I’m extremely late to this party, but better late than never right? To say that I love the Japanese "High & Low" franchise is an understatement - I am absolutely obsessed with it. This J-Drama popped up on my radar earlier this year which I foolishly dismissed until recently.
"High & Low" is an entertainment project from LDH Inc’s Exile Tribe, a super group with a bunch of talented actors, dancers and musicians like popular groups Exile and J-Soul. Exile Tribe launched "High & Low" last year in October and was billed as a first of it’s kind. It was a project that covered all forms of media with LDH Inc management releasing a movie, a television series, a manga adaptation, an original soundtrack and a live show tour. Aren’t we spoiled?
Right off the bat, the premise for "High & Low: The story of S.W.O.R.D" is something out of the film "Volcano High" and my personal favourite "Crows Zero". It’s a story about a town once dominated by Mugen, an out-law group that eventually lost its grip after the defiance of the legendary Amamiya Brothers. As a result, the town split into 5 districts with dominating gangs known as S.W.O.R.D:
Sannot Association aka Hoodlum Squad
Sannot has two former Mugen members Cobra and Yamato. Protectors of all districts who wish to solve their problems without having to fight, I’d say that’s a fat chance.
You can find the all-white clad scouts at a flashy club surrounded by women whom of which they protect. You better treat your girlfriend right in this district otherwise you’ll get a visit from these guys…and their fists.
This gang is a true testament to the Yankii culture. Loyalty is the key in this high school, especially if you’re at the top of the pyramid. It’s also the first high school I’ve seen that had students over the age of 20, here's my application - TAKE IT!
Definitely my favourite gang. They’re the guardians of nameless-street, a place for orphans and runaways. Don’t let the homeless-yeezy-looking clothes fool you, Rude Boys will have you running around in circles with their crazy parkour skills.
They have bad blood with Mugen and plan on carrying out their vengeance by wiping out the other gangs. Basically, don’t mess with these guys.
As enticing as the premise was, I steered clear of "High & Low" under the assumption that it was more a fan-service project and this is why you should never assume. Before I knew it, I was seriously down the "High & Low" rabbit hole and couldn’t escape. I binge-watched two seasons in one sitting, then watched every music video and interview related to Exile Tribe.
"High & Low’s" biggest strength definitely comes from it’s production value and the stylish cinematography of director Sigeaki Kubo. The writers Team Hi-Ax, give a decent amount of character development to a rather large ensemble cast. The acting skills of some are questionable but the badass fighting choreography, similar to likes of the Indonesian hit film series "The Raid", makes up for it.
"High & Low" has two seasons and a movie with a few spin-offs to be released in the future. Season two lacks the stylish directing and action choreography seen in the first season but it does reveal important plot lines that are further explored in the movie. We also get introduced to new gangs and characters like Li who is played by everyone's favourite maknae BIGBANG’s Seungri – all the more reason to watch it.
If you love Japanese films like "Crows Zero", the cult-classic "Blue Spring" or you want a more mature version of "Gokusen", then "High & Low" is definitely for you.
While I figure out how I can join Exile Tribe, I will be patiently waiting for the spinoff movies and hopefully more dramas.
DQ signing off,