Live-action adaptations of mangas and animes can be an acquired taste depending on what you enjoy. Yuichi Fukuda’s take on Gintama was a delight in 2017, though it still takes getting used to compared to the animated series’ own aesthetic. Nonetheless, Fukuda has made bank on his share of adapting certain IPs for the screen, and his latest bit of leg work now stems from the mind of mangaka Hiroyuki Nishimori with From Today, It’s My Turn!!, following from Fukuda’s prior legwork on the titular 2018 ten-episode NTV drama.
Nishimori’s manga launched in 1988, so it only makes sense that his world, as now reincarnated through Fukuda’s lens, is set in the festive and bustling 1980s, a time when youth rebelled in a delinquent lifestyle. This time, we’re breaking out the school uniforms and pompadours, as Fukuda invites all to the town of 1980s Chiba, inaugurating the feature-length story of Nanyo High students Mitsuhashi (Kento Kaku) and Ito (Kentaro Ito), long heralded as badasses in the years after beating up the Akehisa bosses Katakiri (Nobuyuki Suzuki) and Sagara (Hayato Isomura). Together, Ito and Mitsuhashi have formed an oddball group of friends with fellow Nanyo classmate and Akidoka, Riko (Nana Seino), Benibane High’s “bancho”, Imai (Taiga Nakano) and his lackey, Tanigawa (Yuma Yamamoto), and Seiran Girl School’s Kawasaki (Yumi Wakatsuki) and Hayakawa (Kanna Hashimoto).
The crux of our story begins with the reported transferral of students from rival school, Hokunei, apparently since their school was burned down and reduced to ash. The gang of students, led by Yanagi (Yuya Yagira) and Otake (Eishin) have already plotted their campaign to conquer Akehisa High, by using cheap “charms” at 5,000 yen a pop to extort anyone who doesn’t want to get routinely picked on and bullied, both regular students and even gangsters alike. At one point they decide to set their eye on the unassuming Satoru (Yuki Izumisawa), resulting in an obligatory pummeling that compels him to protect his vengeful bamboo sword-wielding cousin, Ryoko (Maika Yamamoto), by foolishly siccing her on Mitsuhashi instead when she starts asking questions.
As Mitsuhashi and Ito find themselves cornered by their newfound challenges in dealing with the duplicitous misgivings of the Hokunei students, one day Satoru finds himself on greener pastures with Yanagi and Otake, confident that he’s made new friends, though none the wiser to their manipulative ways. It’s Satoru decides to foolishly do the unimaginable for the sake of his newfound friendships, that our protagonists are forced into action, joined by former foes-turned-allies in lieu of a major showdown with Yanagi and Otake and the rest of the Hokunei. The only question that remains, is can Mitsuhashi and Ito rediscover their strengths in time before an even stronger enemy gains a foothold in the town of Chiba.
I’ll be talking-up this film, but let me start off by saying that it’s not for everyone. Really, it’s just for those of us around the world with an experienced viewing perspective and an appreciation for the halcyon days of 80s otaku fandom and the Japanese culture clash of delinquency that inspired so many popular TV shows and movies of its time and going forward, including shows like Yu Yu Hakusho and especially the Sukeban Deka franchise, or any number of IP you can learn about from those in the know; I recommend following Kenny Lauderdale on YouTube for all you crave in this area of Japanese entertainment.
Costume design and hair styles are suitably bold and well done for the performances and aesthetic handed to the audience. The chemistry is especially great to see unfold with some of our protagonists, including the constant need for Mitsuhashi and Imai to match energies and butt heads whenever they reach an impasse, or when Riko constantly needs to keep Mitsuhashi in check for being so incorrigible as he can be – even as sheepish and harmless as he tends to be; Mitsuhashi can definitely scrap, but he’s not the tough, badass character who never loses a fight. His purpose for fighting falls on the monent he needs to, and it’s never to bully the weak and the innocent, a fact that falls blaringly deaf on Ryoko during her quest for vengeance.
Mitsuhashi’s friendship with Ito isn’t explored any further except for what’s already been established in the 2018 NTV series, so it’s really all about watching how these two protagonists evolve, and how they permeate around the other characters as the plot progresses and thickens. There are a lot of moving pieces in play here and thankfully, it’s not all too much to keep up with, and it’s a passable effort if you can forgive not getting to see the previous series which might help flesh things out more. Otherwise, the Mitsuhashi/Ito setup is still there and worthwhile to observe.
The big craze here though, lies in the kind of gangbuster action sequences that have proliferated in recent moviegoing history (the HiGH&LOW franchise is possibly the biggest example of this next to the recent premiere of Jigoku-no-hanazono: Office Royale), and Fukuda applies the formula here to a T in the film’s key sequences, reuniting with Keiya Tabuchi (HK, HK 2, Karate Kill, Gun Woman, Tunguska Butterfly) as his action coordinator and director. While some action moments play on full-tilt cartoonish delivery aprppos to show what the characters are doing (i.e., a time lapse shot to show Mitsuhashi demonstrating a special move involving a sleight-of-hand attack and a shot to the nuts, or the moment he puts Imai in place for a nice gesture he did for Riko), you can bet there are moments when the violence gets serious – from shockwave-inducing close-ups of fists pushing into faces, to when an outnumbered main villain starts whipping out knives in a pivotal fight scene that ups the ante some.
The extra plus side with the action in this film is that unlike the HiGH&LOW franchise, it’s not entirely an all boys affair; Invariably, the elephant in the room is somewhat addressed here in From Today, It’s My Turn!!, but it’s not an entirely broad fix. The inclusion of Ryoko and Riko in the story certainly adds some meat to the bones here as far as fighting characters go, and every now and then we get to see Akemi and Kyoko chew up some scenery on screen, with at least one instance leading up to a brief brawl with the Hokunei students. There’s a running gag here though, and it pertains to Kyoko and her constant codeswitching whenever the boy she’s in love with, Ito, shows up. Adding to the mix is an array of cast/director reunions, including Hashimoto and Yagira who both starred in Fukuda’s Gintama movies, among other cast members on board this endeavor, which is always a fun sign to observe between actors and the directors they enjoy working with. This is especially goes for actor Jiro Sato who returns to a Fukuda film set here playing Riko’s chatty crackpot aikido master father, Tetsuo.
Fukuda’s From Today, It’s My Turn!! is really my first and only exposure to this franchise having not read the manga or seen the anime, or even the NTV drama prior to it. Unmistakably though, you have to give it to Fukuda for his willingness to tap into the gonzo, bombastic air of gag comedy antics and shenanigans of characters and how they’re written, and effectively, his general ability to make it work. He’s done quite a handful of adaptations and sadly I haven’t seen all of them, save for bits and clips of Hentai Kamen online, but even with 2017’s Gintama treatment in my viewing repetoire, I can assert the following: If live-action adaptations of manga and anime are your thing, and if you love delightful comedy and varieties of action direction to boot, with cast of characters that join in for an opening and closing catchy band performance, just about anything Fukuda does in this genre is a more than worthy investment.
From Today, It’s My Turn!! screened for the 20th New York Asian Film Festival which runs through August 22.