Movie Smackdown (Part 1): Crows Zero (2007 & 2009) vs. Volcano High (2001)

Battlefield High School

Part One: Counting Crows, Feuding Foes

by Ender’s Girl

A murder of Crows, a violent eruption of teen superpowers… and oh yes, those epic dogfights in the pelting rain and churning mud. Get a taste of high school action, J- and K-style.

Love is a battlefield, as Pat Benatar lustily declared in her 1983 song. Planet Earth is one too, according to John Travolta’s alien Psychlo character from his 2000 intergalactic flop.

Aaaand… so is high school, apparently – a premise that has spawned an entire genre of teen action comedy/dramedy on screens big and small. You need only transplant the barroom brawling and gangsta-mongering from mainstream action flicks into the tamer, more innocuous environs of an educational institution, and voila! – Battlefield High School.

The fact that these stories are set on a high school campus lends a patina of harmlessness to the violent scenarios — even though the plot actually has less to do with academics than with a bunch of overgrown kids fond of rearranging each others’ faces and dislocating random body parts as their after-school routine. To describe these types of productions (most rating not lower than PG-15 or its equivalent) as being “about high school life” is like saying that Titanic was about the, um, iceberg. The school setting isn’t really the point; films like these get made so that teen audiences — ah, those intense little creatures! — can live out their aggressive, hormone-fueled fantasies that continually chafe (futilely, it seems to them) against the carefully imposed strictures of a traditionalistic, “adults rule” society.

Korean director Kim Tae-gyun and Japanese filmmaker Miike Takashi tender two alternate interpretations of this proposition with Volcano High and the Crows Zeros, respectively — all diverting, popcorn-friendly fare, but each bearing the unique and heavily stylized stamp of its maker.

Crows Zero & Crows Zero II

The Cast:
Oguri Shun, Yamada Takayuki, Yabe Kyosuke, Kiritani Kenta, Takaoka Sousuke, Kaneko Nobuaki, Miura Haruma

Directed by Miike Takashi / Toho Company, 2007 & 2009

In a Nutshell:
Senior toughie Takiya Genji transfers to the notoriously lawless Suzuran All-Boys’ High School. His mission? To vanquish the rival student gangs one by one and earn the title of Suzuran’s top dog – er, crow – and thus prove to his yakuza boss of a father that he has what it takes to inherit the family business. The biggest obstacle to Genji’s mission happens to be Suzuran’s strongest and most dangerous punk Serizawa Tamao and his head-bashing posse of high school hoods.

(SpoilLert: Moderately spoilery.)

Looks like we’ve come to one crazy school.”
– “Squid Head,” Suzuran High freshman

Drawing from the same cosmos as the immensely popular comics “Crows” and “Worst” by Takashi Hiroshi, the Crows Zero films unapologetically eschew the conventional fixtures of high school life – the classes, books, and teachers’ dirty looks, lol – for a combined four-hour slugfest in the mucky fields and graffitied corridors of the Serizawa All-Boys’ High School. The violence in both Crows Zeros is almost bacchanalian, each scene a “wild rumpus” among hot-blooded male youths determined to take the term “school spirit” to a whole new level.

The characters revel in the mutual hostilities with a casualness that will turn off — nauseate, even — viewers unaccustomed to director Miike’s ultra-violent style and wicked sense of humor: in one scene on the baseball field, a player swings his bat a bit too vigorously and accidentally bashes a teammate’s skull, a mishap that elicits no more than a flippant “Oops, my bad” reaction from the offending party. In another scene, Oguri Shun’s character, while learning to play darts with his new buddies, inadvertently lands one of his little projectiles in the dead center of another student’s forehead. Shun pauses in mild surprise — then nonchalantly turns away while the boy crumples cartoonishly to the floor, the dart sticking from his brow. Ouchy.

Not only is the violence in Crows Zero blithely brutal and untrammeled by morals or conscience (for the Suzuran delinquents seem to have none), but the fight sequences occur with a length and frequency that brook no debate about Miike’s not-so-ulterior motives as director. Apparently the word “restraint” is not in his vocabulary, and here he makes no bones about Suzuran High’s internecine battles being THE centerpiece and definitive aspect of these two films, up, up and above the more conventional elements of — oh you know, storytelling and character development. The plot is structured around the fights and not the other way around, so the end result is a chain of testosteroney brawls strung together by a marginally interesting story sorely lacking in sustaining power.

From a narrative point of view, Crows Zero feels like one long-drawn-out video game where Oguri Shun’s character Takiya Genji, in his bid to “conquer” Suzuran as he promised his old man he would, “levels up” from one student faction to the next until he finally squares off with the school’s baddest-ass gang leader Serizawa Tamao (Yamada Takayuki) and his cadre of goons. At first Genji assumes that he can defeat the mercurial Serizawa on his first day at school and have it done with by lunch break, but he realizes that in spite of the anarchy at his new school, there is a strange governing hierarchy and unspoken code of honor that everyone inexplicably adheres to: one has to earn the right to challenge an alpha like Serizawa by first vanquishing the lower-tier gangs – or groups that are younger or have already been defeated by the stronger factions.

You soon realize why Suzuran High has earned the moniker “a school of crows” – and it isn’t just for the black school blazers and spiky-plumed hair that the students sport. Beyond the punky fashion the boys of Suzuran High are most like their corvid counterparts in their distinct patterns of social behavior, crows being intelligent and highly territorial birds that live in tight-knit community groups – or warring factions, if you will. Crows are also observed to be more aggressive than their cousins the ravens, often encroaching on and even invading other groups’ breeding ranges – features that make this analogy perfect for the studentry of Suzuran High.

The Tale of Genji

So after learning the lay of the land, Genji attempts to systematically win the allegiance of the heads of the various gangs, a lone general in search of an army to call his own. He can anticipate the final showdown to be with none less than Serizawa Tamao, and knows that it will all boil down to a numbers game between his men and Serizawa’s. Thus, Genji needs allies – soon. He meets an unlikely mentor in Katagiri Ken (Yabe Kyosuke), a buffoonish, underachieving local yakuza who takes a shine to Genji after the strapping senior handily whups Ken’s butt early on in the film. Himself a Suzuran dropout, Ken sees in Genji the school champ he always wanted to be but never could — because he simply wasn’t good enough. So he takes Genji under his wing, so to speak, and helps the boy — er, man really — strategize his plan of attack – often with comical (or trying to be comical) repercussions.

One by one, the heads of the rival gangs capitulate to Genji’s high command, though not without putting up a fight (they wouldn’t have gotten to where they were unless they were that tough, anyway). Genji employs a variety of methods to accomplish this: he uses his brawn to defeat Chuta (Suzunosuke) of Class E, his brains to win over the socially – and sexually – inept Makise (Takahashi Tsutomu), and sheer tenacity to sway the wily blond Izaki (Takaoka Sousuke). With three sections now swearing fealty, Genji’s alliance — bearing the chuckle-worthy, only-in-Japan-LOL name of “Genji’s Perfect Seiha (Succession)” or GPS for short — though untested, seems assured. The only wild card is Bando (Watanabe Dai — yes, Ken’s son), the fiercely independent boss of the biker gang calling themselves The Armored Front (go figger).

Even with the alliance, GPS remains outnumbered by Serizawa’s army 100:70 — and it goes without saying that Serizawa and his men will only budge from the school’s top berth — or perch — over their dead little punky bodies. Serizawa’s deputies are an equally formidable bunch: his BFF and loyal wingman Tokio (Kiritani Kenta), the devious Tokaji (Endo Kaname), the J-reggae mon Shoji (Yusuke Kamiji), even the synchronized Mikami Brothers (who may well be the J-punk version of the detective duo Thompson and Thomson from the “Tintin” comics) — fearless bruisers all, and who will not back down without a fight.

