The Fantasia International Film Festival is taking place right now, and there was one movie that was high on my list: live-action Tokyo Revengers. I haven’t exactly been subtle about my love for this series, and after watching the movie, I really hope it gets a wider distribution.
As someone who watches the Tokyo Revengers anime and accidentally caught as much of the manga as was available, the film is a pretty solid addition to the franchise. It works perfectly as a standalone release, tying up enough loose ends to leave viewers satisfied, but it also leaves room for a sequel (or multiple sequels) if you know what to look for.
A naked and tattooed yakuza is bloodied and terrified by a new generation of smartly dressed gangsters in a luxury car. The Tokyo Manji Gang is showing its strength and a raging conflict within the underworld is on the move. It even affects the life of Takemichi Hanagaki, a cowardly and scruffy loser in his twenties, when he hears the news that his high school girlfriend and brother have been murdered. Then Takemichi himself is attacked, pushed onto the subway tracks as the train falls on him. At the last second, however, Takemichi is transported 10 years into the past, becoming his tough and arrogant teenage self again. He’s back where all the madness started. You may have a chance to change the future, if you can survive your own past!
A jaw-breaking juvenile delinquent battle royale combined with a high-stakes time travel thriller, plus additional hints of teenage angst and romantic comedy. TOKYO AVENGERSKen Wakui’s award-winning and hugely popular manga debuted in 2017 and has since been adapted as a television anime series, and now as the live-action movie version of Tsutomu Hanabusa.
Why Toman remains undefeated
First of all, I have to say that the actors they got for this movie are SPOT ON for each of the characters they play. It doesn’t take long to cheer on Takemichi (Takumi Kitamura) as he tries to make sense of the situation he’s literally been pushed into before deciding to “get revenge” on his life. Meanwhile, Mikey (Ryo Yoshizawa) is the perfect mix of “adorable smol bean” and “explosive blonde, don’t cross over”, while Draken (Yuki Yamada) is an absolute beast.
Everyone delivers the range of emotions that comes with Tokyo Revengers, a homeless story that centers on a group of teenage delinquents with a lot of heart.
Tokyo Revengers, in essence, is a pretty normal story. Time travel is the only thing supernatural about it, but beyond that, these are just a bunch of kids fighting big time while developing a bond with each other. The plot is not that complicated, the characters are extremely likable, and the fights are devastating for how brutal they are through hitting, kicking, and the occasional baseball bat. (Not from Toman though. They don’t fight like that). Honestly, without the time travel, this is basically a movie you’d pick if you’re in the mood for solid street fights and cool character interactions.
However, with time travel we have a whole new layer of storytelling that makes for a great sci-fi murder mystery.
Along with the fight there is a good chemistry between the characters. Draken and Mikey are as close as they are in the source material, and Takemichi slowly begins to realize that Toman isn’t that bad, at least he wasn’t 10 years ago. Takemichi’s friends are still the best team a beaten-up guy could ask for, offering camaraderie and comic relief when the story needs it. It’s also easy to see why Hina means so much to Takemichi. Plus, it’s easy to see how she inspires him to keep getting up.
With that said, Takemichi ends up traveling back to fix things for more than Hina’s sake, proving that he is fond of Toman and doing this for everyone he cares about, including himself.
Fans of the series will notice differences in the movie compared to the anime and manga. (Yes, Takemichi goes back 10 years instead of 12.) Some things are dropped in favor of telling a fuller story, while additions are made to the scenes to contribute to the story the movie tells. That may seem a bit off putting at first, but when I finished the movie, I realized that counting the entire Moebius arc as presented in the source material would be impossible in just 2 hours. That arc sets up some VERY big plot threads (the anime is in the middle of one right now), so things had to be tweaked so the movie didn’t feel like it ended in a giant suspense.
That said, if you’re like me and you know what comes next, there is room for a sequel. There doesn’t need to be one, but if they ever announced a second part, you’ll know exactly where they can start. In fact, it’s kind of fun to watch a character or a scene and know that if we have more movies, those elements could be addressed in that moment.
Obviously the goal was to make a good movie rather than trying to put together multiple movies that covered all of the Tokyo Revengers and, well, I think they succeeded. I think it’s the perfect way to entertain existing fans and even create new fans who might wonder how far Takemichi’s story goes. Tokyo Revengers is an amazing journey that anime / manga fans, and anyone who just wants to see a good beat-em-up movie, will enjoy.
(image: Warner Bros. Japan)
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