“Tokyo Revengers”: the true story of the Japanese gangs that inspired the most popular anime of the moment

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Among the most popular anime of recent times highlights “Tokyo Revengers”, A story of a 26-year-old man who, under mysterious circumstances, can go back to his school days to stop the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Outside of the fanciful elements so common in Japanese fiction, the story created by Ken Wakui revolves around loyalty, sacrifice and violence that surround one of the most enduring subcultures in Japanese society: that of well-known juvenile delinquents. as yankii (ヤ ン キ ー).

SIGHT: “Tokyo Revengers”, the anime that fulfills a fantasy: What if you could go back to the past and fix your life?

But what are the yankii? In the text “The public perception of the ‘bosozoku’ (motorcycle gangs) in Japan”, the author Andreas Riessland describes them as a subgroup of these made up of high school students “showing contempt for school authorities through disruptive behavior, provocative infractions, outright disregard for school rules, and outright disobedience”.

Meanwhile, in the text “Our yankiis are different from your yankees” , author Kaori Shoji describes the appearance of the Yankii as follows: “the yankii are school gangs, of the coolest variety who like motorcycles, dyed hair, and custom uniforms”.

Takemichi Hanagaki, el protagonista de "Tokyo Revengers". Foto: Crunchyroll.
Takemichi Hanagaki, el protagonista de “Tokyo Revengers”. Foto: Crunchyroll.

Shoji also describes the ‘growth’ of a yankii, noting that they begin their career at age 14 by inhaling glue and frequently smoking cigarettes,a dangerous activity that usually takes place on the roof of the school”.

Despite their apparent aversion to authority, these gangs They follow a rigid hierarchical system where the younger Yankii have to obey their ‘senpai’ or older. Additionally, they are also governed by a strict code of honor that can vary between gangs, but is based on the values ​​of sincerity (seii), guts (konjyo) and dedication (nyukon).

The similarity between the name Yankii and the term to describe Americans (Yankee) is no coincidence. And it is that the Japanese gangs were inspired by the American soldiers who were stationed in the country of the rising sun after World War II.

This inspiration is evidenced by his fascination with blonde tints and, perhaps more prominently, by the popularity of the hairstyle. pompadour between the Yankii bands, making a direct line between this culture and that of the 1950s greasers, also with stars like Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando and James Dean using this style at times.

The yankii began to appear in the 70s, although they were more prevalent in the 80s and 90s, although they remain until today, their positions have become less radical in recent years.

They still ride rigged bikes, but now they respect traffic rules and have no interest in joining motorcycle gangs. They do not identify with the yankii shown in popular manga of a generation ago”, , author of the book “Yankii Economics: The New Conservatives as Consumption Leaders.” According to the researcher, in the last decade there has been a prevalence of ‘soft yankiis’, less rebellious to social structures, also leaving behind the stereotypical look of this subculture.

In fiction, the Yankii were popularized in the manga by Kazuhiro Kiuchi’s “Be-Bob High School” series, which revolved around the lives of two gang member friends. Characters of this style have also appeared in other important manga and anime over the years, such as Kazuma Kuwabara from “Yu Yu Hakusho” (1990), Hanamichi Sakuragi from “Slam Dunk” (1990), almost the entire cast of ” Cromatie High School ”(2000) and more recently in comic strips such as“ Beelzebub ”(2009) and“ Tokyo Revengers ”(2017) himself.

Movie based on the manga "Be-Bob High School", which helped popularize the Yankii in fiction.  (Photo: Central Arts)
Film based on the manga “Be-Bob High School”, which helped popularize the Yankii in fiction. (Photo: Central Arts)

It should be noted that in the latter case, author Ken Wakui was able to draw inspiration from real life. Answering a question for the French publishing house Glénat in 2019 (), the ‘mangaka’ states that “the starting point (for ‘Tokyo Revengers’) came from my editor, who wanted to read a story about ‘yankiis’. This interested me, because I had no idea what they were like now. This is how I had the idea that the hero traveled through time, to be able to describe the yankii of the early 2000s, when he was one of them.

In an interview, Wakui will have another reason why he chose that period. “I wanted to talk about a time when gangs had style. The former criminals were members of gangs with principles and without money, as is the case today“, he pointed.

At another time he noted that “Being in a gang was, at least in my time, all about folklore, about looks. If we ended up fighting, it was against another criminal and not against the citizens, with whom we remained respectful and courteous.”

You can find “Tokyo Revengers” on the streaming service Crunchyroll. There are currently 21 episodes available on the platform, with a new episode coming out every week. Premium subscribers of the platform can watch the chapters seven days before.


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