Perhaps the problem with the Crows Zero narrative is that there are just too many characters slugging it out for your attention. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of the source material, your first viewing will leave you scratching your head at this blur of all-look-samey teenage thugs who do nothing but kick each others’ heinies, strut down defaced school corridors, smoke like chimneys, glare and growl at nobody in particular, smoke like chimneys, and kick each others’ heinies. Or worse, you’ll doze off during the non-fighting parts and wake up only when the over-the-top sound effects of thwacks and punches jolt you back into the movie. It took me two-and-a-half viewings until the Suzuran denizens could actually be distinguishable from one another — and even then I still didn’t care about their individual threads. The whole thing felt like I was looking over someone else’s shoulder while they played a video game that was technically impressive, exciting and splashy, but emotionally uninvolving.

Much of the problem has to do with the movies’ protagonist, Takiya Genji. Sure, Oguri Shun is ultra-cool and unflappable in the Crows Zeros, looking fierce in his black blazers and track suits and sporting that mullet-with-cornrows hybrid, his lanky frame swaggering through the corridors… but character-wise? Not sympathetic or engaging enough to win the viewer over — something any scriptwriter and director worth their salt must keep in mind especially in a production such as this one, where it’s clear who the Hero and Villain of the story are. There’s an unattractive hardness to Genji instead of the gritty resolve I was looking for, more flint than steel. And his aloof personality crosses the no-no-for-heroes line into downright churlishness — which is why I found it hard to understand why anyone from Suzuran would want to follow Genji instead of Serizawa the Terrible, who at least knew how to laugh (albeit maniacally, lol).

There was nothing in Shun’s portrayal that made me want to root for Genji. Even his comical moments — to offset the tough-guy exterior, I suppose — felt incongruous to his surly demeanor. (When Genji cries bitterly after Kuroki Meisa’s character tells him off in one particularly long and unamusing scene, I only rolled my eyes.) The only time that I felt Shun/Genji delivered the comedic goods was the scene where he defeats Chuta of Class E while reading from a notebook that his yakuza friend Ken has supplied. So Genji bursts into the Class E room, takes a quick look at his cheat sheet and growls, “All right, who’s in charge here?” After Genji handily wipes the floor with the unsuspecting Chuta — the poor chump never had a chance, lol — he pauses as if trying to remember what to do next, then sneaks a peek at Ken’s lines before continuing, “As of today, this is my class. If you follow me, you’ll see what dreams are made of.” LOLLL. This scene was extremely funny because Shun kept deadpanning the whole time and neither the actors nor the director went overboard with the delivery and execution.

Genji’s romantic sub-arc with the feisty Ruka (Kuroki Meisa) remains underdeveloped throughout the two Crows Zero films. Too bad, ‘coz the chick is hawt. Though mostly clad in a simple T-shirt and jeans, Meisa smolders in her scenes — which aren’t that many to begin with. She performs three songs in the Crows Zeros (she sings at a bar, y’see) and her R&B routines are slinky and subtly sexy without going OTT vampy or sexed-up. But Ruka’s scenes with Genji’s fizzle rather than sizzle — though not for her lack of trying. Genji never seems to appreciate Ruka as he’s too self-absorbed in his angst, always at the bar nursing a beer and brooding over his next step in schoolwide domination. Their only cute moment that can legitimately be called A Moment is the time Ruka rehearses onstage with her backdancers and Genji watches her from his perch on the bar’s staircase, and their eyes meet for a split-second — but only a split-second. Anyway, I doubt the writer had any real romance in mind as Ruka and her friends, pretty young things all, function mostly as glorified sexual objects — which isn’t surprising given the target shounen market of these two films.

I was more invested in Genji’s relationship with the adults — his mafioso of a dad, and Ken the Underachieving Gangster — than in Genji himself. The sub-arc involving Ken, Genji’s dad Takiya Hideo (Kishitani Goro) and Ken’s boss (and the senior Takiya’s mortal foe, played by Endo Kenichi) provides an interesting diversion amid the mind-numbing high school mayhem, and one of my favorite scenes from the first movie is the time when Ken visits Genji’s dad at home, warning him that his own boss has ordered him to stiff Genji and thus trigger an all-out mob war.

Another more plaintive reason for Ken’s visit — a risky move to begin with that will ultimately cost him… well, everything — is to dissuade Genji’s dad from goading his son to pull off the unprecedented feat of total Suzuran domination — as a precondition for inheriting their crime organization, the Ryuseikai. After listening to his former underling’s entreaties, Takiya Hideo gives this pithy answer: “If he has what it takes to conquer Suzuran, I’m sure he’ll choose not to,” making the audience exhale a collective “aaahhh” as comprehension dawns that this whole thing is one big reverse psychology stratagem meant to set Genji on the path to true self-realization. Kishitani Goro as the elder Takiya has few scenes but manages to hold your complete attention in each one. You sense the yakuza power that emanates from his compact frame as much as you understand his (well-concealed) fatherly concern for his only — and apparently motherless — son. Their parent-son relationship may be atypical, but it’s one of the few things in these movies that feel real and unaffected.

Serizawa: Sympathy for the Devil

But above all it is Yamada Takayuki who steals the thunder from everyone else. He’s too good for this vehicle, OWNING every single freakin’ scene he’s in with an onscreen presence that — despite his less-than-imposing height — compels and captivates. Which is weird because I never found Yamada to be particularly cute or prepossessing. His take on the volatile Serizawa is a fiendish delight to watch (and I suspect the writer had MOAR fun thinking up this role than he did Genji’s character). Serizawa Tamao is a young (mad)man unlike any other: always flat broke; a compulsive mah-jong player; fond of wearing those ridiculous floral shirts in lieu of the school uniform; quick to laugh with uninhibited glee over puerile matters — like getting a rare mah-jong combination, for instance — but possessing a lucidity that glimmers through the cracks in his psychotic shell; savagely violent (i.e. likes to play human bowling on the school rooftop) but well above the dirty tactics that some of his deputies later resort to.

In contrast to the morose, monosyllabic Genji who paces about with a giant yakuza-shaped chip on one rangy shoulder, Serizawa just feels — so alive and bursting with personality, from the bunched up sleeves of his blazer right down to his aversion towards footwear, lol. In Crows Zero II we see that Serizawa has sunk so far below the poverty line that he now squats on the side of the road, his living accoutrements strewn haphazardly on the pavement — although bumhood does not seem to deter him from his favorite pastimes of gambling, playing darts and chillin’ with his homies (especially Tokio). Barefoot, rumpled and clad in those rolled-up breeches, his hair wild and unkempt, Serizawa resembles a homeless hobbit instead of Suzuran High’s top toughie (or ex-top toughie, as this is in Crows Zero II) — and oh yeah, the height may have something to do with it too, lol. (He’d be right at home with the Lord of the Rings cast, ordering “a pint o’ ale” at the Prancing Pony, hahahaha.) When Genji intrudes on a particularly charged moment on Serizawa’s turf that involves a rival school, he curtly tells Serizawa, “Stop acting all cool you hobo,” LMAO.

