Tokyo Tribe (2014)

2016 #149
Sion Sono | 112 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | Japan / Japanese | 18

Tokyo Tribe

Adapted from the manga Tokyo Tribe 2, the film version is a hip-hop musical, sung (or rapped) through by an expansive cast who make up the titular tribes — gangs who rule the streets of a divided near-future (or possibly alternate reality; or possibly it doesn’t matter that much) Tokyo. The world of the story is pretty barmy, and much of the plot follows suit — I’m not going to attempt to describe it, but suffice to say it involves kidnapped girls, rescue attempts, and brewing gang warfare.

Much of the film does feel like a cartoon brought to life, with the ultra-heightened scenario and larger-than-life scenery-chewing villains — as the big bad, Riki Takeuchi hams it up so ludicrously his performance circles back round into genius. It’d definitely be an adult cartoon, though, because director Sion Sono brings a kind of trash-art, exploitation vibe, with gratuitous helpings of nudity and violence. Indeed, that direction is indicated early on when a young female police officer ventures into gang territory and is grabbed by one of the villains who, in front of a baying crowd, rips open her shirt and begins to trace a knife around her naked breasts to explain the various gang factions. It’s kind of kinky, kind of nasty, kind of distasteful, kind of not (I mean, he is a bad guy) — if you wanted to summarise the feel of the whole film in one sequence, it’s actually not a bad start.

When too many tribes to keep track of go to war

I watched Tokyo Tribe out of pure curiosity (a rap musical isn’t exactly my usual kind of thing) but I ended up rather loving it, which is why it made my 2016 top 20. There I summarised that its mix of “battle rap, comic grotesques, ultra violence, gratuitous nudity, more barmy notions than you can shake a stick at, and probably the kitchen sink too, [made it] possibly the most batshit-crazy movie I’ve ever seen.” So those extremes don’t bother me per se (other than to the extent they should bother me), but there’s an undoubted not-for-everyone-ness to a lot of it. That, plus some rough edges, are all that hold me back from giving it 5 stars.

4 out of 5

Tokyo Tribe placed 19th on my list of The 20 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2016, which can be read in full here.

The Slimline Monthly Update for September 2016

Keeping things to the point, this month.


#143 Ben-Hur (1959)
#144 Spotlight (2015)
#145 Midnight Special (2016)
#146 Rushmore (1998)
#147 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
#148 Tale of Tales (2015), aka Il racconto dei racconti
#149 Tokyo Tribe (2014)
#150 The Survivalist (2015)
#151 Magic in the Moonlight (2014)
#152 The Magnificent Seven (1960)
#153 Mr. Turner (2014)
#154 The Saint’s Return (1953), aka The Saint’s Girl Friday
#155 Westworld (1973)
#156 The Nice Guys (2016)
#157 Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Tokyo Tribe

The Nice Guys

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  • 15 new films this month, which is exactly the same as in August, and the 28th consecutive month with 10+ films.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film was right at the start, for a change. One of the definitive historical epics of classic Hollywood, it was the 1959 remake of Ben-Hur.



The 16th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I watched a couple of Best Picture winners in September, and a couple more that were nominated for the prize, but by far the most entertaining movie I saw this month was also the newest: Shane Black’s latest buddy action/thriller/comedy, The Nice Guys.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
No really bad films this month, but a few middling ones. A couple of those I didn’t expect all that much from and so wasn’t greatly surprised, but, after a tonne of hype in certain circles, I was a bit let down by Midnight Special.

The Dick Van Dyke Award for Performing with a Cockney Accent
Someone in Witness for the Prosecution, but I shan’t tell you who because if you’ve not seen it it might spoil it.

Least-Likely Catchiest Musical Refrain of the Month
Tokyo Tribe, never ever die! Tokyo Tribe, never ever die!

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Although a raft of challengers came close to deposing it, an early lead was set and maintained for this award by my review of Ben-Hur (1959 variety, of course).



This month: pirates, hitmen, Jedi, archaeologists, and sweet transvestites star in some of the most popular films of all time.


There’s an awful lot of TV on the way — will my film viewing suffer? (Cliffhanger!)