Crows Zero

From November 30th to December 3rd 2017, I stayed in Tokyo to watch all five shows of Bancho Boys 10th stage, Crows Zero. This was the second Bancho Boys stage I’ve watched all the shows of, and although this was a completely different experience to the randomness of Amaku wa nai ze 2, I can still say that I enjoyed each and every show, even though the content was a lot more rigid than their other stages I’ve seen.

Please note that this review does contain spoilers. If you have seen the movie then the plot is the same and so reading won’t spoil anything, but if you haven’t then I suggest you don’t read on unless you don’t mind about being spoiled about the plot.

THE PLOT

As I mentioned, the plot of the stage followed the plot of the movie almost exactly. There were a few small non-plot effecting changes that I’ll mention later, but it was pretty close. The story followed Takiya Genji (Matsumoto Taishi) as a new student at Suzuran Boys’ High School, which is notorious for its delinquents. Genji’s father is a yakuza boss who could not not manage to become the “top” at the school, and has promised Genji he will acknowledge him as a successor if he manages to do it. Through the story, Genji has the challenge of working his way up through the strongest boys in the school to eventually defeat the current “top” member, Serizawa Tamao (Domoto Shohei).

THE ACTORS & CHARACTERS

There were so many cast members in this show that at the end when they came out for the curtain call, the stage was completely full. There was a mix of Bancho Boys members, 10-Jin Actor members, and a variety of others including an ensemble who were cast from auditions.  They all did such a great job together that I really wanted to talk about as many of them as possible.

Takiya Genji (Matsumoto Taishi)

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I was a little worried about Taishi playing someone so rough because he’s such a happy, sparkly, awkward guy in real life. However, his acting skills really shone and he managed to have a lot of power. Despite this though he also managed to show his cute side in one particular scene where he’s trying to convince one of his classmates to join his gang. During this scene he has a notebook he’s reciting speeches from, and during the senshuuraku he accidentally dropped it which led to him giving a very cute and very Taishi-like “ah!” to which everyone in the audience let out a “kawaii!”. I came to realise that sometimes his character is just as much of a failure as he is in real life.

Serizawa Tamao (Domoto Shohei)

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There is no doubting that Shohei does the angry roles well. Despite his shyness in real life he always puts across a convincing confident performance. I liked that his character was very calm and didn’t want to fight unless he really had to, unlike Genji who would fight his way through anyone who got in his way. He was not a wild guy and had a lot of care and genuine friendships with the other members of his group. While I really liked his fight scenes, the times when he really shone was when he was upset or angry with someone he cared about. In particular I really loved Serizawa’s scenes with Tokio and with Tokaji when he was caught doing things behind his back. I find that those desperate emotional scenes are where Shohei generally shines most.

Izaki Shun (Sakata Ryuichiro)

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Super cool. Nice hair. Really handsome. Would fly to Fukuoka to see his face. Maybe. His best moment in the stage for me was when he stood and watched his gang beating up Genji, and then ended it with one nice punch right in his chin.

Makise Takashi (Mitsutake Shinnosuke)

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This guy was so funny and had the best timing. His character was very much a comedy role, a strong guy with a huge weakness for girls. His major scene in the play was when Genji and Ken take him out on a group date to try and get him a girl, since if they are successful he will join Genji’s gang. He’s so grossly awkward and perverted in front of these girls that it’s almost cringe worthy but super funny, he had the whole audience laughing so much. By the way, his hair was so perfectly styled I could not stop staring at it.

Tatsukawa Tokio (Fujioka Nobuaki)

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There always has to be a character who is silently suffering with their own personal drama, and he had this role in the play. He was a calm, reasonable force against the rest of Serizawa’s reckless gang, and remained that way even after being diagnosed as having a brain tumour. One of my favourite scenes in the play was when he and Serizawa was together and Serizawa knows he isn’t telling him the extent of his illness and makes him tell him. Both of their performances were so great in this scene but I particularly admired his calm frankness as he finally told him the truth.

Tokaji Yuuji (Futaba Yuu)

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Tokaji was such a snake who sat back and waited until he had his chance to do what he wanted to do behind Serizawa’s back. Yuu played him so well. There were no smiles and he spent most of the time with a cigarette glued to his mouth. There was a scene where he went up against Naoki and he and Sunahara were right up in each other’s faces and as Naoki was talking to him he just calmly put his cigarette to his mouth and blew smoke all over the place. They were so cool. And I really loved his complete lack of remorse when he got caught kidnapping someone.