Serizawa Tamao is in many ways a deconstructed villain who actually ends up garnering more sympathy (in my book, at least) than Shun’s character ever does. What makes him simpatico despite the diabolical rep is the humanity in those bottomless sloe-colored eyes, that manifests itself in the less frenetic moments in between fights… the flare of disillusionment after a trusted lieutenant betrays him, or the quiet hurt when his bosom buddy Tokio lies to him about the state of his health in the hospital parking lot. Serizawa may be a monster, but he’s a monster with a kokoro — and you appreciate how the Crows Zero films show this sensitive side instead of chucking him down the cardboard-villain route.

Crows Before Hoes!

Serizawa’s biggest chink in his armor is his friendship with his staunchest ally Tokio (Kiritani Kenta). First I just want to say how LOL it was of the writer (or director?) to make Tokio wear white 95% of the friggin’ time, while Serizawa, Genji et al. were in black — oooohhh the metaphors the metaphors!!! Lolz. Though unswervingly loyal to Serizawa, Tokio doesn’t hold back in advising reason and temperance — and I love how Serizawa respects that about him, as do the other members of their coterie. Kiritani Kenga makes his character likable without forcing his way with the viewer, and you do believe that his closeness to Serizawa, as different as these two are, is as real and well-valued as any good bromance out there. The sunset scene between Serizawa and Tokio, a welcome respite amid the merry mayhem of the story, is a terrific way of showing just how deep their mutual affection and respect lie.

Tokio also happens to be — surprise, surprise — Genji’s friend from junior high, which naturally tosses an interesting dynamic — a platonic love triangle, if you will — into the Genji vs. Serizawa enmity. Complicating matters even more is Tokio’s wee little secret of a brain tumor, and shots of him going through surgery, juxtaposed with the climactic battle scene at the end of Crows Zero, further fuel the drama by raising the stakes between Genji and Serizawa.

The pièce de résistance of the first Crows Zero movie is this final face-off between Genji’s GPS and Serizawa’s own army – or roughly twenty minutes of nonstop ass-kicking and furious fisticuffs right there on the roiling mire of… the Suzuran High schoolyard, now virtually unrecognizable in the gloom and the rain. The battle rages for the better part of the afternoon and well into the night while the fence-sitters watch from the school building. The indelible moment for me occurs at dusk, when the dull-red sun sets over the muddy field, now littered with the spent, groaning bodies of these fallen soldiers, and it casts a devilish light on the face of Serizawa, this madman who is just a few hours away from defeat. It is a most bitter pill to swallow when the better man – Genji – wins out in the end, although the happy news that Tokio has made it through his brain operation takes some of the sting off Serizawa’s drubbing. The background track “Into the Battlefield” by Otsubo Naoki sets the perfect tone to this climactic finale with the distorted bass beats and edgy guitars strongly reminiscent of the opening riffs of a Rage Against the Machine song or the P. Diddy-Jimmy Page collab “Come With Me.”  [Listen to “Into the Battlefield” below:]

So Genji crushes Serizawa, forcing the latter to concede victory. Game over? Far from it, actually. Defeating the Serizawa faction is only one obstacle to schoolwide dominion, for Genji must now beat the Rinda-man, this 12-foot-high freak o’ naycha who technically belongs to the Second Year but dwarfs the entire student body — Serizawa most of all, hihihi — and possesses erudition and lore going back through the ages, lol. You could say the Rinda-man represents the very institution of Suzuran High, indestructible and immovable as a mountain, almost this elemental force that nobody can or will ever take down. He doesn’t actively begin fights, but will readily — and impassively — send you to your Maker should you sound the challenge. And he’s mysterious, too!!! — and only pulls back his trademark cowl on two occasions: when he fights, and when he dispenses philosophical truths to the foolish little mortals of Suzuran, but when he does so he reveals a smooth angelic face framed by a shock of golden curls, like Little Lord Fauntleroy on mega-steroids, lol.

“You fight and you fight — and then you graduate,” the Rinda-man tells Genji before beating him to a pulp for the nth time. In Crows Zero II the giant reiterates his stand: “Your enemy is not me. If you destroy everything, you’ll have to start again from scratch.” Here lies the philosophical core of the Crows Zeros: the existing social order at Suzuran High, with its tenuous equilibrium of rival gangs and power sharing, is still the best arrangement there is. As it is with Life, you can’t conquer it all, you can’t have it all, so the next best thing is to find meaning in the struggle itself. It’s all very existentialist-y to me, but whether or not you agree with this credo, you’ll appreciate the fact that the writer at least tried to temper the films’ unbridled violence with something profound and thought-provoking.

So the first movie ends with Genji having a go at the Rinda-man… and another, and another. And this is exactly where the sequel picks up several months later: Genji’s GPS underlings are feeling restless during the deadlock as their ultimate dream of school conquest is put on hold until their leader can finally dispatch Gigantor — er, Rinda-man. (Same thing.) But this inactivity is dangerous because some of the students have begun to doubt Genji’s abilities to unify Suzuran, while the other rival factions (like Serizawa’s for instance), though held in check for the time being, continue to watch for cracks in the GPS alliance and will not hesitate to seize an opportunity once it presents itself.

Suzuran and Housen: Two schools, both alike in dignity. In Fair Nihon where we lay our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny. Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…

The lull at school is shattered when Genji unwittingly breaks a two-year peace accord between Suzuran and the Housen All-Boys’ High School, a hotbed of hoods sporting white school uniforms and either bleached or shaved hairstyles. Apparently back in the turbulent days of the pre-Genji Era, some Suzuran dude named Kawanishi (Abe Shinnosuke) stuck a knife in the gut of the Housen numero uno, this thewy ox of a man who looks closer to 40 than 20, in other words more Batista than… Bieber. Ox-man dies (tsk tsk), bringing the official Suzuran-Housen casualty rate to 1 death out of 93748387487 battles — which is really NOT SO BAD, lol. The punk with the knife gets packed off to juvie hall but is released after two years (now the Age of Genji), not knowing that the Housen hoodlums are bent on retribution.

The current head of Housen is Narumi, played by that greasy, stringy, beady-eyed opium peddler from Buzzer Beat, Nobuaki Kaneko. With the peace treaty broken, Narumi incites the Housenites to avenge their fallen leader’s death by declaring all-out war. For starters, they ambush the Suzuranites in various locales in the city, the ultimate goal being their rival school’s total annihilation. It’s an interesting spinoff plot for a sequel, only it begs the question of how NOBODY from Suzuran ever briefed Genji about their bloodstained history with Housen after he became the de facto top crow at Suzuran. That Genji wasn’t the least bit aware of this vendetta the whole time he was at Suzuran — so that he had to learn the skinny from his bartender-friend — makes the sequel’s entire premise flimsy right from the start. It’s rather obvious that the writer was making up the Crows Zero cosmos from movie to movie.

That aside, the Crows Zero II story line gets bogged down by all these extraneous sub-plots involving characters that have no place in the sequel’s grand scheme of things. There’s this messy, convoluted arc where Knife Boy Kawanishi is revealed to have long-standing ties to the ex-gangster Ken, now enjoying his second lease on life in some fishing village. Knife Boy thinks Ken really did get stiffed by the yakuza boss, blahblahblah, but for some reason ends up working for the same don, who then employs him to take out the Ryusaikei head — who just so happens to be Genji’s dad. So Pops almost croaks after the the assassination attempt and Genji goes all Michael Corleone on him, but less cool ‘coz of his major meltdown in school that convinces some of his allies to bolt GPS. Knife Boy sneaks into Genji’s pops’ hospital room to finish off the job, but Reformed Gangster Ken arrives in the nick of time to stop Knife Boy from the dastardly act in a scene that’s as heavy-handed as it is downright hokey.

