Miike returns with a sequel to one of his slickest films ever. The original Crows Zero was a huge box office hit in Japan, making a sequel almost inevitable. For Crows Zero II Miike takes control again, delivering what must be his first straight-forward sequel. There is a first time for everything, and it seems when you're talking about Takashi Miike you should take that "everything" quite literally.
I enjoyed the first film so didn't really mind this sequel, but there was another reason for looking forward to watching this. It's the 50th Miike film I've seen, which officially makes me a fan I guess. His recent output seems to lack a little flair and goofiness (though I still need to see Yatterman), but nonetheless his films remain interesting and entertaining, always something to look forward too. Crows Zero II is no exception.
Miike's first straight-forward sequel is as straight-forward as can be. There is no time, character or settings trickery to reminds us of Dead or Alive, only a simple continuation of the Crows story. Not a big surprise, as this sequel too is based on the Crows Zero manga, but still a welcome warning for Miike adepts. Don't be tempted to believe he trampled sequel conventions again. And people expecting a more surreal or humorous film based on the whole setting are advised to watch Cromartie High instead.
Oguri crawls back in the skin of Genji, but is faced with bigger enemies this time around. For starters he breaks a peace treaty with a neighboring gang, obliviously lighting fire to a dormant gang war. Besides that Genji is still at war with himself, trying to find peace with his father and looking for a goal in life. Worst of all, he does a pretty terrible job at combining the two and in result is struggling for support from his underlings.
Visually Crows Zero II is still looking incredibly slick. Maybe not as many landmark shots, but the dense and graffiti-laden backgrounds make for a tasty looking film alright. The fighting scenes are still a blast to behold too, with strong, intense and action-driven camera work and some tight editing to keep the adrenaline flowing. In the end though, during these two hours you might start missing the more edgy style of former Miike films. I guess it depends on where your preferences lie.
The soundtrack is still a little disappointing, though luckily not quite as bad as the first film. Not as many R&B intermezzos (just one really), and some rather silly but functional J-Rock stuff. Acting on the other hand is rock solid, especially the key roles portray their characters with plenty of flair. Oguri is perfect in his role, but the supporting cast also deserves some credits. It's not high-profile drama acting, but what they do, they do extremely well.
Crows Zero II is a rather strict sequel, following the exact same route as its predecessor. It's almost like a film split in half. Visually nearly identical, same characters and same side stories (the yakuza line is back again, so is Oguri's father). There's a comedic interlude about a blossoming romance and Oguri's girlfriend gets a little screen-time too. All things considered, the sequel is a bit more fight-oriented, which is probably the biggest difference between both films. Proof of this can be found in the massive 30-minute brawl finale, featuring little to no breathers.
Crows Zero II will probably appeal to the people who liked the first film and can bear a second, almost identical, serving. There's still plenty of posing, lots of fighting and some drama in between. It's a little weird seeing Miike do a sequel like this, but he pulls it off rather well. A bit more entertaining than the first film, but (of course) a whole lot less original. Though you can wonder how original a manga adaptation is in the first place. Recommended for fans of the original, others shouldn't bother at all.