Young Thugs: Innocent Blood (1997)Director: Takeshi Miike
Starring: Koji Chihara, Sarina Suzuki, Yasushi Chihara, Kyosuke Yaba, Yashushi Kitamura
Tagline: Yakuza - the early years
Set in 1970s Japan, Riichi (Koji Chihara) and his friends have various adventures in the first year after high school. You would expect them to go their separate ways, but they still hang around with each other, but various things occur which eventually causes their separation. As with any life there are ups and downs and Riichi and his friends learn to live with the changes that happen to their lives.
The main thing that happens to Riichi is that he ends his relationship with his high school girlfriend Ryoko (Sarina Suzuki) and a lot of the story is related to how this happened. He also starts getting beaten up a lot more as his new girlfriend doesn't want him to fight back, which gets him into trouble with local gangs.
His other friends Toketsu (Kyosuke Yaba) and Yuji (Yasushi Chihara) also have their own stories, but they are not really given as much time as Riichi. I did like the story about the protractor and the strange flamenco dance sequence though.
There is some violence in this movie, but it is not the main focus of the film and it is very well balanced with humour and other aspects of the story. I thought it was funny that Riichi walks up to one person beating up gang members and they have a chat while he is punching them. What I liked about these scenes is that the violence is treated like a part of the characters lives that they have to deal with it and they don't really make a big show about it.
I did enjoy this film although it is not the usual Yakuza story. It is somewhat similar to Miike's other film Young Thugs: Nostalgia (released after this film), as it has the same characters in their late teenage years whereas that film has them before they entered high school. You could watch either film first and it wouldn't make much difference to the story however.
I would recommend this film if you like crime stories or like seeing a different take on the romantic comedy genre as that is also a big part of this movie. It is also another of Miike's films that the squeamish could watch with ease as apart from the 'tattoo removal' scene there is not really much gore in the film.