YOUNG THUGS: NOSTALGIA is Miike's personal favorite movie, but is it one of his best? That depends on the viewer. If you're primarily looking for some of his hyper-violent, ultra-cool, and beyond-bizarre characteristics in this movie you'll only get them in very minor and subdued doses.
This is meant to be a sweet movie, although not exactly family-friendly, and manages to lovingly capture the times and circumstances of a particular era. Miike is known for lauding the virtues of child-sight and invoking bundles wonder in his movies, even if they are meta-weird and brutal. YOUNG THUGS is no exception, and all the traditional Miike-isms are here if only sparse, but it's enough to raise it above the typical coming of age story.
NOSTALGIA concerns Riichi, a boy gradually emerging from the magic of childhood ignorance into an even more absurd and comical adulthood, and how he and his friends deal with it. You get scenes of little kid gang wars, a STAND BY ME-esque sojourne, family conflict, and the usual school competition where everyone bands together to win. During it all Riichi is discovering the world and through Miike's direction it seems just as strange and magical to us as it does him.
The kids are fantastic and a joy to watch due to how cool Miike portrays them. There are definite elements of his Yakuza movies in the suave character of these children, even though we're exposed to a vulnerable wonder within them. His humor shines here as well, both subversive and otherwise, and I found myself laughing out loud during several scenes while grinning stupidly in between.
Additionally, if you're familiar with Federico Fellini's later nostalgic movies, this will all seem familiar to you. Narratively, stylistically, and thematically this is Fellini's AMARCORD done Miike style, even mimicking the tangential vignettes of parallel life in town, for no other purpose than to broaden the world in which it's taking place.
As for the DVD, the picture quality is great, the audio is fine, and the packaging and artwork is stylish if a little minimal. There's a short but sweet interview with Miike and a strange yet informative history of Osaka's people that makes the DVD a little more worth it. My only gripe is that the subtitles only appear for as long as there's dialogue, meaning something that sounds like a single syllable word in Japanese but is translated as an entire sentence in English appears on screen for a split second. It's not too terrible, as you're able to follow the story anyway, but it can be a little frustrating at times.
Overall, a fun time and a worthy addition to anyone's Miike catalogue.