Meanwhile, the Housen hoods are THIS close to a complete rout of Suzuran High (makes you wonder what their terms of enslavement would be… forced labor in the Housen mines? annual tribute in the form or gold, spices and nubile dancing girls? lol), thanks to their Ultimate Secret Fight-o Weapon of Mass Destruction, a deceptively waifish, androgynous boy named Ryo who looks EXACTLY like Bi (yes, as in “It’s Raining” lol) and carries an umbrella to boot (what did I say? “It’s Raining!!!” lolol) and who would creep the hell outta me with that dispassionate, impersonal way he’d pound the Suzuranites’ faces into meat patties, only stopping unless Narumi told him to. Bloody creepy hell.

Miura Haruma (oh! well… hello there! didn’t expect to see you here!!!….. <LIE.>) plays the slain ox-man’s younger brother Bitou Tatsuya who goes against his “I’m a lover, not a fighter” (lol) pacifistic nature when Narumi prevails upon the fresh-faced freshman (eheheh) to officially sanction Housen’s declaration of war, knowing full well that more fighters — I refuse to call these thugs “students” lol — will rally behind the Bitou name. I honestly don’t know why Miura accepted this project when his entire exposure amounts to four short scenes, two in the smelly, sweaty Housen dojo, another on the Housen schoolyard (site of Crows Zero II’s climactic clash) and lastly on the school’s rooftop during the thick of the battle. How do you even describe his involvement in this movie… it’s more sizable than a cameo but smaller than a supporting role. Either way, Miura barely makes a dent.

Anyway, I’ll admit that I may have acquired the Crows Zeros for Yamada Takayuki and Oguri Shun (after all, I became a fan of theirs way before Miura and I were ever… acquainted, lol) but I finally popped the DVD into the player because of… Miura. But after having been desensitized to all the pseudo-carnage in the first movie, I’d forgotten he was even in the sequel… until the minute the boy walked into the Housen dojo, that left arm swinging slightly more than the right, and I knew it was him heh heh heh. (Yes, E.G. the Creepy Cougar strikes again, BLAHBLAHBLAH sowhatelseisnew.) I just was NOT digging the hair, which alternately resembled an albino octopus wrapped around his crown, a yellow doily, a gay yarmulke with tassels, and (as EstherM of put it) “overcooked spaghetti thrown by one angry Italian mamma,” lolol.

As much as I love the mild, wholesome Miura image in my head, I didn’t like how his character remained above the fray, unsullied by the brutality while everyone else got down and dirty, wet and wild on the battleground. Instead, there he stood on the edge of the field with that funny halo around his head, gravely surveying his troops before they marched off to war, so pale and so pure against the surging melee of dubious-looking teenagers caked in sweat and gunge and other unmentionables. Seriously, they shoulda just let the boy fight in the mud, y’know.

So how does it all resolve in the end? After nearly running the GPS into the ground, Genji finally learns to eat crow (hyuk hyuk) and gives a heartfelt apology over Suzuran’s PA system, causing his disgruntled men to look at each other and go, “Awww he’s leader material again, so now we’re ready to bleed and die for him yay.” So that’s how Genji unites all the warring factions of the School of Crows, and with their combined forces, he and Serizawa — aka Suzuran’s Two Tops (lololol) — are unstoppable on the battlefield — even if they’re right on the Housen High turf. At the end of the day the Crows go home bloodied (and resembling evil psycho clowns with their chalky, dust-caked faces and vermilion lipstick tomato paste) but definitely unbowed, and alive to fight another day.

As an extended video game, the Crows Zeros deliver the goods in all their preening, cawing glory. The movies are slickly entertaining and director Miike makes up for whatever narrative shortcomings with his relentlessly edgy, hyperreal style. And as immoderate and gratuitous as the action scenes are, they do not fail to impress in their execution and choreography. You can hand it to Miike for crafting his fight scenes with the same precision and eye for perfection of a seasoned ballet master orchestrating a high-profile dance performance. Barring a number of shots where the fists and faces of the students don’t quite connect (good acting though, lol), the stuntwork, camerawork and special effects appeal on both visual and visceral levels.

Furuya Takumi’s cinematography and Hayashida Yuji’s art direction in the first Crows Zero help create the gritty desolation of the Suzuran High landscape, mostly in muted grays with garish orange and red accents — a style that bleeds into the other sets i.e. the Takiya living quarters, the pool hall hangout, and the bar where Ruka works. Whereas the production team in Crows Zero II used a splashier, brighter color palette, very Gokusen-esque and I do not mean this in a good way. Needless to say I preferred the cinematography and production design in the first movie as they more closely mirrored the mood and spirit of the films’ titular birds; plus the cruddy surroundings and dismal, unwelcoming atmosphere of the school campus helped intensify the feel of the gloom-and-rain-soaked fight scenes.

But my biggest criticism of the Crows Zero flicks lies in the credibility of the world that the manga writer, the movie scriptwriter, and the director all had a hand in fashioning. I’m well aware that the story’s setting was intentionally constructed to be this pseudo-dystopia where the law of the Suzuran jungle (“Screw homework, just fight your way to the top!”) trumps all other laws (including those of basic physics). In this sphere of reality all adult presence is virtually absent from society and the students enjoy complete autonomy from their parents and teachers (and the poor little cringing things aka the school faculty appear in a brief scene at the start of the first movie, but hightail it home when the yakuza come a-calling for Serizawa, tsk), leaving the Suzuran campus a wasteland of vandalized walls and dilapidated, overturned desks.

Which made it hard for me to accept this physical reality: I couldn’t reconcile the ultra-liberal, anarchic world of Crows Zero with the sheer illogicality of students who had no qualms about terrorizing their teachers — or whoever was left of the decimated faculty — but religiously got up every morning to wear their uniforms and go to school. LMAO. A part of me kept laughing insanely the entire time these films were playing. I know some viewers have taken this seemingly minor hiccup in stride and attributed it to the governing rules of the Crows Zero-verse, but apparently these rules do not factor in good old common sense. I thus had great difficulty believing in this world because it didn’t feel real, just a nominal, one-dimensional backdrop for all the juvenile scrapping. Even the Suzuran/Housen students themselves felt phony, especially all of the extras and most of the cast who undoubtedly played the oldest high schoolers known to man. (Some actually had receding hairlines, lol.)

Besides, how can you take these movies seriously when they come with a corny child-friendly safety net? For one, despite the bone-crunching brawling nobody ever dies in the Crows Zeros (except for the flashback stabbing scene in the sequel), obviously on account of the students’ adamantium skeletons and instantaneous self-healing abilities, durr. Another sanitized aspect is the way the writing moralizes on how fighting mano-a-mano is essentially more ethical than fighting with weapons — never mind that people die either way. Basically the films’ message to the adolescent audience is, “Don’t try this at home, kiddos! You can beat the crap outta one another, but using knives is a no-no!” In one scene in Crows Zero II the Housen boss Narumi chides a knife-wielding wayward schoolmate, “That’s not how real men do it.” — LOL. Values formation, oh wow! It’s a cop-out that provides the filmmakers with an escape route should the viewers — or the viewers’ parents, lol — ever raise a stink about the movies’ excessive violence.

