This next movie is an adaptation of a series I've talked about briefly before: Sakigake!! Otokojuku. I even posted my anticipation back when the film came out in Japan and then immediately forgot it existed! As you can probably determine from the English title, this is a story about manning up in a comically harsh Japanese nationalist private school. It's one of the classics of Shonen Jump fight manga, and director/star Tak Sakaguchi grew up reading it and wanting to be hero Momotaro Tsurugi. I guess there was only one way to make that happen, huh?
As it's made by a fan, the movie is extremely faithful to the source material, particularly the hyperactive shifts between relatively serious action and extremely stupid comedy. They did it so well that one guy complained during the Q&A after the movie. That's just Otokojuku, man! They even hired the inimitable Shigeru Chiba, who played a couple of roles in the anime version, to narrate. There is no greater entertainment than a freeze-frame on a fancily-named martial arts maneuver as Shigeru Chiba shouts its name at the top of his lungs. The video I linked is from 25 years ago, and the man hasn't lost his touch one bit.
The story is hyper-compressed, as you'd expect from an adaptation of a shonen fight manga, and it covers as many of Otokojuku's characteristic tests of manliness as possible-- like Momo's buddy Genji proving himself by sitting in a vat of boiling oil-- before finishing with the classical shonen fighting tournament. All parties are constantly proving their manhood by fighting, screaming or both until they start to bleed, and then fighting or screaming harder in response. Manly spirit is in great supply here, and the booming yell of headmaster Hehachi Edajima in particular (without his hairdo, the one that Tekken's Heihachi got from him) is done magnificent CG justice.
Not that there's a lot of CG in the film: Sakaguchi kinda hates it, and he made a point to let us know in the Q&A that he tries to make action movies with as little CG as possible. It's all stuntmen here, doing crazy, crazy stuff. In the first five minutes of the movie, a character is hit by a car going about 40mph, which Tak and the stuntman who was hit (also present) are pretty sure is a record. As a result of this approach, his team's stuff has a lot of old-school spirit, like a Hong Kong movie without the kung-fu. After all, most of the guys of Otokojuku aren't suited to that fancy hop-around kinda stuff: just check out Momo's "punch everybody really, really fast" fighting style.
It was shot in two weeks on 400 grand, and yet it's still definitely the best live-action treatment that Otokojuku could ever have hoped for. Probably one of the best of the transitions from anime/manga to live-action that I've seen thus far. Dragonball Evolution probably cost a ton more. Just sayin'.
I have a question for those of you Japanese-fluent who have read all the manga or watched the anime: there's a subplot that doesn't really go anywhere in the film in which rough, scarred Genji goes out on a date with a cute schoolgirl who was really just pranking him the way that Japanese schoolgirls seem to have a thing for doing in the movies. After being humiliated by her and her friends, Genji yells "THIS WAS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE" and runs off to the park to cry while the girl looks on, ashamed. Momo has to cheer up his bro, and it never comes up again. I couldn't figure out whether they were just checking off the list of scenes from the manga, as they are in the rest of the film, or whether this was one of those studio-mandate scenes where they add a female character to expand the demographic. I expect a response, Internet!