Featured image: Kitamura Takumi as Takemichi (right) in Tokyo Revengers. (Courtesy of Fantasia.)
Directed by Hanabusa Tsutomu. Written by Takahashi Izumi (based on the comic by Wakui Ken). Starring Kitamura Takumi, Mio Imada, Yôsuke Sugino. Runtime 2h. Tokyo Revengers had its International Premiere on Sunday, August 8 at the Fantasia International Film Festival.
When I added the live-action comic book adaptation Tokyo Revengers to my list for Fantasia, I was expecting some exciting action and a fun time travel story. What I got really surprised me, making it one of my favourites of the festival so far.
The film concerns our hero Hanagaki Takemichi (Kitamura Takumi), a “loser” who peaked in high school with not many career prospects. One day, he learns that the love of his life from high school, Hinata Tabichana (Mio Imada) has been killed by a new Japanese gang called the Tokyo Manji Gang, as she was caught in the middle of a turf war.
Why she died is never specifically touched on, but the fact that she does die is all that’s important. The next day, Takemichi is pushed in front of a train and before he’s killed, a blue light lets him travel back in time to his body from 10 years ago. Once there, he uses this as an opportunity to try and change his girlfriend’s fate by saving her.
Teaming up with Hinata’s brother, Tabichana Naoto (Yôsuke Sugino) in the present day, Naoto changes his fate as he became a detective to protect his sister. It’s fascinating as Takemichi travels back through time to the same time 10 years earlier through the use of a handshake with Naoto. This is interesting as he goes back in time, makes slight alterations, reports back to see if she’s been saved. Then, he goes back again and it’s a lot of trial and error where he doesn’t have all the information, so it’s a truly fun journey in that way.
It’s so interesting how Takemichi also uses it as an opportunity to change his own fate, where he and his best friends, who called themselves the Mizo 5, where he realizes what happened to him in high school is why he’s so apologetic today. We see Takemichi happen to befriend the leader of the very gang he’s trying to stop from killing Hinata. This is Manjiro Sano (Ryô Yoshizawa), or back then, simply “Mikey.” The intro to him with a double kick to a guy’s face is super fun.
It’s cool seeing how the gang forms into what it is in 2021, and the way the gang is created and all the dynamics make sense, and how the time travel doesn’t feel convoluted, is impressive because it’s, for the most part, easy to follow. That has to do with the great screenplay by Takahashi Izumi, based on the comic by Wakui Ken. The way director Hanabusa Tsutomu brings it all to life is impressive.
The writing gets to the bottom of when and how a gang fundamentally changes. These characters bring some fun high school fighting sequences, and also some completely badass action with strong fight choreography. It won’t be anything you see in Indonesian actioners like The Raid or The Night Comes for Us, but it’s a ton of fun all the same.
I was satisfied by the fun action and the fun time travel story, but what I was totally enamored by the film’s heart. It’s almost coming-of-age for Takemichi, learning where he went wrong in his life as he gave up too easily. Watching his confidence grow and just watching his try and relentlessness is heartwarming. Tokyo Revengers is also surprisingly poignant at times, from the strong romantic chemistry between Takemichi and Hinata, to the relationships that Takemichi forges with his main friend group and Mikey, too.
The film feels so dynamic in pacing, as it tries different ideas on for size to try to save the sister throughout. It’s also nice for the time travel that feels believable, not overtly concerned with the rules as much as giving us a fun story. That is one thing it definitely has, packing an entertaining two hours that has a great mix of action and heart.
Tokyo Revengers had its International Premiere with an in-person screening on August 8 at the Fantasia Film Festival. The festival’s lineup of films can be found here.