So if you approach the Crows Zeros the way you would Mortal Kombat in the classroom, you won’t come away feeling shortchanged. What you shouldn’t expect is a conventional coming-of-age story where the protagonist learns what it means to be a Hero — because there’s none of that here. Not even Takiya Genji qualifies as a Hero despite Kuroki Meisa singing “Hero Lives in You” for him while the schoolyard battle rages in the Crows Zero finale. You realize that even the heroism and valor so earnestly trumpeted in these two films ring hollow — for what can possibly be heroic about two rival gangs engaging in a turf war? Neither Genji nor Serizawa steps out of their own selfish desires to fight for something greater than themselves, and so their enmity ultimately boils down to a power struggle, a chest-beating or pissing contest between two hot adversaries.

Last item on the docket: the invigorating soundtrack composed of in-your-face instrumental tracks (like “Into the Battlefield”) and showy rock anthems by The Street Beats, notably “I Wanna Change” and “Eternal Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The most memorable track from Crows Zero II is the slower — but angstier — “Torch Lighter” by the garage rock trio DOES, which plays during a pivotal sequence in the film (see embedded video above). When the desensitization to violence sets in after watching one too many romps in the mud, at least the cool and catchy tunes will perk things up for you — if ever so slightly.

As the end credits start rolling to The Street Beats’ gravelly vocals and ear-piercing instrumentals, you realize that in the Crows Zero universe, these uncannily tough and cynical students — regardless of their school — will continue fighting long after you’ve turned off your TV set and rejoined civilization (lol). It’s the one thing they’re hard-wired for, this endless cycle of battles in their grimy, graffiti-adorned, grown-up-free world. They fight to live and live to fight — and that’s just the way things are, the way it’s always been. But in truth you’ll be more than happy to leave these young punks to their merry mobocracy, forever brawling, forever battling, trapped in this lawless limbo of perpetual ass-kicking and eternal rock and roll.

Next up: Part Two – Secret Manuscripts, Korean Dementors and Naked Clenching Butts (Or Just Another Day in School at Volcano High)

Photo credits:,, Cinema Frenzy @,,,,,,,,,,

Video credits: clausen666, Lunaz, PhreshCALi, Uploader No Kuzu @

Cross-Ref: Read a different take on the Crows Zero movies — Review by Chasing Bawa here.

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31 Comments on “Movie Smackdown (Part 1): Crows Zero (2007 & 2009) vs. Volcano High (2001)”

  1. chasing bawa Says:

    Hello! I loved your review of the movie and totally agree that Yamada was the best thing in it. I probably have a rose-tinted view of ‘furyos’ as I’ve only ever encountered them in manga and dramas where they’re portrayed as heroes but in real life it’s a totally different story. I read some of the Crows manga and I think part of the difficulty in translating a long manga series into a film is the number of characters that appear. It can get confusing in the movie. Anyway, looking forward to reading more of your posts (although I have been following your blog for a while now^^).

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Thank you muchly! And I’m thrilled that you dropped me a line. *blushes* (I, too, go to your blog and am always floored by the sheer number of books you’ve reviewed — more than what’s humanly possible, it seems. Good site. ;-))

      And yeah, it must be quite a challenge transposing manga into film; they’re such different mediums and certain elements (stylistic, thematic, etc.) don’t always carry over well. Which is kind of weird because it seems as though 98% of movies that get made in Japan are manga-based. 🙂

  2. Jenny Says:

    Okay first let me get one thing over; Shun Oguri is a fine piece of male a**! And both movies are filled with men I secrectly desire to my harem! (and Miura nom nom, and now I can go a hide in a corner)

    I havent seen the second crows movie so I can’t say much about that. In general I think all the guys did a good job but I agree with you that Yamada stole the show with his portrayal and there is a reason Shun and Yamada areboth considered the best actors in their generation.
    This was one Takashi Miike movie I did watch and even liked, what can I say I like a good action movie.
    Now off to watch movie number 2 instead of doing important schoolwork.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      LMAO!!! Now your little DIY boy-harem secret ain’t so secret no more! 😀 (But I hope your fantasy harem doesn’t include the Makise guy, now that would just be GROSS lol)

      Schoolwork, oh dear. We can’t have that waiting, can we now? 😛 Would love to hear your thoughts on CZ II when you’re done, though! ^^;;

      • Jenny Says:

        Bsck from the corner of shame. The second movie was okay, I like action movies so the huge gang fight at the end was awesome. I thought the acting was solid from Shun but Yamada was still better and his characters friendship with Kiritani Kenta was cute.The bromance in the movie is actually kind of funny. And Nobuaki Kaneko was a pleasant suprise I’m always unsure how well musicians act but he was good.(I confess I though he was super attractive so i googled him)
        Also the cator playing Shuns dad was impressive, he was with Miura in samurai high school and I didn’t even recognise him here, very impressive actor.

        No unfortunately Makise is not included in my harem but I just added Nobuaki Kaneko;D

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          Lmao “corner of shame”!!! Instantly reminded me of the Cone of Shame from Pixar’s Up. Too funny! 😀

          Omo, I’m SUCH a fangirl of Kishitani Goro!!! I love how he never overacts but makes his characters feel like real people each time. Watching CZ II I had a little epiphany and went “heyyy!!!! you guys!!!!! Samurai High School reunion!!!” when I realized that Kishitani-san, Miura and Nobuaki Kaneko were in the cast — too bad they didn’t have any scenes together, heh heh.

          Nobuaki Kaneko — uh, the drummer? He looks like a drummer, haha. Don’t worry hon, he’s all yours… I’d never dream of stealing him away from your harem, lol. 😀

          • Jenny Says:

            Yes, he was fantastic. He doesn’t overact but he had this great presence. And I loved it when he tought his son a lesson by punching him! It really was a SHS reunion which was a fun aspect in a way.

            Great then I’ll safely add him to my male harem. If you read in the news on day that crazy european girl attacks several japanese male celebrities then you’ll now it’s me. ;D

            Turns out Nobuaki Kaneko is also in Ooku even though it seems like a small part. That’s one of the movies I’m looking forwrd to, I have the first volumes of the manga and the story is really fascinating.

  3. jicks Says:

    As usual, a great review! :))

    your first viewing will leave you scratching your head at this blur of all-look-samey teenage thugs who do nothing but kick each others’ heinies, strut down defaced school corridors, smoke like chimneys, glare and growl at nobody in particular, smoke like chimneys, and kick each others’ heinies. Or worse, you’ll doze off during the non-fighting parts and wake up only when the over-the-top sound effects of thwacks and punches jolt you back into the movie.
    ^^OMG, with that comment, I instantly feel so much better again! I had the same problem but thought I was the only one too tired after a hard lol day’s work. At one point, I kinda wished for celebrity-heads style name tags on their noggins.

    There was nothing in Shun’s portrayal that made me want to root for Genji.
    *darts eyes around* I think I said this over at zooey’s blog but watching alot of Shun’s performances lately, I am finding myself stuck btwn a rock & a hard place. Part of me is like, “I LOVE OGURI SHUN!!!” but the other part of me is thinking, “Hmm, maybe… he isn’t as good of an actor as we all thought he was” *squints eyes* And this becomes particularly more evident when you chuck him in the same room as someone like Yamada Takayuki (who, I completely agree with you, was the star of the film/s. Super quirkily cool. And when it was game time, he so turned it on.)

    I do think Shun-baby was pretty good in this, but I am wondering if he is better off as a second lead kinda guy, as more often than not, that is when he excels. When he’s the front man, he tends to underperform for some reason. Perhaps he just needs to take a step back & refresh his approach to playing these main characters??

