Up until 2018, the High & Low franchise was pure adrenaline, filled with action and high drama that raised the stakes between five warring gangs, and the criminally corrupt and politically imbued. Going forward, you get little nuggets of those events popping up in Norihisa Hiranuma’s directorial debut, DTC: Yukemuri Junjo Hen from High & Low, but make no mistake, as this one is an entirely different beast.
By and large, the lives of Dan (Kenjiro Yamashita), Tettsu (Kanta Sato) and Chiharu (Taiki Sato) have drastically changed. Having left Sannoh Hoodlum Squad for good, they’re forced to contend with the usual financial struggles, realizing they’ll no longer be able to solve their erstwhile usual problems with their fists. Desperate to make a change, the trio embark on a road trip to get away from the rigmarole, only to wind up without gas or cash, and ultimately resolving to find temporary employment at the nearest town. The location? A hot spring resort run by Mr. Miyazaki (Taro Suruga) and its proprietoress, Mari (Yuko Fueki).
Agreeing to the terms, Dan, Tettsu and Chiharu clearly have their work cut out for them, performing daily work routines, and even moonlighting as the resort’s musical act alongside friends Kabuto (Masayasu Yagi) and Ozawa (Hironari Amano)who’ve begun their own stage act. The boys also find themselves bumping into the SMG offshoot of the White Rascals staying at the resort until their leader gets their new establishment situated. To add, Tettsu is forced to fend off the horny maids, and Chiharu has to contend with his feelings for Mari, all while Dan tries to befriend Mari’s terse, distant younger daughter, Megumi (Miu Arai), who annoyingly likes bumping into people in passing.
In the grand scheme of things the three discover that Mari is in love with Miyazaki, and begin trying to get to the bottom of why their romance hasn’t flourished. Bearing Megumi’s mourning of her late father in mind, Dan, Tettsu and Chiharu commence planning a breakthrough operation with the help and expertise of SMG, and neighboring members of Daruma Ikka providing the festival spectacle to get mother and daughter in the same room for an epic proposal. The real question though, lies in just who will free themselves from cold feet in time for their plan to work?
The film is actually meant to be a first in a continued film slate following the Kuryu arc of the High & Low films, and so there hasn’t been any news of a follow-up just yet – imaginably, the pandemic hasn’t exactly helped. What can be said about DTC: Yukemuri Junjo Hen from High & Low is that it does everything it sets out to be in its pivot toward semi-goofy and deadpan comedy and road adventure-style story of adulterated self-discovery.
Much like what has been done throughout the franchise, the film throws in a few addendums – flashbacks from previous films – to fill in the blanks, and here, it’s done for a few giggles before moving the story forward. Noboyuki Suzuki makes a cameo appearance as Sannoh member, Yamato, early on in the film, while Kabuto and Ozawa get a little more screen and dialogue time this time around, and actor Fumihiko Tachiki finally gets to lend his face to the screen in a supporting role after serving as the voice narrator for the franchise up to this point.
The film bookends with a grand musical number, and then a reshoot of the same sequence that coheses everything for the climatic and moving finale, and by then, you definitely have to give it to young actress Arai for her tearjerker performance. Coupled with message arcs throughout the story about love, happiness and family, and growing up and getting older, DTC: Yukemuri Junjo Hen from High & Low is a feel-good road adventure that’ll warm you up like a hearty cup of flavored ramen. With friends.
We’ll see how this franchise moves in the months and years to come. Until then, at least tentatively, stay tuned for the last leg of this coverage series with High & Low: The Worst, and click here to read my reviews of the previous films. Otherwise, catch the films right now on Netflix.