(This review minor contains spoilers for Tokyo Revengers, Tokyo Revengers 2: Part 1 and Tokyo Revengers 2: Part 2)

I have always considered Japanese cinema (live-action or anime) as a bit of a blind-spot in my overall “geek credentials.” Not for lack of appreciation, but more for a lack of exposure. Whenever Fantasia rolls into Montreal I find myself usually filling out my schedule with horror films first, anything that looks completely bat-shit second and then everything else third.

Over the course of the pandemic Sarah and I binged the entirety of Alice in Borderland and pretty much loved every minute of it. We also caught Kakegurui during the 2021 edition of Fantasia as well. So let’s call ourselves amateurs in the world of live-action manga adaptations.

It was actually Alice in Borderland star Nijiro Murakami appearing in the trailer for “Tokyo Revengers 2” that caught our eye as his character in “Alice” was one of our favorites (and he does not disappoint as Kazutora Hanemiya in both parts of Tokyo Revengers 2).

So it was that we watched Tokyo Revengers on Saturday morning, got hooked into the story and then promptly made sure to watch Tokyo Revengers 2 Part 1 & 2 over the weekend at Fantasia.

There’s something amazing about adapting a manga to live-action and as a viewer you need to mentally prepare yourself for a few things. First, characters will behave significantly more melodramatically than they might otherwise in a “normal” film. Second, you need to be ready for things to possibly get a little supernatural without any real reason or explanation.

In Tokyo Revengers, Takemichi Hanagaki (a full on late-20s virgin in a dead-end job trope) finds out that his high-school girlfriend dies in a gang related incident and then discovers that he can travel 10 years back in time into his high-school self and change the events of the past.

Is it explained how this happens? Magic? Science fiction? No. Who cares. It’s happening, buckle up and enjoy it.

The first film results in Takemichi successfully altering the past just enough to make sure his ex-girlfriend lives and we get a (seemingly) happy ending.

Time for Tokyo Revengers 2

Despite being divided up into 2 parts, I’ll just refer to them both as “Tokyo Revengers 2”, even director Tsutomu Hanabusa said prior to the screening of Part 1 that it was really intended as one film and just cut into two for time.

One of the elements set up by the first film is that Takemichi’s super power is to basically get his ass kicked constantly but somehow teach someone a lesson or spark a change of heart via said ass-kicking. This holds true for Tokyo Revengers 2. The founding of the Tokyo Manji Gang gets explored in the film pretty extensively. We find out how the leader Mikey’s brother died, who’s gone to juvie, who is loyal to whom and so on.

And all the while Takemichi is getting his ass kicked.

The story of the series on the whole revolves around these tough-as-nails teenagers with lofty aspirations (mostly related to crime and getting into kick ass fights) learning to care about each other by virtue of “crybaby hero” Takemichi.

Throughout Tokyo Revengers 2, Takemichi attempts (with mixed success) to stop people from dying in the present because they succumb to toxic masculinity in the past.

A big reason to watch all three of these films is the absolutely brutal gang-fights. Tsutomu Hanabusa has an incredible eye for brutal fight sequences that don’t need a tremendous amount of special effects or even incredibly complex choreography.

This is particularly on display during the final fight sequence where the Tokyo Manji Gang faces off against the Valhalla gang in a scrapyard. Honestly, most of “Tokyo Revengers 2: Part 2” is this fight sequence. It’s non-stop. Even in the background of the “main fight” that you’re supposed to be watching there is good looking fighting happening as apparently hundreds of teenagers are just ready and willing to fight to the death for… reasons.

Honestly, if the weird melodrama and time travel are somehow off-putting to you, I would still recommend just jumping straight into Tokyo Revengers 2: Part 2 for that climactic fight sequence. Obviously I would recommend watching the first two films for all of the context first but that fight… man… worth the price of admission even as a stand alone sequence.

The original Tokyo Revengers is available on Crunchyroll, presumably Tokyo Revengers 2 might pop up there as well.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs through August 9th.