"Crows" is a highly influential, long running manga series created by writer/artist Hiroshi Takashi. It was a teen crime drama/action series that ran for 26 volumes all published between 1990-1998 and was set at the most dangerous school in all of Japan, Tokyo's Suzuran High School For Boys AKA The School For Crows. They're referred to as crows because they're loud, boisterous, annoying and they tend to overrun things and cause chaos making them largely undesirable to the other denizens of the city.
Suzuran High attracts the worst of the worst from all over the country and it becomes a sort of minor league for the organized crime world as many members of the Yakuza and those with aspirations of one day joining an organization often enroll or transfer there with the dream or aspiration of becoming the King Of Suzuran High one day. The Best Of The Worst (or the Worst Of The Worst depending on how you look at it).
In order to take over the School Of Crows, you'll have to not only be able to fight but find out how to recruit the right people and pick the right crew, then you need to be wise enough to know when to be diplomatic and pick your fights. Then you need to know when to form alliances and who to align yourself with. There are several key players and factions all vying for dominance at Suzuran High. If you pick the wrong side and strike too soon you could be out of the game and forced into another school (forget about the ICU or the ER!) where you can be the BMOC but it won't matter because you couldn't hack it as a Crow.
After a four year absence, the "Crows" theme and the further adventures of Suzuran High Schhol For Boys were chronicled in the sequel series appropriately titled "Worst". "Worst" had an extremely successful run fueled by the popularity of "Crows" and a loyal audience that were thirsty for more Suzuran stories along with a new generation of readers that were reading the old "Crows" series and now had their own. "Worst" had 20 chapters all published between 2002-2005 and the popularity of Takahashi Hiroshi's brutal world of high school gangs plotting and fighting in the hopes of being rulers of the toughest school in all the nation.
The characters that appeared in the pages of "Crows" and "Worst" have made such an impression all over Asia that world famous Japanese director Takashi Miike (City Of Lost Souls, Dead Or Alive, Ichi The Killer, Sukiyaki Western Django) took the job of bringing the motion picture adaptation of "Crows" to the silver screen. In order to carve his own niche in the continuity of the series he made it so that the premise of his film is all of the events occur the year before the events in the "Crows" manga happened. This is why the film is called "Crows Zero".
In the "Crows"/"Worst" universe (mangverse?) "Crows" occurs two years before "Worst" so by preceeding both series' Miike doesn't have the same headaches he'd have trying to straight up adapt the series directly from the manga. If you think fanboys are a problem in the States multiply that by about 50 and you'd have an idea of the hell Miike would catch in Asia if he butchered "Crows". When Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip (Kill Zone, Flash Point) decided to tackle the super popular Chinese comic book title "Dragon Tiger Gate" (also known as Jademan's "Oriental Heroes" to North Americans) they knew that they'd be in for it as well from diehard Asian fans if they dropped the ball.
What Miike delivered was an even drama/action film that appealed to not only fans of both manga series both casual film fans as well. Watching the whole story unfold as Genji Takakaya, son of a local Yakuza boss decides to transfer to Suzuran High to spite his father and accomplish what he couldn't: becoming the undisputed King Of The School Of Crows. There's one major obstacle standing in his way however, Tamao Serizawa, the current top boy at Suzuran controls the school with an iron fist and he has a crew that managed to crush everyone that's attempted to snatch the throne from Serizawa in the past.
Genji gets help from a local Yakuza member who instructs him in how to be more diplomatic in his mission and to seek out allies and form alliances since he's new to the school. He begins to maneuver his way through the school and recruit more and more supporters for his cause through favors and the occassional asskicking. There were a wide assortment of excellent fights in close quarters in this film that reminded me of some of my favorite fight sequences in Walter Hill masterpiece "The Warriors".
"Crows Zero" was a huge box office success when it finally opened in Japan, Korea and China in October 2007. It managed to wrest the top spot away from "Hero" and made 2.5 billion yen at the Japanese box office alone ($25 million USD) and just under $17 million USD in worldwide box office receipts. It was so well received that a sequel was greenlit and is currently in production. Expect "Crows Zero 2" to follow the exploits of Genji and the GPS Crew eight months after the events in "Crows Zero" and right before graduation. It should hit theaters in Asia sometime in Summer 2009.
If you haven't yet seen "Crows Zero" yet it was released in North America and distributed through Media Blasters this past April and it's also available for rental through both Netflix and Redbox. If you've never read any of either the "Crows" or Worst" manga series' you can read both series' through online scanlations (page scans translated to English) by clicking on the name of the manga you wish to read here: "Crows" or "Worst".