HiGH&LOW The Story of S.W.O.R.D.

It usually takes three episodes max to make me decide whether I’d drop a show or not while the really good ones only take one episode to get me hooked. Well, I enjoyed watching HiGH&LOW so much I finished the entire first season in one sitting.

HiGH&LOW is an entertainment project featuring artists under LDH Inc. management. It is said to be the first of its kind since it will be reaching out to different forms of media: television series, movies, manga, SNS accounts, an original soundtrack, and a live show tour.

HiGH&LOW The Story of S.W.O.R.D. aired from October 22 to December 24, 2015. Written by Team HI-AX, the story is set in a town that was once under the rule of a group called “Mugen” and the drama starts in media res as they go head-to-head against the Amamiya Brothers who defy them. Hence, the eventual downfall of the powerful organization.  Since then, the town has been divided into 5 districts called S.W.O.R.D., an acronym based on its 5 lead gangs.  

Sannoh Rengokai– The protectors of SWORD led by two original Mugen members: Cobra and Yamato.

Song: Do or Die- Doberman Infinity

White Rascals– The sleek, all-white clad scouts

Song: WHITEOUT- PKCZ feat. EXILE SHOKICHI

Oya KouKou– The Crows-like school yankiis

Song: Jump Around- Doberman Infinity

Rude Boys– The energetic guardians of nameless street

Song: Run this Town- GENERATIONS

Daruma Ikka– The vengeful hooligans in red 

Song: Voice of Red- DJ Daruma from PKCZ

The project has “fanservice” written all over it but I was wrong to think that the drama will be as juvenile as Gokusen or too flamboyant with very little substance like Tokyo Tribe. Director Sigeaki Kubo succeeded in something that even a maverick director like Sion Sono failed to do in Tokyo Tribe: to make me care about the characters.

I reckon it won’t be easy to remember the long list of cast members but the show has surprisingly given each group and its characters some distinct features plus short but solid backstories that make them worth the recall. Each gang’s own action style also has a background song as befits their nature. My favorite theme is Daruma Ikka’s ‘Voice of Red’ but as for the action scenes, it’s the Rude Boys with their flawless parkour flips and bboy flares. This gang is the complete package! They have Masataka Kubota’s incredible acting skills, GENERATIONS’ member Reo Sano’s dance agility, real life traceur ZEN’s jaw-dropping stunts, and Tasuku Nagase’s bad boy charms.

Image result for Rude Boys high & low

The premise of HiGH&LOW might initially seem like the typical “the strongest one shall conquer this town”, but I’m pleasantly surprised with the engaging narrative, its continuity and the way the characters adhere to strong brotherhood.

All the SWORD leaders are equally charismatic that I literally had goosebumps when they finally gathered in the same room and they all possess some kind of noble delinquency, if such a thing exists.

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Sandaime J Soul Brothers’ Iwata Takanori as Cobra is perfect as the prototypical bad boy. As a leader, he is a man of few words but he is shrewd and cool-headed. He’s got both potent speech and astonishing strikes that other SWORD leaders can only marvel at. And yes, he’s the same guy who played Satomi Ishihara’s super sweet best friend Eito (Hachi) in Dear Sister. *mind blown*

Screenshot 2016-06-17 at 11.42.35 PM

Oya Kou’s class rep Murayama Yoshiki would fit right in with the cast of Gokusen. This uniform-clad character is perfect for a coming-of-age trope. His one-on-one showdown with Cobra is certainly one of the highlights of the show. Yuki Yamada is known for his role as Kinnosuke Ikezawa in Itazura na Kiss: Love in TOKYO. He is cute and for some reason, some of his mannerisms or facial expressions remind me of Yamapi’s Akira in Nobuta wo Produce.

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EXILE The Second’s Kuroki Keiji plays Rocky. I was bracing myself to witness how wacky the White Rascals leader would be since I couldn’t take him and his braces seriously. I thought he might be the goofy and most ruthless one out of the bunch but he turned out to be really cool too. Though he’s running a hip night club, he despises drugs and respects women more than I expected.

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I wonder what sort of major trouble, Hyuga Norihisa would do, when he runs amok. In spite of his thirst for revenge, Daruma Ikka’s leader managed to show (though he may not want to admit it) that he empathized with Noboru. Of all people, he understands what it’s like to be away for a while and still have a place to return to. Kento Hayashi is one of the most versatile young actors I’ve seen. I can still remember him in Arakawa Under the Bridge. He looks so much hotter now, with the whole big hair and psycho glare.

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Smoky is the reason I started watching this series in the first place and Masataka Kubota delivered another remarkable performance. He’s a fine actor who can switch from adorkable to tough guy roles so effortlessly. He stands out in a room full of fierce fighters, no brightly-colored hair and extravagant styling necessary.


HiGH&LOW‘s major draw is definitely the visual and audio elements. The narration is good, the camera angles and the flashback shots vary. I feel like I’m watching a coming-of-age drama/ contemporary action movie/animation/indie/futuristic music video all at the same time, done in smooth transitions that don’t make the show look like a meandering mess of variegated genre.

I can’t stand it when dramas that claim badassery end up being cheesy with excessive sententious rhetoric but most of the show’s episodes are filled with stylish kinetic action that I can actually turn a blind eye on its thin plot. And as expected from a cast comprised of musicians, EXILE TRIBE no less, the soundtrack is superb but the music overlays don’t diminish the impact of its action sequences.

So, On a scale of 1 to Crows Zero, how badass is High & Low?

It’s as badass as Crows Zero 1 and 2 meets Tokyo Tribe meets EXILE music videos!

 

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7 Comments

  1. Oh I loved all the Crows movies. Perfect mix of that high school swag and epic fights. Cool to see something like that being made into a Jdrama, that’ll give the story more space to develop. Thanks for this review, and the trailers (excuse me while I watch ’em all haha). Will definitely be checking this one out. It’s a shame we don’t see any Oguri Shun but what can you do. Anyhow, how’d you feel about sharing your work on Moviepilot/Creators? I’d love to expand on that so feel free to send me an e-mail. My contact details are on my blog. Hope to hear from you.

    Like

    1. Hi, thank you for checking out my review and taking the time to comment on it. I agree, it’s sad that there’s neither Genji nor Serizawa here. And since most of the cast members of High & Low are singers/performers, we can’t expect the same level of acting as versatile actors: Oguri Shun and Takayuki Yamada. But the show doesn’t fall short of well choreographed action sequences.  

      I visited Moviepilot and Creators’ sites and found a lot of interesting articles. Just wow. What an amazing community. I’ll send you an e-mail soon. Thanks again. 🙂 

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I discovered this series by casuality searching for something to see on kiissasian… And now Im obsessed with it at the point that I have to watch at least a couple of episodes and the last movie “The red rain” at least a few times a week. My favorite characters are : Yamato ( hoodlums squad). Murayama (Oya high) and now after some time,last but not least,Kaito & Kiji !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Blacklatina, I agree. This show has some inexplicable addictive quality. ^^ In my case, I just started watching it to check out Masataka Kubota’s performance. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I didn’t expect that there’d be so many good looking guys in this show, now it’s hard to pick a fave. 🙂

      Like

    1. Hi Hisuimaxwell, yes I’m so excited to see End of Sky. I know exactly how you feel. I also live outside Japan and I don’t speak Japanese so I have to wait a little longer until it gets subbed. 😦

      Like

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