What if you were allowed to go back in time and fix the one moment that single-handedly destroyed your life? The Tokyo Revengers live action movie will have everyone wondering about the domino effect of events in their own past, long after the credits roll. Whether a lost romance or where they ended up in their careers.
This Fantasia Film Festival review contains spoilers.
In real life, we don’t get to slam the reset button when something goes wrong. We’re just handed some empty platitudes, motivational cliches, and told to move on. ‘Well, you can’t go back in time! Failure builds character’ and all that jazz that goes in one ear and out the other.
But what if you could travel back in time to exact second everything went awry? Would anyone hesitate to pounce onto the opportunity like a cheetah in the Serengeti? The live action Tokyo Revengers movie lets us through the looking glass for a peek into the second chance we never got but always dreamed of.
Meet Takemichi Hanagaki, in the film’s opening, the present, he is but a simple, low status, lonely cashier. Openly berated by his boss and apologizing repeatedly for his own mistreatment. Takemichi’s apartment is a mess, overflowing with empty frozen food cartons and months old cardboard.
His self esteem is at rock bottom as he convinces himself to eat moldy bread with mustard in it. The epitome of a stereotype, a forced bachelor basking in the glow of his TV out of autopilot routine… It’s then Takemichi learns from the news that his ex-girlfriend in middle school Hinata Tachibana died that day.
A Chance at Redemption
Distraught Takemichi Hanagaki is standing on a subway platform, thinking where everything went wrong when he gets a nudge in the back and falls downwards. He sees the train fast approaching but can’t do anything about it, however, instead of dying he returns to the past.
Takemichi Hanagaki returns to the day where his life had actually ended and began a slow descent into a living coma. The day bully Masataka Kiyomizu beats him and his crew into submission and forces them all to apologize.
Takemichi Hanagaki later tries to protect his past girlfriend’s younger brother Naoto Tachibana from bullying of his own but fails to do so. However, he relays an important message, that 12 years from now, Naoto and Hinata will both die on July 4th… And how it will happen.
Takemichi returns to the present upon a handshake but doesn’t yet realize the handshake with Naoto is the source of his time traveling power. In the present, he learns he was saved by Naoto, it wasn’t all a dream.
Tokyo Revengers Film Time Traveling
Thus, Naoto and Takemichi plot out a way where they could still change Hinata’s fate and it begins with Takemichi standing up to Masataka Kiyomizu… Without spoiling the plot, every single thing Takemichi does in the past has a direct consequence on the future.
Showing just how fragile & major every single decision or non-decision we make in our lives has. A fascinating, complex domino effect. In Takemichi’s case friendship with Manjiro Sano ‘Mikey’ and Ken Ryuguji ‘Draken’ is the difference between his girlfriend Hianta living or dying. Should Draken, Mikey’s ‘conscious’ be murdered by rival gang from Mobius…
All good from Mikey is siphoned away and his gang Toman (or Tokyo Manji Gang) becomes ruthless in the future. Takemichi’s goal then becomes to stop Draken from ever being murdered to change the future and save Hinata.
Cinematography & Fight Choregraphy
The way Director Tsutomu Hanabusa presents Takemichi Hanagaki standing up to Mastaka Kiyomizu had a distinct David vs Goliath feel. Takemichi Hanagaki takes a brutal beating but wins over Mikey and the crowd in the process during the first time.
You see the domineering, bigger Mastaka clearly with the physical advantage over Takemichi who takes hit after hit. Looking clearly outmatched, which in turn makes the audience connect with Takemichi through his courage.
During their final fight, Takemichi applies an MMA style choke hold, situated around Kiyomizu’s back. There’s lights in the background of the tunnel while a fallen Draken lies weak and defenseless. The visuals speak for itself, even if there were no dialogue at all. It’s primal and animalistic.
Manjiro ‘Mikey’ Sono is presented as an unstoppable force of nature all film long. One of the most memorable visuals from Tokyo Revengers is early on, right after Mikey lays down a beating on multiple challengers at school… And then has Draken set up a bridge of his fallen adversaries for him to walk on down the hall.
Director Tsutomu Hanabusa did a great job setting up the scene for Toman’s meeting on a massively layered staircase. Mikey rides his motorcycle down the center and it’s once again, simply visually impressive. Almost reminiscent of 30 Seconds to Mars’ visuals for the “From Yesterday” music video but at night. The spotlights around Mikey enhance & highlight this X factor-like charisma around him.
Notably, one of the standout scenes from Tokyo Revengers is when Draken forces Mikey to bow down to the parents of a girl injured by Moebius at a hospital. Despite Toman not being responsible, Draken recognizes the need for humility & empathy in front of those who have been wounded by gang warfare.
Draken wants Mikey to bow down with him to give the father someone to express his anger and sorrow toward in Moebius place. To the unknowing father, it’s some form of redemption despite Mikey & Draken not being responsible at all. It’s here Draken is entirely established as Mikey’s ‘conscious’.
All the fights between Moebius and Toman feature thrilling martial arts choreography, they’re just fun to watch. Action packed all-out brawls. The moves are clearly geared toward being flashy and entertaining the audience.
Takumi Kitamura was a great casting choice for Takemichi Hanagaki, he is believable all the way through. Always right in-between completely vulnerable and weak to never giving up. Never is this more pronounced then when he is tied up by Masataka Kiyomizu in a forest and is entirely ashamed to be seen by his girlfriend.
His shame and constant self awareness of his social status is what makes him connect as a person to cheer for even if you haven’t read the source material manga or seen the anime at all.
Ryô Yoshizawa and Yuki Yamada were also top choices for Mikey & Draken. They are presented as fearsome but human and their encounters with Takumi feels like organic friendship on-screen. Particularly when the three ride their bikes over a green valley.
The same for the motivating Hinata Tachibana played by actress Mio Imada. Her top scene is of course slapping Mikey in order to defend Takemichi, which leads to a tense moment as you don’t know how either Mikey or Draken will react.
Actor Kenta Matsushima deserves credit for playing a hyper realistic bully counterpart to Takumi.
Conclusion: The whole concept of Tokyo Revengers will lead the audience to personal introspection throughout the film, while enjoying great drama, fight choreography, and time travel twists.
– Learn more about the live action Tokyo Revengers’ movie screening at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.
– Be sure to read our Fantasia review for Director Tsutomu Hanabusa’s Kakegurui 2: Ultimate Russian Roulette
– The screenplay for the action packed Tokyo Revengers was written by Izumi Takahashi. It’s based on the original Manga series comic written by Ken Wakui.
– The Tokyo Revengers English Dub anime TV show is available on Crunchyroll as of this spring.