Opening 16 Jul 2015
Twenty-three clans rule the streets of Tokyo. The most brutal are the Bukuro Wu-Ronz under their leader Merra (good-looking blond Ryōhei Suzuku) and the Buppa Town gangster under Yakuza Buppa (Riki Takeuchi) and his rather feminine son, Nkoi (Yōsuke Kubozuka). Their attempts to control the city dissolve when Merra kills Tara, a member of the Musashino Saru clan. In retaliation the remaining 21 clans such as the Gira Gira Girls, the Shibuya-Saru, the Shinjuku-Hands and the Musashino Saru join forces and seek revenge for this death.
This is basically the storyline, but there is much more to the film. Based on a Manga comic Tokyo Tribes Part II, which was then turned into a 13-part TV series in 2006, director Sono has made a rap musical. Sometimes described as a rap opera, the music is ever present. There is no straight-forward text, just rhymes, all in Japanese (with subtitles), which move the action forward, accompanied by exhibits of physical strength in the form of martial arts. Japanese seems quite suitable for rap, even to those who do not know the language. It’s the overall impression that counts. There is the occasional English “Mickey Mouse” or “suckers” or swear words that rhyme with “sucker.” The clock ticks on the screen, so that we know what happens at 23:21 or at 2:11, all in a single night. This film has played successfully in many film festivals including Toronto, Rotterdam and London. Director Sono has a long history of films since 1986, including Strange Circus and Love Exposure, which won prizes at the Berlinale in 2006 and 2009 respectively. This is definitely interesting for anyone interested in rap or Japanese or just something different from the usual film fare. (Becky Tan)