Sakigake!! Otokojuku
Year: 2008
Length: 110min
Momotaro Tsurugi
Tak Sakaguchi
Tak Sakaguchi
Action Director:
Tak Sakaguchi

Average: 4
Sakigake!! Otokojuku

Not only is this Tak's directorial debut, he also wrote, choreographed, and starred in it!

"Sakigake!! Otokojuku" translates as "Samurai School!! Be A Man." With Tak's creative hand all over this project, it serves as a unique glimpse inside his head. The movie is based on a manga by Akira Miyashita, a kind of satire of Japanese ideas of manhood, and Tak brings it to life with his dramatic quirkiness and comedic timing. It still amazes me how he can deliver perfectly silly lines with a straight face. There's also blood geysers! Lots and lots of blood geysers. The movie walks the fine line between wholesome and brutal that characterizes classic shounen manga.

"Otoko-juku was established in the Samurai Era. It is where countless heroes and outstanding men have been nurtured.” In other words, it is where boys go to become men. And as any good school based on feudal customs, it also makes use of ancient torture techniques such as the:

Oil Bath: Otherwise known as the Hell Boat, it is “a special torture designed to make ruthless criminals talk. Oil is poured into a gold tub and a candle on a leaf boat is set afloat. If the criminal in the tub moves, the unstable leaf boat will turn over and the oil will be in flames. The horror and pain will last until the candle burns out."

Twin Solitary Cells: “Two people are each confined in adjacent cells. If one stops pulling the chains a rock, hanging in the next cell, falls and the one in that cell dies. In Medieval times, when betrayal and treachery were common, this was designed to nurture unseen mutual trust and cooperation.”

Incidentally, Twin Solitary Cells was a punishment a student by the name of Omito Date had to undergo in his first year. Then, after he talked back to his Drill Masters, he was expelled from Otokojuku for life. But that didn't stop Omito. He founded his own school, the Kanto Gogaku-Ren, and vowed to get his revenge on Otokojuku. He also grew fond of donning full samurai gear. That's right, Omito Date is played by none other than Hideo Sakaki, Tak's nemesis from Versus!

Tak here plays Momotaro "Peach Boy" Tsurugi, a freshman with exceptional skill in martial arts. When the second year students decide to organize an "orientation" for the first year students, complete with the traditional Bottle-Cup ritual, the affair soon degenerates into an all out brawl. Momotaro manages to score a tie with the second year student Goji Akashi and his Rock-Cutter blade, thus earning his welcome at Otokojuku.

The movie progresses at a fast pace, and before you know it, the Kanto Goku-Ren and Otokojuku are facing each other in the "Amazing Triple Death Battles" for ownership of the school. Three of the best fighters from each school pair off to duel in various precarious situations... to the death!! I should probably mention that the Kanto Goku-Ren actually have a decent bishounen on their team: Hien. He's pretty cool.

The Amazing Triple Death Battles climaxes in a showdown between Momotaro and Omito! It's kinda like a Versus rematch... except less cool. After hosing each other with blood, rain pours down from a cloudless sky and they resort to a bare-handed fistfight... which looks a lot like them stumbling around in a field somewhere outside Mt. Fuji. I'll let you guess who wins.

Given a $400,000 budget and 2 and a half weeks of shooting, Tak did a damn good job! He also took his Zeros stunt team to new extremes by actually having a guy get hit by a speeding car. And then apologize for it. Okay, so I doubt that actor is the one that took the hit, but still! The man has people who will get hit by cars on command!! Tak doesn't believe in CGI. ^_^;;

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DISCLAIMER: All images copyright Tak Sakaguchi, Ryuhei Kitamura, Yudai Yamaguchi, Yuji Shimomura, and all respective owners whose work, support, distribution, etc contributed to the making of the movies, interviews, documentaries, etc. I do not know Tak Sakaguchi and have nothing to do with him (yet?). I am just here to admire his work. No copyright infringement is intended.