In a dystopian future Japan, Tokyo is divided into a number of lawless ‘hoods’, which are home to their own unique street gangs or ‘tribes’. The tribes are all pretty evenly matched, keeping order in their own manors until Wu-Ronz tribe boss Merra (Ryohei Suzuki) throws in his lot with Yakuza big boss Buppa (a marvellously grotesque Riki Takeuchi).
Now Buppa is the kind of guy who keeps a cigar box full of severed fingers at he dining room table as an after dinner snack. He also runs Tokyo’s sex industry district, Bukuro. Now Merra hates Kim (Takuya Ishida) of the Musashino Saru tribe, so when sets a trap for him, it’s up to tribe boss Tera (Ryuta Sato) and his pals Kai (Young Dais) and Hasheem to cross into the Bukuro badlands and save him.
Not only do the pals find Kim, they also liberate the mysterious young girl Sunmi (Nana Seino) who Buppa has some nasty future plans for. In their escape bid, Merra kills Tera, so when the pals get back to their side of the city they get all the tribes together and get tooled up to take on Merra and Buppa in a monster violent epic battle.
Packed with beautifully choreographed over the top violent martial arts action, Tokyo Tribe has stunning cinematography and direction of truly epic proportions, Tokyo Tribe also features some really original set design and costumes. I particularly liked Buppa’s son Nkoi’s playroom, where all the furniture is composed of naked people and Buppa’s dining room, a dazzlingly over the top French Baroque confection populated by lunatics and sycophants.
Based upon Santa Inoue’s manga Tokyo Tribe2 this tale of Tokyo street gangs is no West Side Story even if it is a musical (thought I might keep that little bombshell to last folks). All the dialogue is in rap and the various street gang leaders are all played by Japan’s top rappers, chosen by director Sion Sono via a YouTube audition.
I have to admit I have never been a big fan of rap, but in the context of Tokyo Tribe it makes perfect sense. If anything calling Tokyo Tribe a musical does it a miss service it’s more of a rap opera.
Oh and there are some knob jokes too.
An epic Jidaigeki Yakuza Hip-Hop Horror Comic Opera I give Tokyo Tribe a 555/666
Tokyo Tribe is released in UK theatres on 22 May and on BluRay and DVD on 15 June
Optional English subtitles
Feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary
Limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Aaron Hillis along with behind-the-scenes photography