Reviewing NYAFF 2015: Tokyo Tribe


Japan has so many bizarre movies that take a hold of my eyeballs and refuse to let go. What is even more amazing is that these movies can be altogether beautiful, thrilling, enthralling, bizarre, cute, funny, sweet delivered in a well packaged movie.

On Fourth of July, the New York Asian Film Festival showcased the movie Tokyo Tribe . The movie came out in 2014, and  I can see why the festival coordinators chose this movie. Even though the movie is set in Japan, it is also very fitting movie for the Fourth of July. it is amovie about groups fractured by various reasons, coming together to fight against one common foe and therefore gaining liberation and peace. This fight involves crazy actions, characters, death scenes, fight sequences, and boobs.

I can’t stop repeating the words bizarre and fun in my head. Hip hop is not my musical preference, so I am not very familiar with the beats and rhythms. My only saving grace is that I grew up in the late nineties and many of the beats and styles were inspired from that time. The subtitles in the film were a bit awkward to read but it was still a relief to have them during the rapping.

I can’t even begin to describe this movie. I can only give you influences and references that float in my mind: The Warriors is number one. It’s also a bit like West Side Story, but with hip hop. Snoop Dog. Also, I think of every single hip hop group in the nineties.  Kill Bill.  The panty shot fight scenes and boob fixations reminded me of the anime High School of the Dead. It also brings to mind anime characters from the seventies and Jessica Rabbit.

Here is why I’m struggling: one of the gang members uses people as furniture. He strips them down, paints them, and has them pose as benches or clock holders. Then he “recharges” by slicing them and licking their blood. And yet he was one of the most entertaining characters in the movie. Instead of being disgusted, I was amused by this jaded, disturbing man.

Oh and this movie is very perverted. If you are easily offended by the words “panty shot,” then this movie will not be for you.  Seriously, if you are sensitive to this, move along to the next movie.

The simplest way to explain the story is that it is set in an alternate Tokyo fractured by territorial gangs. One gang decides to take down the rest of them by utilizing a relentless army of thugs. The rest of the gangs have to chooses whether to work together or be extinguished one by one. The catalyst for all of this action is one quiet girl and her friend as they get picked up the Buppa gang, one of the most perverse and violent gang, the one which seeks to destroy all the others. Yet, what I had imagined to be a a violent movie about gangs fighting become something that almost rivals the absurdity and gripping viewing experience of  The Fifth Element.

The women were all over the spectrum. The bulk of them fell into the hapless prostitute slot, but a good amount were uniquely weird. There was Erika, the lost virgin daughter, who has intimidating martial arts skills, but was willing to be sexually taken by the one of the opposing gang tribes. Maybe she was so sexually frustrated that she was flashing her white panties with every high kick. It almost became a drinking game, watching for how many times her panties were shown. Even though she had one of the shortest screen times, one of the lady minions of Buppa easily made me crack up when she casually shot a man while savoring a glass of wine.

If sexual explicitness makes you shrug, then I will also have to warn about the ginormous amount of cussing in this movie. I don’t understand Japanese, but I sure as heck understood it when the f* bombs were dropped. It’s even on a spinning globe that reads “F*&k da World” (which can be interpreted two ways).

Tokyo Tribe was just pure entertainment for me. The ending of the movie had a really sweet, simple message that just made it the cherry  topping. The reason behind the rage was absurd but it was all part of the movie.

So if none of those trigger warnings offend you, then go right ahead and watch it for all it’s hyper- violent glory.



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