    But all that aside, Oguri Shun made Genji so much hotter-than-hot than the actual manga version (-U-;) Punk-cool hair, loose threads, battle scars, rugged scruf around his face, black nail polish (which he donned when he came onto SMAP Bistro to promote it)… gaaaaaahhhhhhh. Quite the complete opposite of The Autistic One but equally just as “Get me into a dark corner with this dude right now” lol

    …but religiously got up every morning to wear their uniforms and go to school. LMAO.
    ^lol True, true. But I suppose the uniforms may have represented their identity & unity, you know, this is my blood, the colour of my skin / one school VS another kinda deal. And well, *coughs* it made Shun look really good xDD

    Overall, I thought the film delivered great entertainment value & (after deciding to turning a blind eye to all the laws of physics) really revelled in how the action scenes were crafted. I could give it leeway (darn it, everytime I use that word now I think of ManSkank Akanishi Jin -_-“…) knowing that the film is derived from a manga. I’m not usually a fan of so much non-stop violence but I think Miike Takashi really succeeded in instilling a great deal of hard energy & rocking punk-attitude into all that punch-on action… almost wish I was there xD (although can I say how the rain just starts to pour down leading up to the final battle in the first flick kinda reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders.)

    And… just wanted to say that I thought Takaoka Sousuke was pretty good in this too. And as hot as Kuroki Meisa is, I could’ve done without her musical poppiness (moreso in the sequel- don’t think it helped the mood of the film.)

    Looking forward to your Volcano high review (although it’s been so long since I watched that movie I might not even recall half the things you mention… but I may have some recollection of Kwon Sang Woo & his abs lol… heck, or was that in Once Upon A Time In High School?? You’re gonna have to refresh me!)

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Oohlala, the mother of all comments! (And I soaked up every word! :-))

      Ditto on Takaoka Sousuke (now how could I not have given that dude a special mention?). One of my fave (if not my fave) scenes from CZ II was the Serizawa-Izaki mano-a-mano behind the school building. Now that fight scene I didn’t mind tuning into 120%. (I love the lulls in between the pummeling, like the moment when Serizawa evades a punch from Izaki and he pauses, the crazy in his eyes turning all the way up to Defcon 1, then he gives this devilishly delighted “HAHAH!!!” before hurling himself back at Izaki. I also went “HAHAH!!!!” when Yamada did that, lol.)

      Re falling asleep: yeah, either it was work, or we’re just getting too old for these things. We can’t be 12-y.o. fanboys forever, y’know… lol

      Part of me is like, “I LOVE OGURI SHUN!!!” but the other part of me is thinking, “Hmm, maybe… he isn’t as good of an actor as we all thought he was” *squints eyes* << Love all your Shun insights and I couldn't agree more. (We seem to be discussing Shun a lot lately (waves at zooey ;-)). Did we overestimate his acting skills on sole account of his Rui portrayal? (Shun was a terrific Rui, but even then, wasn't he also riding on the enormous emotional momentum the role had coming off the manga and Meteor Garden?) I get what you’re saying about him being more effective as a 2nd lead (would you say the same about Eita? if I remember correctly zooey is of this opinion hehe), but I thought he pulled off the romantic lead role extremely well in Hana Kimi (although maybe it’s because I pretty much hated everyone else — except Toma — that Shun looked Oscar-worthy to me). But then I haven’t seen that many samples of his work (unlike the rest of you) so I can’t compare his other perfs as a frontman.

      Hahahah I remember that Bistro SMAP guesting!!! That’s actually when I decided I wanted to go look for Crows Zero (whatever it was lol). I can’t remember what Shun and Meisa ordered but at least it wasn’t as CORNY as what Shota and Takeuchi Yuko ordered when they guested — which was, um, bread, LMAO. But I remember Nakai ribbing Shun, “why do you keep playing high school students?” (or something like that), which was a nicer way of telling Shun he was too old for these types of roles. (Bwahahaha)

      Re Volcano High — LOL I think Sang-woo does the abs exposure thing in every single project he does. Like you I watched this ages ago but when I was done with CZ I dug it up and we had a little reunion — and I found myself liking this movie even more the 2nd time around — and the 3rd and 4th, it was just that fun to watch. 😀

      P.S. Re You and Jin (lol): Ahahahahahaha we’ll never look at the words “leeway”, “saliva” and “juice” the same way again, ne? Now he goes about with a new hat (among his many hats both literal and figurative): linguistic terrorist? lol

  4. jicks Says:

    lol I didn’t realise my comment was that long! *turns on word count & monitors figure*

    lmao 12y.o.fanboys xD If they could invent a pill for it though I would be taking it! But they should make it so that you can adjust the age according to personal preference. And we could offer the pills to all the JE boysmen xO

    I agree Shun was kick-ass in Hana Kimi. Likewise he was definitely perfect in HanaDan (no wave-riding there xP.) I also liked him in Stand Up!, GTO, Summer Snow & Detective Conan. And although the series itself sucked, he was good in Smile. He was comedic skills were dead-on in Tokyo Dogs but the dramatic parts were a lil over-cooked at times. So perhaps the conclusion is… unless he is the 2nd guy, Shun should play high-school roles forever ^^;;;;;

    Re Shun VS Eita- I think Eita is the better actor, period. I think zooey is right in terms of the kind of roles Eita is best at playing (i.e. supportive, devoted, silently strong etc) but as a male lead, he has always held his own (e.g. Voice, SnN; films April’s Bride, Sukida.) I definitely see him as a leading man, moreso it looks like he WANTS to be one, whereas whenever I see Shun as the frontman, he seems to act with this huge weight on his shoulders.

    That fight scene you mentioned was the bomb :)) I also liked the human bowling pin scene (really hahahaed there.) And! I loved this part in the sequel:
    ^^Shun totally rocked here xDD

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Ok that scene you linked? That was hot. 😀 I liked the deconstructed spin on the peace pipe-lighting ceremony. Oh yeah, Shun def. rocked here.

      Re Eita, come to think of it I’ve never seen him in a lead role… yet. *spit-shines Sunao ni Narenakute DVD & cranks up the ol’ player*

      “So perhaps the conclusion is… unless he is the 2nd guy, Shun should play high-school roles forever ^^;;;;;”

      Ahahahahhahaha true!!!!!!!!!!! 😀 Well… I just hope that Surely Someday… he’ll find a lead role that he can sink his teeth into, a worthy character he can be truly comfortable in. 😉

  5. jossy Says:

    epic review!!
    I accidently came across Crows while I was channel surfing, delighted to have Oguri Shun appear on Aus Cable, I tuned into the film during Genjis’ stoic asswhooping (clearlyyy outnumbered, btw) from Izaki’s boys which in turn impressed blondie with his ‘determination and preserverence…
    I was kinda underwhelmed so I ditched it.
    the benefit of having Cable (or not), is even after leaving the country for 6weeks, I come back and still find Crow’s being aired.. Lol

    needless to say Serizawa OWNED the film for me, Yamada played his character down to a T even to the point that I was rooting for the Serizawa
    I have nothing against Shuns’ ‘Genji’ but, yeah..

    speaking of darts, don’t you just love Serizawa’s ridiculously ginormous dart?

    I could probably watch the films a number of times and not get sick of it, coz even if the story lacks vitals, the fight scenes are pretty entertaining…

    Loved your review! looking forward to Volcano High.
    oh and Once upon a time in high school? Lol besides 17 vs 1 (i think, see) the only other thing I remeber is Lee Jung Jin, oh and KSW sure does love to flaunt his choco abs.. something I wish more Japanese Stars would do.. :p

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Thank you very much! Make yourself at home 😀

      Lol, good thing you caught CZ on cable — twice! Do you normally download this stuff?

