The Crows of Suzuran High.
The follow up to Miike's 2007 hit Crows Zero is basically more of the same. Based on a long running manga by Hiroshi Takahashi, the story tells of rival high school gangs fighting each other and among themselves to gain control over Tokyo's high schools. In Crows Zero II, Genji (Shun Oguri) has captured Suzuran High by beating Serizawa (Takayuki Yamada) in the first film, but he has failed at uniting the different factions at the school and beating loner giant Rindaman. But with the release of former Suzuran student Kawanishi (Shinnosuke Abe) from prison, bigger trouble than petty infighting are headed for Genji and everyone else at Suzuran High. Two years earlier, Kawanishi, the then leader of Suzuran, stabbed the boss of Hosen Acadamy to death and now the new leaders of Hosen are out for revenge, not just on Kawanishi, but on all of Suzuran's students. This along with Genji's yakuza father (Goro Kishitani) being targeted for a hit by another group doesn't make Genji's life any easier.
The biggest problem I have with Crows Zero and its sequel is the drama, both films feel too much like some teen drama tv-show, where it's hard to take the cheesy dialogue about war and tactics as seriously as the characters seem to do, and to believe that these scrawny actors are actually brutal fighters. The parallel of Genji's fathers life, with the same kind of conflicts within the yakuza group and with others, showing what the kids of Suzuran High can expect their future to be, and the message that no matter how strong you are, there is always someone stronger doesn't really fit in the film as much as it does as a continuation of Miike's earlier films where unconditional success is rarely seen.
I think the thing lacking in the Crows films compared to Miike's earlier efforts in the kids-knocking-each-other-senseless genre, like the two Young Thugs (1997-1998) and The Way to Fight (1996), is heart. The previous films were actually showing parts of the characters lives and full of warmth and humor between the fights while Crows are merely showing fighting and discussions of tactics on how to recruit more members to their gangs and how to win fights. Even though there are scenes of bonding and the sense of family isn't taken lightly, the emotional impact isn't there in Crows. The only time Crows Zero II really comes to life is in the fight scenes, which surpasses the first film with their energy but still lacks to be really involving. Perhaps the life of the characters are really shown in the fights, as it is their way to feel alive, and afterwards they rarely seem bothered by injuries or the bruises on their faces like it is their natural state.
At 2 hours and 13 minutes, I wish that Miike would have settled for 90 minutes of high school kids beating the crap out of each other and saved the drama for another film.