Happily for us, Hana no Asuka-gumi NEO was an *excellent* adaptation of my favorite obscure manga series ever.
A quick synopsis: Kuraku Asuka is a girl who had been bullied in middle school. Brought right to the edge of suicide, she finds purpose in fighting for her life – both literally and figuratively. Through an acquaintance with Kijiima Yohko, a sociopath who involves Asuka with the girl-gang underworld of Tokyo, Asuka is reborn as the best fighter in the city. Asuka becomes involved with the underground organization that runs the girl gangs, the Zenchuu Ura, and the leader of that organization, Hibara-sama. After being the second-most powerful person in the Zenchuu Ura, Asuka leaves Hibari and becomes friendly with the “outside Group” in Shinjuku. That “Omoteban” is run by the lovely Hime, and has members with the elemental names of Kai, Mizu, Hi, etc… Also involved with the Omoteban is Asuka’s best friend, Doumoto Miko…the half sister of Yohko.
You got all that? Well that’s not half of it, and I’m grinning as I type, because no matter how long I spend explaining this series, no matter how many times I explain it, it will never be clear unless you read the whole thing. ^_^
The series was super popular in the 80s, with both manga and TV series. The manga came back for an extended epilogue a few years ago. An absolutely dreadful movie was made in the 90s, which had one awesome scene but was otherwise excruciating. In the meantime, the creator had gone on to become best known for her BL series.
In 2009, the manga was undergoing a renaissance and some genius decided to make a Live-action movie – the movie that hadn’t been made the first time but really, really needed to be made. And so, we now have the opportunity to enjoy Hana no Asuka-gumi NEO! (花のあすか組 NEO!). And thank heavens for that!
This movie is so close to being exactly right that the few kvetches I have are ridiculous. Asuka is played by none other than the daughter of Takaguchi Satosumi, the series creator. She’s too tall (Asuka is a shrimp,) but otherwise, she’s great.
The plot is taken from the manga itself, so if you’ve read the the thing, you’ll know the plot the instant it begins.
Mizu is the first to show up, and Miko is…perfect. Hime was sort of off, and Yohko is all crazy all the time, and not quite perfect – her hair was all wrong – but she was a total sociopath and nice and violent, so that was fun. What had me dancing around was the appearance of Kurenai, scar and all. No Hibari-sama, but I could forgive that, as it would have been deeply confusing if you weren’t a fan. Why you would be watching this movie if you weren’t a fan, I can’t for the life of me guess, but it could happen. The fights were *excellent.* Everything I could have hoped in a totally serious adaptation of one of the silliest series I’ve ever loved.
For casual viewers of cheesy Japanese live-action movies – 7
For me – 9
So to start off the new year, run and buy Hana no Asuka-gumi NEO! for a taste of the good ole days when girl gangs ruled the streets and school of Tokyo.