      I was toying with the idea of including Once Upon a Time in High School but couldn’t find my copy, plus the idea of a 3-way smackdown kind of daunted me. ^^;;

      Yamada Takayuki – yeah, he’s ridiculously talented is he not? 😉 Have you seen him in other films/dramas? He can go really deep into his characters — esp. the dark and twisted ones, lol.

  6. zooey Says:

    Great review, E.G. 🙂

    I’m glad you finally got around to watching the two Crows Zero movies… why am I not surprised that Miura turned out to be the deciding factor in placing the disc on your dvd player. Lol. I agree that CZ had a really thin narrative but I always make a point to check out the latest Takashi Miike flick because he never fails to surprise me. This director imbues his films with such style and flair that it makes the whole viewing experience worthwhile even though you have to slough through a heap of crazy-sick-violent scenes. He’s also very versatile which I bet only makes Quentin Tarantino a tad bit envious of him. Like I said a while back, this movie would probably have to be his most commercial work to date. You can’t have an army of non-JE actors bash each other’s brains out and not have a hit movie since the cast alone appeals to both male and female viewers.

    I kinda agree with jicks that Shun was pretty decent in this one– eclipsed only by the intense and moving performance of Yamada Takayuki (love my Pokemon, after all, hehe). I’m still not convinced that Shun’s good at playing the lead. Didn’t really care for him in Hana Kimi nor was I impressed with his turn in Binbo Danshi but I always manage to remember him playing minor characters in other series. Like how he was the kid who jumped off the building in GTO, or how he was the bro with the speech impediment in Summer Snow and one of the geeks who dished advice in Densha Otoko… He seems to cope better in comedic roles when working in an ensemble like in Stand Up or the movie Kisaragi (Tokyo Dogs for me was a little iffy). Haven’t seen Spring Story so I don’t know how well he fares as the romantic lead.

    Much of the problem has to do with the movies’ protagonist, Takiya Genji. Sure, Oguri Shun is ultra-cool and unflappable in the Crows Zeros, looking fierce in his black blazers and track suits and sporting that mullet-with-cornrows hybrid, his lanky frame swaggering through the corridors… but character-wise? Not sympathetic or engaging enough to win the viewer over–

    And YES, Genji doesn’t come off as your typical hero. I think part of the reason for this is because his “journey” into becoming one was divided between the two movies. Normally, you’d see the protagonist go the whole nine yards from overcoming challenges to being struck with the realization of what it means to be the hero per se in one go, but CZ I & II chopped it up and watered it down so much (like you said, extra characters and story arcs) that his call for help in the end seemed more like a plea, a last resort before heading on to enemy territory.

    This movie could certainly have gone without Kuroki Meisa, I don’t think it would have mattered much if we didn’t see her strut her stuff. I also liked the bromance with Kiritani Kenta, now that’s one actor who knows how to change his look and mix it up.

    …but religiously got up every morning to wear their uniforms and go to school.

    I don’t know, this is probably something that’s unique to this genre. I remember watching Blue Spring a while back and it had the same theme and setting. There’s the school overrun by delinquent students and hardly any adults or faculty members are in sight. I think the part where they wear the school uniforms everyday has something to do with the Japanese school system. From what I know, high school education is compulsory and these “kids” aren’t considered adults until they hit the age of 20, so it’s not like they have any other place to go till they “graduate” or dropout officially. Remember how girls are also seen in their sailor fukus in some dramas even though it’s summer break? It’s definitely a weird thing, indeed.

    I honestly don’t know why Miura accepted this project when his entire exposure amounts to four short scenes, two in the smelly, sweaty Housen dojo, another on the Housen schoolyard (site of Crows Zero II’s climactic clash) and lastly on the school’s rooftop during the thick of the battle.

    Hmm, because of a possible spin-off, maybe? If CZ turns out to be a cult classic, then it wouldn’t hurt to be in it, blonde-octopusy-cap wig and all notwithstanding.

    Whereas the production team in Crows Zero II used a splashier, brighter color palette, very Gokusen-esque and I do not mean this in a good way.

    Oooh, nice observation. CZI definitely had a grittier, grimy feel to it. Though I did appreciate the brighter color palette for the second movie when it came to the final showdown in it. There’s nothing like seeing a black clad Genji soar through the air to assault an army of bald, grey-attired soldiers from Housen. Visually, it went well with the “Fly, Genji, soar!” bit from the first movie.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Hahaha for some reason that “fly Genji, soar!!!” line cracked me up each time the yakuza chump said it. It was almost just as cheesy as saying “follow your heart” or something.

      “This director imbues his films with such style and flair that it makes the whole viewing experience worthwhile even though you have to slough through a heap of crazy-sick-violent scenes.” << Yep, I can at least hand it to Miike for his unerring eye for style. Dude sure knows how to put on a show.

      Speaking of Sukiyaki (thanks for the bequest btw! lol), I tried watching the opening scenes but couldn’t warm up to all the weirdness of Tarantino + all-Engrish dialogue + Japanese cowboy-gunslingers, so I’m putting it on hold until I’m in the mood for… well, Tarantino + all-Engrish dialogue + Japanese cowboy-gunslingers, lol. 😀

      Re Shun, aside from HK and HYD I also loved his perfs in Densha Otoko and most especially Stand UP! so he’s got to be doing something right. He may indeed be better when he’s part of an ensemble but I guess he’ll get his 2nd? 3rd? chance to prove his leading man mettle when the Doolittle drama rolls around. 🙂

      I see what you mean about the CZ writer intentionally spreading Genji’s process of self-realization over two films. But each movie — even if it’s part of a trilogy or series — should stand alone in terms of story arc and char. development. I guess even in the first movie I was waiting for SOME kind of growth and maturity to come upon Genji — maybe not in a mighty rush of wind but in a subtler way, just enough to lay the groundwork for further character molding in the sequel.

      “CZ I & II chopped it up and watered it down so much (like you said, extra characters and story arcs) that his call for help in the end seemed more like a plea, a last resort before heading on to enemy territory.” << Yeah that's what disappointed me too, that Genji's turnabout in character was too abrupt — too little too late, actually — so whatever "transformation" only rang hollow IMO.

      Hey I seriously am adding Blue Spring to my watchlist. I was surfing the various CZ reviews the other day and a number of critics also mentioned this flick.

      I kind of understand what you said about compulsory uniforms being mandated by the J-school system (and jicks also mentioned that the kids donned uniforms to show their stripes and solidify ther sense of belonging), but my issue with the uniforms had more to do with the fact that the kids went to school AT ALL. No parents and no teachers for miles around, so why make a show of coming to class? I guess it’s just one feature of this genre that I’ll never completely be reconciled to. It’s so bloody… weird. lol @__@

  7. Mil. Says:

    finally got around reading this review! I’ve been de-computerized and de-internetized and I’m hanging on to dear sanity by stea… borrowing other people’s appliances and piggy-backing unprotected wireless. (does that sound sad? does it? does it? am I Serizawa from Crows Zero 2?)

    Aaaanyway, loved the movies personally, but I agree with your take on Shun’s character: should I care about him? cause he ain’t working hard enough for me to care! But I wouldn’t know if it’s entirely Shun’s fault (yes, 80% of this defence is caused entirely by hormones), because I’ve always had this problem with this type of character.