Tamura Chuta (Koshiro)

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Chuta started off as this really tough guy who was head of his class and then became this kind of lost puppy following Genji around because he was stronger than he was, and insistantly calling him “aniki” even when Genji told him to stop. His most memorable moment was getting knifed in the head (with a regular eating knife) by a girl.

Mikami Brothers (Yasui Kazuma and Chiwata Yuhei)

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It’s unusual to talk about my oshi along with someone else, but these two were basically attached the entire time and so it seems hard and weird to talk about them individually. These two guys were the weirdest, idiotic and random pair on the stage at all times and in the best way possible. They had these weird handshakes and gestures that they would do together, always said such dumb things (and I swear Kazuma used the word “yabai” every 10 seconds) and they even fought together! One would hold a person down while the other hit them, and they made a great team. Kazuma sometimes reminded me of a yankee Wataru, which was interesting. They should get their own stage.

Tsutsumoto Shoji (Kikuchi Shuji)

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One of the few actors who had to wear a wig, and a huge one at that! Shuji’s character was into judo and I could really see it during his fight scenes. Sometimes someone would end up on the floor and I wasn’t even entirely sure how they got there even when I was watching from the front row. By the way, Shuji has THE BEST “I regret what I have done and I can’t look at you right now” face I have ever seen.

Bando Hideto (Tsuruta Ryosuke)

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This actor was in Mannequin Life and he played a sensible, book loving suit and glasses wearing mannequin. This time he was the leader of a biker gang which could not be more opposite. He was very calm though and would generally stand back and let Sunahara’s character go wild and beat everyone up while he waited for bigger targets.

Chita Naoki (Sunahara Kensuke)

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This was the 4th Bancho Boys stage I have seen Sunahara in, but his role in here was so different. I’ve always seen him weak and pathetic and girly, and this time he was really. fucking. cool. He fought this guy, beat him up and then sat on him and grabbed him by the collar. He shouted at this guy though his hair which was covering his face and it was super amazing. Please let him play a biker in all future stages.

Kirishima, Honjo, Sugihara (Momiki Yoshito, Kihara Rui, Oribe Yoshinari)

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These three came as a group and they didn’t really do a lot. I’m not entirely sure what the point of them being there was (except that their group was one of the ones to beat, but they never actually fought anyone) but it was worth it for the time they did have. Firstly, Momiki is terrifying.  He has such intense eyes and he spent the entire time staring menacingly into the crowd. Then there was this one scene where Rui’s character is saying that GPS have no taste because of their name, and Momiki just says “how can you talk about taste when you have that hair” which was so deadpan and amusing Rui was basically playing “Kihara Rui in a bad mood”. Every time something came out of his mouth it was either annoyed, defensive or dumb. Yoshinari was a robot, I swear. No emotion whatsoever.

Rindaman (Matsushima Yunosuke)

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I have a friend who is a huge fan of this guy so I was really looking out for him in the stage. Unfortunately he plays the guy no one can actually beat and he gets very little stage time. My biggest impression of him was that he has SO MUCH HAIR. He was also super cool. Apparently there’s a lot of cool guys in Fukuoka, who knew.

Tamura Yasu (Nishihara Kenta)

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This character was an original for the stage and was not in the comic or movie. In the comic and movie there was a female character who was close to Genji and got kidnapped by Tokaji as bait for GPS. In the stage, it was Yasu (who was the brother of Chuta, a member of Genji’s gang) who got kidnapped. Yasu was super innocent and completely unable to fight, compared with his yankee brother, and didn’t really have a lot of stage time. But Nishiken made up for this by being the one to come on stage before the show started to go over the rules. He would always talk about how this was “his time” since he wouldn’t get much time later. He always pulled the rules on paper from his sock, except on the last day he tricked us and put it in his shoe instead.

Manaka Tooru (Yashiro Takuya)

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Definitely gets the award for the smallest, cutest yankee. He was Makise’s partner and clearly very loyal. He was always at his back looking out for him and got very worried every time he did something he didn’t think he should be doing. At the end he got beaten up by the twins during the main gang fight which was kind of sad to watch because he’s like a tiny stick.

