Fantastic Fest Review: TOKYO TRIBE Will Never Ever Die

Another weird masterpiece from Sion Sono.

Tokyo Tribe is seriously out of this world. While that phrase usually indicates a higher than normal quality, in this case it also applies because the film is alien to a large enough degree that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it came from a different planet.

Where to start? First off, Tokyo Tribe is a Japanese hip-hop opera about a bunch of rival gangs. I don’t believe it’s technically an opera, but I’m sticking with the word because the film’s about 20% dialog and 80% rapping. I figure that’s close enough.

If that’s a problem for you, this might not be the best movie you ever see. And it really might be a problem for you. There is a weird awkwardness that occurs when listening to rhymes in Japanese while arrhythmically reading lines that do not rhyme in English. On top of that, there’s just so much to read, which can be a problem because it distracts from the almost endless visual activity Sion Sono puts on the screen. Never have I wished I understood Japanese more because without these slight divisions between myself and the film, Tokyo Tribe would be just about perfect. At whatever it’s trying to be, anyway.

And it’s definitely not trying to be a typical film. This shit is nuts. Tokyo Tribe is loud, energetic, and always on. It successfully plays a very unique and entertaining note, but it also hits that note for its entire running time, which can be obnoxious to some viewers. I loved it, but this isn’t the kind of movie anyone should feel pressured to enjoy just because everyone else they watch it with can’t stop chanting “Tokyo Tribe, never ever die!”

But man, if it works for you, this is an amazing experience. Just watch the video below to get a small taste of how fucking cool it is to have a bunch of gang members rapping at you while dishing out major violence. There’s a big and cool story here, one I actually understood once Devin Faraci spelled it out for me, but the real draw here is Sono’s masterful execution of a totally nutso concept. You’ve never seen anything like it before. You’ll never see anything like it again. And if you’re not lucky enough to see it in a movie theater, make certain that when you do see it you turn it up loud. I think watching it while standing up might be a fun idea too.