I was right, unfortunately. It's not as good as Part 1. Theoretically it's doing all the same things, but the formula hasn't caught light this time.
The cast are weaker.
1. Asami's still here and in a key role, admittedly, but it's one that partially keeps her out of the plot. This time, she's the big boss. She's head of the school's student council. She doesn't get involved in fights any more, but instead just sends lackeys to do her dirty work. That said, though, she's in love with a vegetable in an eye patch and a wheelchair. In one scene, she's having sex with him.
Late in the film, she also develops Idiot Bond Villain Syndrome. She catches the heroes! She has them tied up! She orders their deaths... and then wanders away at a key moment, having given the job to someone known to be unreliable.
2. Our anti-heroine this time is Maki the Lone Wolf, not Midori. This is a problem, partly because of Akari Asahina's performance. She's a weaker actress than Rika Hoshimi, not doing as much if you dig past her cool, solitary surface. The character worked quite well in Part 1, though, and the real issue is the film's use of the character. Her ambition in life is to transfer from school to school, making herself top dog and then leaving to do it all again. "Then I'll go and challenge other schools." In other words, she's an idiot. She's looking for fights, so everything that happens is her own fault.
The film starts with Maki walking into a classroom and starting a topless girl fight. (As in Part 1, the challenge involves Yumi the Coxcomb and her bizarre overacting.) This brings in Ranko (Asami), who guns down Maki and has her dragged off to the torture room. This is unexpectedly rubbish. Maki's tied up in there for almost the film's first half-hour, but the "torture" is just: (a) punches that visibly aren't connecting, (b) a harmless-looking whip and (c) putting a glass vial of mercury on Maki's head, telling her that she'll be killed by mercury vapour if it falls off and breaks. I never believed from Asahina's performance that she was trying to keep that glass vial balanced up there, even without the shots where it's attached to her head so firmly that she can look down at her feet and it still won't fall off.
"They'll kill poor Maki!" gasps a character who's hiding outside. Ahahahaha, no. Had the torture not been toothless, that could have given Maki's character all the fuel she needed to catch fire thereafter. Unfortunately it's limp, so she is too.
The character lacks dramatic clarity. Does she want to overthrow the top dog because that's her hobby, or does she want to avenge Midori? I suppose it's both, presumably plus some payback for the "torture". Asahina's not terrible, but she didn't really work for me. I didn't believe in her vengeance. If you're vague about a character's motivations, you'll probably be less compelled by their actions.
3. Chiaki's less interesting than the equivalent character she's replacing from Part 1. She does distracting head movements in her early scenes, while her character's stupid and not particularly likable. She only joins the good guys after doing something so bone-headed that her fellow baddies want to kill her, then later she does MODERATELY INTERESTING SPOILER for a dumb reason. She suffers, mind you. She gets raped and you know what's going to happen to her Token Sick Friend in hospital. The latter story element, though, is artless. The sick friend has nothing to do with anything. We know nothing about her, beyond her name.
4. Instead of a rapist politician, we have rapist officials of the education board. They visit the school, have a boob-groping scene that feels a bit too openly like audience wank material and then conduct their rape. After that, they vanish. The film doesn't explore them any further. They don't get a dramatically satisfying comeuppance. I forgot about them. They return towards the end to be blackmailed into a mildly surprising plot development, but even so I can't say the film's making good use of them.
5. Ranko's sidekicks are a very second-best way of padding out the plot and giving Maki opposition. That's especially true when Radish O-gin is played by a bad actress and fights with a silly CGI electro-whip.
The film's okay, mind you. It's a lot like the first in most respects. It's basically the same people in the same setting, doing the same things. (They were made back-to-back and released together, incidentally.) There are definitely good things here, with Asami always being worth watching. The violence is capable of looking limp or fake, but there will occasionally be stabbings and they're always a shock. I also liked the theme, with an enforced graduation and the question of what you'll do with the rest of your life. Will you be an idiot loser like Maki? (The film doesn't present it like that, but she's even seeing visions of the dead to question her decisions.) Alternatively, what about everything Chiaki says, does and thinks? "Gangs aren't the only way to grow up."
Also, pleasingly, the sequel doesn't cheat. The dead stay dead.
Ranko's regime is brutal and unjust, but she sees herself as the good guy. She's preserving order. That's interesting, too.
This is a cheap, badly produced film. It has too many eye-rolling shots, e.g. a knife fight where Asami has an open strike available at her enemy's back... and attacks with her elbow. It's full of boobs, obviously. Topless fights! Topless non-torture! For me, though, it's more likely to cross the line between "blatant sleaze is funny" and "no, that's enough, stop it". More importantly, though, it also has less interesting, worse acted characters with weaker dramatic motivation.
Even on a dumb FIGHT!! FIGHT!! level, it's a step down. Miki kept losing to Midori in the first film. You never really believe that she's as tough as the film says she is.
The themes are good. The message is interesting. Everything else is inferior. I'd still recommend Part 1, though.