Crow’s Blood (2016)
We all have those moments in life where we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when something big happened. Whether it’s something major like September 11, or something small like that Christmas present you got when you were eight that you still cherish to this day, there are several of those moments scattered throughout our lives. For me, one of those moments is inexplicably the formation of AKB48.
For the blissfully unaware, AKB48 are the female powerhouse idol group of Japan. The ‘AKB’ in the name comes from Akihabara, where the group has their own theatre in which they perform daily concerts. Members are constantly joining and graduating, being shuffled to new groups and now even new cities. While the members themselves are not necessarily household names, for the most part, the AKB brand is one of the most powerful in Japan.
The start of a revolution… or something.
It was early December 2005. I was in my sixth-floor apartment and the TV was on. I wasn’t watching it, but I was in the same room doing something on the computer. I glanced at the TV and saw a kinda chubby dude in a suit surrounded by a bunch of girls in schoolgirl outfits. They were announcing a new idol group by the name of AKB48. That was it. That’s the memory. I had zero interest in idols at the time and that was the last I thought of it. It wasn’t until over a year later that I took notice of the group again with the release of “Seifuku ga Jama o Suru,” a rather dark song that appealed to Japanese horror spree I was on at the time. To make a long story very short, I become pretty invested in this at-the-time rather unknown idol group. I went to the theatre in Akihabara numerous times, I was a member of the DMM website in order to watch their theatre live streams from home, I had a bunch of CDs and magazines, the works. Being a foreign female this always made me stand out amongst the predominately middle-aged male crowd, but dammit, I loved those dark songs they had.
Over time they moved towards a more generic cute/poppy sound and gained incredible mainstream traction, and my interest waned. I missed the darkness. I missed the rawness. I missed the pain they were so unique in expressing. It just wasn’t something other groups did.
So what the hell does this brief history lesson have to do with Crow’s Blood? Crow’s Blood is a horror show created by Akimoto Yasushi, the chubby dude in the suit I mentioned earlier. The creator of AKB48. I stumbled across the show recently whilst looking for something new to watch and had to give it a try, if only for old time’s sake. The show stars several of his top girls (and various others in lesser roles), but for me it hearkens back to the time when AKB wasn’t afraid to push the envelope and do something a little crazy, a little dark, a little out there.
It’s just a flesh wound.
The first thing I have to mention is that the show is incredibly violent and full of gore. Not something you would expect from the nation’s girl group; young women who are known for their cute charms and (generally) wholesome image. It doesn’t shy away from showing you, in full detail, the messy results of a girl being run over by several trucks, or a girl being thrown from the top of a school roof and landing on a table where students are eating lunch. Another scene sees two girls beat to death in the toilets, and it doesn’t shy away from showing you their pulpy flesh and broken bones as they die. In fact, it highlights it. It emphasises it. Part of the horror, at least for Japanese audiences that know these girls so well, is that you’re not expecting to see them in scenes like this. It’s a complete 180 turn from the image they otherwise project to the public, and it’s pretty darn effective.
The show is about a young girl named Maki (Miyawaki Sakura, one of AKB48’s current starlets and not one I was familiar with before starting the show), who was killed in a horrific hit-and-run accident. Her father, a doctor and researcher of regenerative medicine, refuses to accept her loss, and with the cooperation of some American doctors manages to revive her with an experimental treatment. But as you would expect, it doesn’t take too long to realise something has gone horribly wrong, and when she returns to her new school back in Japan, shit starts hitting the fan very quickly. Maki is unable to control her rage and is occasionally seen bleeding black blood. When one of the girls falls from the school roof, yet is perfectly fine the next day, it becomes apparent that something very strange is going on. But what does Maki want, and how can anyone stop her?
‘Acting.’ Not even once.
I’m just gonna get this out there, this isn’t a quality show. The idea itself most certainly isn’t original, it’s basically a bunch of scenes strung together that could have been ripped from any horror movie over the last 20 years, and the acting is at times atrocious. Plus, there’s an awful subplot involving an investigative reporter and one of the high school girls falling in love, and not once does anyone feel the need to yell out “PEDOPHILE” towards this highly illegal relationship that’s presented as the show’s heroic love story. But none of that really matters, because the show is fun. It embraces the codes of its genre and goes over-the-top with them. The gore is excessive, the characters are pure tropes turned up to 5000, and you know what’s coming long before it happens, but it doesn’t matter. Miyawaki in particular hams it up gloriously as the main villain Maki and is a pure delight to watch as she chews her way through every scene she’s in. A special shout-out also goes to two of my favourite idols from back in the day, Yokoyama Yui and Matsui Jurina, who appear as the delinquents of the school that relish any chance for violence and spend most of their time beating each other up (in increasingly bloody ways) after infection. Gotta do something when you can’t die!
The show is only six episodes long, and has been both subbed and dubbed by Miramax, who picked up the worldwide rights. If you go in with your expectations set to zero and allow yourself to enjoy some campy horror fun, you’ll really enjoy this show. I certainly did.
4 creepy smiles out of 5. The pedophilic romance subplot needed to go, and I would be surprised if anyone outside of Japan actually found a way to enjoy that part. When you, as one of two male cast members, have less balls than all of the cute female idols combined, probably time to look at what’s wrong with your character.