Crows Explode ("Kurozu Explode")
Some of the familiar faces (and fists) have moved on, but that has only made room for new blood in the halls — and on the walls — of the notorious Suzuran All-Boys High School. The neverending struggle continues — who will take the honours as the fiercest fighter at the school known far and wide for its legion of brawlers? Toru Gora currently holds that position, and frankly, he’s a bit bored. Dropping comers with a single punch, he and his crew are hungry for a real challenge, and when not one but two transfer students swagger through the front gates one morning, it looks like they might get their wish. Kazeo arrives with a reputation, having taken out all rivals at his previous school, but he has little interest in fighting these days. Less is known about Ryohei, though his arrival in a chauffeured car hints at his family link to organized crime. At the same time, full-scale war is brewing with the rival Kurosaki Industrial High School. Fists will fly and beatings will abound, but the greatest battles are always in the hearts of these sneering, delinquent punks. Can any “crow” truly spread his wings and rise above the dead-end existence that lies ahead?
Five years after incandescent auteur Takashi Miike’s second successful adaptation of Hiroshi Takahashi’s wildly popular ’90s manga series CROWS, school is in session again. This time around, it is Toshiaki Toyoda in the director’s chair. Miike is a tough act to follow, but a better successor could not have been chosen. The writer/director of MONSTERS CLUB and 9 SOULS can be credited with helping kick off the wave of teen-thug action-dramas with 2002’s BLUE SPRING. Toyoda dials down the over-the-top hysterics that Miike indulges in so excellently and injects the CROWS series with a blast of real-world grit. EXPLODE’s bare-fisted battles — which make up much if not most of the running time, of course — are more grounded, but more importantly, the internal struggles of these frustrated, sullen, violent youths as they look ahead with little hope are evoked in a resonant and convincingly empathic manner. It’s hard to draw a line between good and evil, after all, when everyone in the picture has already been consigned to the bad-boy bin. It’s a rough, tough life for the crows of Suzuran, and it won’t take much of a catalyst to make them EXPLODE!
— Rupert Bottenberg