Katagiri Ken (Ito Daiki)

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Having forgotten most of the movie plot, I forgot how much of a main character this guy is and that a lot of the focus of the movie is about how his life changed in both good and bad ways after meeting Genji. The play, like the movie, opens at the end of the story with what happens to him because of his friendship with Genji, and then goes back to him explaining how they met which opens up the main story. Even though the cast didn’t have microphones attached, I swear his opening “Genji, tobe!” echoed around the entire room. The actor did an amazing job of portraying his character. He had a lot of comedy scenes but later when things got dramatic for him he had some awesome emotional performances too.

TOP THREE SCENES

  1. Serizawa and Genji’s fight.
    This was of course, the climax of the play. It began with a huge fight between the two gangs which was an amazing scene in itself because there was so much to watch and everyone had a part to play. But it ended with just the two of them fighting it out as the other members of each group watched from above. It was so intense and passionate, they were really going at it with all of their power. In the background were the silhouettes of Tokio lying in his hospital bed, and Ken standing at the harbour with a gun pointed at his head. The scene ends with Genji winning the fight. As the other gang members come to help out their injured leaders, Serizawa gets a call to say that Tokio made it safely through the surgery, and Ken is shot in the back and falls into the water.
  2. Tokio confesses.
    Although Tokio tells Serizawa that he was only in the hospital with a fever and that he’s fine now, it’s obvious from the beginning that Serizawa doesn’t believe him and they have this scene together where Tokio is forced to tell the truth. In the beginning he’s unwilling but all Serizawa does is keep looking at him and he knows he has to say something. Tokio then has this whole speech about how it’s really bad and that he has to have surgery with only a 30% success rate, and how he’s only in high school and it sucks that this could happen to him when he’s only 16. He’s so calm throughout his speech despite everything and Serizawa listens to him and says “I can’t cure your illness, but I will protect your place here with all of my power, so go to the hospital with no worries.” It was one of the few moments amongst all the ridiculous of fighting for no reason where I really wanted to cry.
  3. Tokaji is caught.
    In one of the more tense scenes in the play, Tokaji (along with the Mikami Brothers and Yoji) is holding Tamura Yasu hostage while waiting for Genji’s gang to come and confront them about it. Unfortunately for them, Serizawa arrives first and the group immediately looks solumn and guilty. Just after Serizawa arrives, Genji comes in with some of his gang and Chuta orders that they release his brother. Serizawa is confused as he knows nothing but soon realises that something is going on and realises what Tokaji has done. Knowing that this could start all-out war with the other gang, he gets super angry and hits Tokaji. After all the fighting between the gangs, it’s interesting to see one within the group itself.

TWO-SHOT PICTURES

As always, Bancho Boys took two-shots with everyone who bought 5000 yen’s worth of goods. I had decided to get one per show, and then I ended up getting two at one of the shows. The majority were with Kazuma but I also had a break from him to go to Kaname (on the one show he was a guest for) and Yuhei.

Kazuma was wonderful as always and called me by name each time and really appreciated me going to him each day. On the final day he asked me if I was going home to Nagoya after the show and I told him I was, and he told me “otsukare”. I’m pretty certain that was my line but I’m glad to know he realises the effort it is to travel so far. I also mentioned to him that I had written a letter to him but that it was all in English, and he said it was okay so I hope he was able to read it.

GOODS AND OTHER

An interesting thing about this stage compared to the other was that they had two special goods that were super limited which meant that the whole lobby entry was a complete mess. The staff told us we had to wait on the 1st floor until 15 minutes before the doors opened, so everyone was hanging around super early to be amongst the first to get up there.

As soon as the time would come, everyone would crowd into the elevator. Some sneaky people would go up the stairs and wait in the stairwell a couple of floors down to get there first. People would get super mad if the elevator stopped at any other floor, and when the doors finally opened on the 6th floor, everyone would run out to get in line. I will be honest and say that I really wanted no part in this but I always happened to be there anyway and so I would in the end join in with the madness.

It did mean though that I managed to get two of Kazuma’s chekis (one of the limited goods) and his gakuran button (the other limited good) so in the end it was worth it, and pretty amusing and interesting to take part in. I feel like they probably could have planned it better, but I’m pretty certain they underestimated the power of the fangirls.

The button on the left is the limited item I managed to get, and the right is the pamphlet and Kazuma’s photos. I also bought (not pictured) Yuhei, Rui and Takuya’s sets as well as the two chekis and pre-ordered the DVD. I really wanted to buy more goods than I did but I don’t have unlimited money, so I’ll pick up the other things I want later.

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