This is a man's world and Takashi Miike is leading the charge. That’s what we said after the release of Crows Zero, Miike’s loony tune adaptation of Takahashi Hiroshi’s best-selling manga, Crows. Miike had plenty of fun with the homoerotic nature of the story - it amounts to little more than good-looking guys wooing each other with elevated parades of machismo - but he kept it from getting too camp with regular bouts of adrenaline pumping action. Considering how many fight sequences there were, Crows Zero never got tiresome or tedious, thanks in large to stylish warfare, blazing fight choreography and the occasional juvenile gag. Cocksure and action packed, Crows Zero 2 promises more of the same, and for better or worse, that’s exactly what you get.
It’s business as usual for the students at Suzuran High. Oguri Shun returns as Takaya Genji, packing a punch alongside Yamada Takayuki, his main rival from the first film. The school reunion is completed by – among others – Takaoka Sosuke, Kiritani Kenta, Kamiji Yusuke and Kuroki Meisa. Some new additions have been made to the cast, with Miura Haruma (Gokusen), Abe Shinnosuke (The Sword of Alexander), and Kaneko Nobuaki (Be-Bop High School) transferring for the new academic year. Crows Zero 2 makes its debut on R2 DVD this month courtesy of MVM Entertainment.
Genji (Oguri Shun) is leading the charge at Suzuran High after defeating Serizawa (Yamada Takayuki), but there’s little chance of peace and unity coming his way. Suzuran's rivalry with Hosen Academy kicks off again when a former Suzuran classmate (Abe Shinnosuke) - who knifed a Hosen student to death two years previously - is released from jail. Hosen's leader Taiga (Kaneko Nobuaki) is out for revenge, and when Genji sparks the match that lights the fire, all hell breaks loose between the warring factions. It's all-out warfare all over again; with a little bit of toilet humour thrown in for good/bad measure, and Genji has an uphill struggle on his hands if he’s going to get his grades. In order to defeat the relentless wave of Hosen brawlers, he must first unite a divided Suzuran army, and that may prove to be the biggest challenge of all.
Takashi Miike doesn’t exactly raise the bar with Crows Zero 2, but some would say he doesn’t need to. With the exception of some welcome additions to the cast – Nobuaki Kaneko and Gou Ayano are particular highlights – Miike has delivered more of what made the first film so appealing. The action sequences are orchestrated with relish, the homoerotic tendencies are still in place, and the cast members are way too good looking for one movie alone. Which is probably why Miike saw fit to make two identical pictures. Drama is largely overlooked in favour of pretty boy posturing and the film ends on a delirious high note, with the students doing battle in every classroom and every corridor. The final showdown encapsulates all that is good about this manga adaptation, allowing little time to dwell on the negative aspects of either production.
Takashi Miike has delivered another stylish crowd pleaser, sure to strike a chord with fans of heroic bloodshed, honour, sweat and beautiful people. It’s essentially regurgitation for the masses – albeit a lot less original and a little less fun – so you’ll already know who’s corner you’re standing in. Crows Zero 2 doesn’t hit as hard this time out, but with Takashi Miike calling the shots, there’s little chance of it going down without a fight. AW