    Take Gangs of New York, Amsterdam might have had the extra drama of Hamletizing the situation to revenge his papa, but in the end he’s pretty much a Genji with older-fashioned dress: take out baddy, beat crap out of who gets in the way, gain favour and allies as I go. And throughout the film, I couldn’t care a fiddler’s fart about what happened to Amsterdam, throughout the movie I just thought of him as a plot device to make me see Daniel Day Lewis shine. And that’s more or less what Genji is to me (‘cept I focused on him a lot more than I did on Leo because the little-!!!-fangirl in me goes gaga anytime I see Shun’s mug), a (sexy) plot device for me to see a bunch of punks beating the hell out of each other (without risking a fighto interruptus by annoying pigtailed teachers) in a coreagraphically pleasing way – oh, the many shojo-based doramas where hot boys get into fights that makes me want to cry out “please stop, you’re turning me off!” – and to appreciate a well developed antagonist in Yamada-sonehow-attractive-when-mad-as-hell-Taka.

    (And do I have a problem with Shun as a lead? Dunno, aside from this I only saw hin in Tokyo DOGS but, well, I didn’t really care for the film and was mostly glad to see him. I do crazy things to see him. Like watch the first season of Gokusen more! than! once!, or endure aaaaaall of HanaKimi -seriously man, was it just my impression that it’s a freakishly long dorama? or was it just because it was so incredibly boring? So I don’t really know if it’s really Shun’s fault if Genji’s somewhat blah – hormones, shut up, c’mon – but I’ll let you know after doolittle)

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Mil! Good to hear you’re back in the Matrix — even if intermittently 😀

      Omo it’s great you brought up the Gangs vs. Crows parallelisms.

      Like you Gangs left me cold (despite ALL THE HYPE… and Leo and Cameron Diaz canoodling in some rat-infested alley? yawwwwnnnn) and I can’t remember much from Leo’s performance (weird, because I’ve seen ALL his film work and though I’m not a fangirl I have tremendous respect for him as an actor — his Gen-X Romeo to Claire Danes’ Juliet is my FAVE PERF EVAR)… but I did get frissons of terror watching Bill the Butcher (“Hello Amsterdam, I’m Noo-yawk”) and his freaky glass eye.

      “I couldn’t care a fiddler’s fart about what happened to Amsterdam, throughout the movie I just thought of him as a plot device to make me see Daniel Day Lewis shine.”

      ^ Totally! If there was ONE actor left in the UNIVERSE I’d want it to be Daniel Day-Lewis *proud fan since he was an extra on Gandhi* — Er no not really, mebbe since Last of the Mohicans 😉

      “Yamada-somehow-attractive-when-mad-as-hell-Taka.” << Hahaha so true, love this! If I were hypothetically theoretically suppositionally in a relationship with him I'd probably pick a fight with him all the time just to get him all riled up, then I'd go, "Are you mad at me? Hate me! Hate me now! Then love me!" lmfao how twisted is that @__@

      Hey Doolittle is one Shun drama I wouldn’t mind watching, if only for the RuixMakino reunion 😉

      • Mil. Says:

        I’m totally looking forward to the RuixMakino reunion. My comatose computer knows of all the pop-corn I threw to the screen when my prin… Hanazawa Rui got dumped! I’m also looking forward to Hiro baby whom until a month ago I thought of funny yet not a heart-throb, but changed my mind when I saw him in Orange Days 😀

        Re: DDL – He is totally awesome. I know. I always thought Last of the Mohicans was a pile of cack (music score aside) but I’d watch it all over again just for him! I even let myself get major cases of depression watching My left foot and In the name of the father because he’s an amazing an actor. And while Gangs was painfully weak, this scene is gold:

        I’d probably pick a fight with him all the time just to get him all riled up, then I’d go, “Are you mad at me? Hate me! Hate me now! Then love me!” lmfao how twisted is that <- What, you mean there are relationships that don't happen that way? LOL, but yeah, I totally get it, I dunno never thought of myself as a masochist, but whenever they showed a close up of his face getting angry I'd be all "Yeah baby, hit me one more time britney style!"

        P.S. Leo in Luhrman's R+J was the best thing I've ever seen in big screen adaptations of the Bard. Despite not being a fan of his either, I have forgiven him many sins *cough*Titanic*cough* riding on how good a Romeo he had been alone. But then again, that film was da shit! I can't find one thing about it I disliked, even Juliet's half-burped cry at the end!

        • Ender's Girl Says:

          That Gangs clip was indeed awesome, thanks for posting! I’d say it’s way up there with DDL’s “I drink your milkshake!” scene with Paul Dano in Blood.

          Awww, you’re not a big fan of Mohicans? I watched that movie at least ten times in the cinemas. With my mom, lol. By re-watch #5 we pretty much knew the dialogue from end to end, hahaha. That movie is still in my Top 10 All-time Faves list. 😉 But I’m glad you loved the score. So iconic, like the LOTR soundtrack. (The violin-heavy BGM when Hawkeye and Cora were making out in a corner of Fort William Henry amid cannonfire and the groans of the wounded — that was pretty amazing too, hehehe.)

          Re Leo – I’m a huuuge Baz fan and I simply lap up everything he does, Nicole Kidman’s Chanel 5 commercial included. Wish he did more of his Velvet Curtain oeuvre, I’m such a sucker for the epic and theatrical. Love Baz! Love R+J — everything about that movie was perfect. (John Leguizamo FTW!) And listening to Des’ree singing “I’m kissing you again” still sends shivers up my arms. Lol @ Juliet’s half-burped cry! Man, that scene was so intense and nerve-racking that even if I knew what the outcome would be (duh), I kept screaming at the screen, “wake up!!! wake up!!!” or “omg look down at her hand, romeo!!! her fingers — they’re twitching!” lulz 😀

          Ahahahaha @ Yamada and hit me baby one more time! Here’s my favorite version of the song: it’s the Travis cover. I’ll never hear this song without thinking of Yamada from now on, haha 🙂

  8. B.T. Says:

    MOTHER EFFING GAWD you took the words right out of my failing brain when it comes to Yamada Takayuki’s role in the movies. I watched the 1st one for Shun, but started rooting for Takayuki after the first 10 minutes. Takayuki was THAT likable and cool, and Shun was THAT boring. I never found Takayuki good looking before, but my GOODNESSSSSSS I drooled and he became my ichiban (well, one of many). He just.. oozed cool and charisma out of every pore. I felt they completely ruined him in the second one, though. Holy crap what was with that scene in the stairwells near the end.
    Shun was so dull to watch. I seriously didn’t understand why they all followed him. It just felt so contrived.
    I loved the first Crows Zero movie, though. And I love your reviews. I have to try so SO hard to not burst out laughing at work.

    • Ender's Girl Says:

      Thank you muchly! 😀 And I’m delighted to meet a fellow Yamada Takayuki fan as well. (Have you seen Byakuyakou? *shivers*)

      “I drooled and he became my ichiban (well, one of many)” << Hahaha! I know what you mean. So… who are your others? Ichibans, I mean (lol, "ichibans" like that's a word)

  9. MAMA Says:

    Yup ! This Movie is indeed the best !


  11. Genjizawa Says:

    I watch this after i watch sekachu drama version….WTF first thing i ask is that saku??????? lol

  12. azam Says:

    genji , go and be the lead !

  13. Zaenal Rado Firdaus Iskandar Says:

    croWs zEro Sip lacH,,,,,,!

  14. tfunny Says:

    love crows zero…. waiting 4 CZ III….

  15. giezz Says:

    cool crows zero..i like it

  16. pratik karki Says:

    i like crowszero i want to see crowszwro 3

  17. shovuz Says:

    plz release more part off crows zero………………………….i love that film & mostly the hero takiya genji………………………………..the fan r miss this film

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