basic action anime. The impressiveness of the film comes from the fact that it captures anime action violence, in a live action film. This film has some of the best stunt work I have seen in a film in a very long time. If you are tempted to see this film, I would check it out for the fight choreography and stunt work alone.

Tokyo Tribe follows the lives of various people living in a near future Tokyo. At this point in time, gang activity has taken over the city and has split the city into four major gangs, or “tribes”. As tension rises, and residence of the city start sticking their noses into areas where they don’t belong, all out warfare starts to break out between the tribes causing all out destruction and chaos. I went into this film pretty much blind. The poster intrigued me enough to want to check it out. The big thing that I didn’t know about the film before watching it is that it is straight up a musical. This is a Japanese gang violence musical. There are very few moments in the film where the characters aren’t singing. To be clear, the music is almost all rap, so if you don’t consider that music I hope the early 90s are treating you well. So on top of all the craziness that is the action, there is also random rap and hip-hop thrown into the mix. Like I said, this is unlike any film you will probably ever see.

The production design and wardrobe department also shine in this film. There are approximately a thousand characters in this film. For the most part, each one of them has a distinct style and I didn’t really have any problem distinguishing who was who. Some of the characters serve no purpose, but we’ll get to that later. The film really sets up this world of a near future Japan really well. I can’t imagine how expensive this film was to make because it looks like everything was a built set. The neon street lights were beautiful. The interior of each gang’s hideout was gorgeous. This film puts every action film in the US to shame. On top of having better action than almost every US Action film I’ve seen, the attention to detail in the film is uncanny and makes every US Action look lazy. This is without getting into the design of each of the characters. The main antagonist is named Mera and his design in his clothing made him one of my favorite characters in the film and possible one of the more interesting characters I’ve seen in a film in a long time.

From that let’s talk about the acting. I’ve seen a couple films that are adaptations of anime or manga to a live action medium. Some ranging from absolutely horrendous to something like this film. If you want another Anime based live action film to watch, check out Joker Game from 2015. It is equally over-the-top but is more spy and thriller than this film. That is this film’s second biggest problem, though. If you don’t want an over the top film, this isn’t for you. The ending of this film is so silly that I can see it undermining the rest of the film for some people. I won’t say exactly what the ending is, but I would say it fits the overall tone of the film even if it is the stupidest thing I have seen on screen in a very long time. Like I said the character of Mera, who is played by Ryokei Suzuki, completely steals every scene he is in. He is over the top when the story allows such, but can dial it down to be threatening in times when it is needed. Everyone else in the film stays at eleven for the entire film. But Suzuki manages to have a range of emotions and levels in the film. Another major issue of the film is that the entire film, for the most part, is told through rap and hip-hop. But a majority of the actors in the film are god awful rappers. There were multiple parts in the film where the singing/rapping parts of the film felt like a middle-school choir recital. It felt more like they were saying the lyrics rather than singing/rapping them. The main characters are fairly good at this portion, it is just when you get the minor characters in there and you see that not everyone should be part of this musical number.

I was saving this for last, because this is honestly the only real downfall of the film in my mind. The film is based on a manga and anime. I haven’t seen the previous material and the film really relies that you have read the manga or watched the anime. There are a ton of characters in this film that I’m sure are fan favorites, but just feel like they are shoehorned in. These are characters that I’m sure serve more as fan service than anything else. The problem is that I’m not a fan. So I’m trying to figure out how this guy fits into this story, when really he is only there to be badass. This happens so often in the film that I didn’t really know what the story of the film was until a couple hours after the film ended. If you just follow the character who ends up being the main character and what he is trying to do, the film is probably around twenty-five minutes long. It is every other character in the film that really isn’t needed that makes this a two hour long film.

I very much enjoyed this film, even if there were a good amount of problems. I would recommend it, but it should also be known as a Transformers type film. This is a film where if you don’t care about the plot or the story or the characters, you will have a much better time. But if you tend to focus on those aspects, it might make it harder to enjoy. So like I said at the beginning of this review you will probably have a fun time watching this film, but you won’t know what you watched until your brain is able to decipher everything that just happened. And when you do that, you might end up realizing the film wasn’t as good as you hoped it would be.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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