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Takiya Genji, the son of a Yakuza crime lord, starts his new scholastic year at Suzuran All-Boys High School, nicknamed ‘The School of Crows’ the most violent and unruly school in the whole of Japan. The students are broken up into factions, mostly based on their year, and these factions fight for control over the whole of the school. No one student has ever successfully taken control over the whole of the school, though the most powerful faction is headed by Tamao Serizawa. Genji, determines to succeed where his father, a past student, failed and bring all the factions under his control. If successful he stands to also inherit his father’s Yakuza family...
Crows Zero (2007 - 2 hr, 09 min, 52 sec) is a film directed by Takashi Miike. The screenplay was written by Shogo Muto, an adaptation of Hiroshi Takahashi’s original manga. The film was nominated for two awards. The film gets its ‘Zero’ from being the origin story of the endless fights which adorned the successful pages of the manga.
Miike has been a successful director for many years, making his name with films like Audition (2000) and Ichi the Killer (2001); never one to follow the dictates of any single genre, Miike has carved out a career examining the role of the outsider and here in the school, just about everyone is rootless.
Being an adaptation of a manga, the danger the film ran was to end up as all style and no content. It's true there are innumerable animes, mangas and films which deal with fight clubs in high schools, the better part of the genre pay as much attention to its characters as it does to the fight sequences and so it is here.
Genji (Shun Oguri) has much to prove, both to himself and his father. Although, as the film progresses, we see that he is not the natural leader that he needs to be, finally engaging the services of Ken (Kyôsuke Yabe) an ex student who failed in his attempt to control the school, eventually dropping out all together to become a leg man for the Yakuza, an important connection, when in the latter half of the film he is ordered to kill Genji.
His main opponent, Tamao Serizawa (Takayuki Yamada), has the sort of good looks which would make young ladies swoon, but he also is able to project the presence of a leader and good fighter. As Genji works his way through the school, building his own private army, Serizawa seems almost unconcerned. The inevitable showdown happens one dawn between the two groups, each with around a hundred students apiece. The group fight finally leaving the two protagonists as the only men standing.
The girls will swoon at the good looking guys, whilst guys will enjoy the testosteroned poisoned machismo fight sequences; there is also enough comedy in the film for it to be occasionally a shared experience.
The picture is pretty good for a NTSC conversion; there is a little boarder round the edges to keep the original shape at 1.85:1. The DD 2.0 track is clear, but would have created more impact with a 5.1 track. There are English subtitles. Oddly enough there are no extras at all, not even a trailer.
It’s a superior film for this particular genre, as one would expect from a director of Miike’s calibre.