Issue #236a          HOME          E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com        BACK ISSUES         November 1st, 2004

Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by Poker Industries. Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.
Young Thugs: Innocent Blood and Young Thugs: Nostalgia

YOUNG THUGS: INNOCENT BLOOD
(1997; Yoshimoto Kogyo/Sedic International)


YOUNG THUGS: NOSTALGIA
(1998; Yoshimoto Kogyo/Marubeni Corporation /Sedic International)

Japanese: Kishiwada shonen gurentai – chikemuri junjohen Japanese: Kishiwada shonen gurentai – bokyo
English:Young Thugs of Kishiwada: Spray of Blood Over an Innocent Heart English: Young Thugs of Kishiwada: Nostalgia for Home
RATINGS:

YOUNG THUGS: INNOCENT BLOOD 7/10
YOUNG THUGS: NOSTALGIA 7/10

REVIEW:

Artsmagic has issued two more Takashi Miike films (adapted from the works of writer Riichi Nakaba) that come relatively early in his filmography and feature some autobiographical elements. YOUNG THUGS: INNOCENT BLOOD concerns a tight-knit group of young delinquents in Osaka, led by big, violent, and not-so-bright Riichi (Koji Chihara). Although he does not seem like much of a man to yearn for, Ryoko (Sarina Suzuki) is quite happy to be the lug’s girl, and the pair enjoy their time together and with friends Yuji (Yasushi Chihara, real-life brother of Koji Chihara) and Kotetsu (Kyosuke Yabe). While working for a local gangster, Riichi encounters Nahomi (Marie Kikuchi), a girl who had a crush on him in school and is now one of his boss’ prostitutes. While he was unreceptive to Nahomi before, Riichi is stunned by how much she has blossomed in the interim and proceeds to dump Ryoko. While she tries to cope with the situation, the nerdy Yuji becomes attracted to Ryoko’s co-worker, Masae (Hiroko Nakajima), and the pair gradually become quite close. Things are not going so well for Riichi, however. Tired of seeing him battered and bloody, Nahomi insists that he stop fighting with the other local toughs, particularly bitter enemy Sada (Yasushi Kitamura, channeling Riki Takeuchi). Unfortunately, Riichi’s reluctant transition from brawling badass to reluctant pacifist leaves him even more black and blue than before.

Koji Chihara Sarina Suzuki Yasushi Chihara

This is a pleasing character study, filled with persuasive performances and marvelously quirky digressions (notably, a fantasy sequence involving Yuji’s childhood obsession with his protractor, which plays like Miike’s down-and-dirty homage to THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T), along with a dash of Miike’s trademark ultra-violence (is there another director working today who can make even minor acts of violence seem so squirm-inducingly painful to watch?). The film loses its way in the final reel via some ill-advised comic situations that are not clever, merely contrived and disappointingly preposterous. Nonetheless, YOUNG THUGS: INNOCENT BLOOD is rewarding on most levels and makes a few tiny points about parental irresponsibility (the only advice Riichi’s forlorn mother offers to her obviously adrift son is "If you must fight, make sure you win") without being preachy about it.

Marie Kikuchi Hiroko Nakajima Yasushi Kitamura

Miike’s self-proclaimed favorite of his films, YOUNG THUGS: NOSTALGIA is a prequel offering a look at Riichi’s early years, starting in 1969, just as the Americans are about to land on the moon. He is already butting heads with Sada and getting into other mischief, including petty theft. When his vicious, worthless lout of a father (Naoto Takenaka) drives away his mother, Riichi finds brief solace with his pretty and cultured teacher, Miss Maki (Saki Takaoka). However, he soon strikes out with Yuji and Kotetsu on an ill-advised search for freedom and happiness. Along the way, Riichi sees how pointless their endeavor is and decides to re-focus the trio’s energies on something more creative and attainable.

The young Yuji (left) and Riichi Naoto Takenaka Saki Takaoka

While there is an obvious undercurrent of tenderness and humanity, NOSTALGIA is not your typical coming-of-age tale, nor would one expect such from Takashi Miike. Our grade school age hero (recovering from a night of drinking alcohol supplied by his father, no less) vomits profusely into his flute during music class, and another character is later punished by having a broomstick quite literally shoved up his ass! Two of Riichi and Sada’s encounters are even augmented by a snatch of music from Ennio Morricone’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE score. The narrative is leisurely but involving, thanks to the characters’ peculiar interaction and the setting, which contrasts the student riots in Tokyo with the local excitement over the Apollo 11 mission. While the film does touch upon the seriously dysfunctional relationship of Riichi’s parents, it is treated largely as just another facet of the narrative. As Miike says in an interview included on the DVD, it was his intent to show people in the springtime of their lives, along with some of the small but memorable moments of youth (such as Riichi’s first encounter with Ryoko, one of several simple but disarming moments here). In spite of the occasional grotesquerie, the tone is largely light and the ending offers no revelations or even much in the way of lessons learned. While this might cause some movies to be dismissed as insubstantial, one leaves NOSTALGIA feeling fulfilled, thanks to the estimable performances (the children are particularly good) and Miike’s deft approach, which is evident in almost every scene.

The young Sada Riichi's grandfather celebrates the moon landing Riichi's long-suffering mother leaves home yet again


PRESENTATION:

Some of Artsmagic’s previous transfers have been a bit on the dark side, but both features here look fine more often than not. Colors tend to be subdued but still effective, suggesting a conceptual choice. The films can be monitored in the original stereo mix or a 5.1 re-vamp; both are effective, but the new mixes have a slight edge. No Tom Mes commentaries this time, but the discs still offer a more than satisfactory line-up of extras. On hand are the original Japanese theatrical trailers (which can be viewed with or without subs) and Japanese video sleeve art (with optional translation of the text!), plus newly shot interviews with Miike. There are also a pair (one per platter) of short but interesting documentaries on Osaka’s history, culture, and unique dialect (which lends itself well to comedy). The layer change point on INNOCENT BLOOD is poorly chosen and even disrupts the music during the scene.

These DVDs are available at Amazon:   

Images in this review courtesy of Artsmagic. To read captions, hover mouse over image.


Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

YOUNG THUGS: INNOCENT BLOOD

DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Artsmagic #ATU 011
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0
  • Sync Sound Japanese Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.85:1)
  • 107 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Great Britain: 18
  • Contains brutal violence, coarse language, and some crude content

YOUNG THUGS: NOSTALGIA


DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Artsmagic #ATU 012
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0
  • Sync Sound Japanese Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English
  • 12 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.85:1)
  • 94 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Great Britain: 15
  • Contains moderate violence, coarse language, nudity, mild sexual content, and some crude content

FILM REVIEW RATINGS KEY:

  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful