Dokuritsu Shoujo Gurentai

Just watched the DVD of the movie Dokuritsu Shoujo Gurentai (lit. Independence Girl-gang) 2004, retitled for the USDM as “Samurai Chicks” (Tokyo Shock, 2006).  I really wish US releasers wouldn’t go messing with the titles, not only because it is both f#@king unnecessary and is culturally insulting and ignorant, but because it makes it really difficult to identify the movie by the title.  When I first saw the title listing, I thought it was Samurai Gal 21 with Koike Eiko and Satou Eriko.  I was elated until I found out that this was a different movie… after which I remained elated, but for different reasons.  Viz was one of the first “insipid title” offenders by retitling the USDM release of Shimotsuma Monogatari as “Kamikaze Girls”.  WTF?!

Anyway, this film is b-grade all the way.  I’m not saying this in a perjorative way – it is as good as anything from Japan shot on HDV in under two weeks!  The story centers on 4 dancers who are selected from their school/agency to train to become assassins in order to bring about revolution in their “Southern island” home.  It’s never spelled out, but with all the references throughout the film, you won’t need to be hit over the head with a brick that says “Okinawa” on it to figure it out (unless you are completely without knowledge of post-war Japanese history).  The girls are shipped off to Tokyo where they perpetrate acts of terrorism based on instructions given them through messages coded into music videos.

I thought this was riotously funny.  Perhaps it is because I remember the whole Amuro/MAX/Chinen era when anything/everything/anyone from Okinawa was popular whether it had to do with style, music, or “culture”.   Even the names of the 4 MAX-like girls and the Amuro-like character and her horrible song are parodies of the real thing.  Although taking cues from the real and devisive movement for autonomy in Okinawa, the film takes liberal jabs at the whole “pop culture export industry” – from the artists themselves to the “official school” where all pop idols from Okinawa hail from.  The result is a great parody, mixed with some bad b-grade fighting and a fair amount of blood.  It is the ultimate payback for all those MAX movies from the 90’s!

Directorially, it is a little flat and 2D, even though the writing is great and the same person did both.  Except for a few high-angle shots, it is mostly from eye-level.  This is more of a story-driven than an image-driven work.  The fighting is on the weak side as are the shootouts, but they exist to drive the story forward.  There is an ongoing narrative throughout the film that at first seems superfluous, which is core to the story at the conclusion.

Thumbs up.

Oh, and look out for duck-assassin…

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