Young Thugs: Nostalgia (1998) – By Duane L. Martin

Takashi Miike has said that Young Thugs: Nostalgia, the prequel to Young Thugs: Innocent Blood, is his favorite film, and after watching it, I can see why.

Young Thugs: Nostalgia takes the main characters from the first film and gives us a look at what they were like as children, with the main focus being on Riichi and his family. As a boy, he lived with his mother, father and grandfather in a run down housing area near the sea. His father was a tough but crude and somewhat uncaring man whose only concern was that his son knew how to fight and would kick the snot out of anyone he got in a scrap with. His mother was a woman stuck in a semi-abusive relationship and continued the cycle of leaving her husband and coming back to him on an almost daily to weekly basis. His grandfather was his father’s father and he only stepped in when things got out of hand. Otherwise, he just hung out with his old friends and tried to enjoy his remaining years.

A constant theme that runs through this film is the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The film takes place at the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970, so the Apollo 11 landing was big news. The grandfather would set up fireworks around one of the large holes in the empty space in front of their house and light them off, all the while shouting to the skies asking if they could see him from up there on the moon. He was a bit eccentric, but lovable at the same time.

The Apolo landing had an effect on the children too. When Riichi’s friend Kotetsu’s grandmother went senile and was put in a home, they wanted to make her happy by winning a school competition. The first prize was a set of paints. She used to paint a long time ago, and in her senility, she used to come down to the water’s edge and search for her paints in the water. So to win her the paints, they stole a bunch of materials and began to build their own Apollo 11 model for the competition. Well at some point just as they were about to finish, Sada and his gang of kids came and beat the snot out of his friend Gasu and destroyed their project. Riichi and Kotetsu didn’t take kindly to this and promptly put the beatdown on Sada and his entire gang and made them help rebuild the model. Once it was finally finished, it was bigger and better than ever and it won first place. Unfortunately, by the time they found Kotetsu’s grandmother, she was face down in the water…dead. She died looking for her paints.

The girl, Ryoko, who played Riichi’s girlfriend in the first movie, made an appearance in this one as well, but she really wasn’t a part of the story. She was only shown in random scenes that didn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the story, and the only contact she really had with any of the other main characters was at the end when her and Riichi passed each other by the water’s edge and said hello to each other in passing. It was more to just show that she was around, but that it was before she became a part of the group of friends.

Again I have to be amazed by the range of quality in Miike’s films. Some are just incredible, and some are not so good, but this one has now become my favorite Miike film. It combined moments of hilarity with more of the almost cartoonish violence of the first film and threw in a lot of the turmoils that kids go through while growing up. The characters were all believable and the kids did an absolutely wonderful job of acting like younger versions of the people in the first film. They did such a great job and pulled if off so beautifully that you find yourself believing that it really was those people as kids.

Although this is a prequel to the first film, it’s hard to say which you should watch first. If you watch this one first, you’ll have a good background on why the people in the first film are the way they are and you’ll get some deeper insight as to how they deal with each other and why the various relationships developed the way they did. But if you watch Young Thugs: Innocent Blood first, you’ll have the pleasure of saying to yourself, “Oh, so that’s why Riichi and Sada kept fighting constantly in the first movie,” and things of that nature. There’s actually quite a few things in the first film that are clarified by this one. So really, it’s just a matter of which one you want to watch first, because it really doesn’t matter either way.

Miike really impressed me with this film. It works on every possible level and the sheer brilliance of it still has me amazed. I guess I’m still trying to get past his gangster films that I didn’t really care for all that much, and since I reviewed four of them in a row, it really kind of stereotyped Miike in my mind. Since then, I’ve reviewed the two Young Thugs films and Bird People in China (which will appear in the November issue) and all three of them have been absolutely incredible. If you’re looking to watch some incredible fims from Takashi Miike, then I can’t recommend any of these three enough.

The disc also includes several special features including an interview with Takashi Miike, the original trailer, bios and filmorgraphies, and an informational video about the people of Osaka.

If you’d like to pick up this disc, or check out some of ArtsmagicDVD’s other releases you can check out their website at http://www.artsmagicdvd.com.