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Kamikaze Girls
Kamikaze Girls

Kyoko Fukada in pink in Kamikaze Girls.


Year: 2004  
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima  

Tetsuya Nakashima


Kyoko Fukada, Anna Tsuchiya, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Ryoko Shinohara, Sadao Abe, Kirin Kiki, Eiko Koike, Shin Yazawa, Yoshinori Okada, Hirotaro Honda

  The Skinny:

This dizzying explosion of vibrant colors and rapid-fire editing may be hard for some audiences to take, but charming performances from stars Kyoko Fukada and Anna Tsuchiya suggest there’s a big heart behind all this over-the-top, whiz-bang posturing.

Review by Calvin McMillin: Kamikaze Girls takes the admittedly overused term “MTV-style filmmaking” to a whole new level. In a sense, this 2004 film from director Tetsuya Nakashima is a lot like a kid who just can’t sit still. It’s about as far from the classic Hollywood style as you can get, calling attention to itself in a myriad of ways – vibrant color saturation, divergent film stocks, onscreen graphics and text, animation, characters breaking the fourth wall, and even nonlinear jumps through time and space from Versailles to Shimotsuma to the nondescript hospital near Kobe where the film’s protagonist is born. And that’s just the first thirty minutes. At once clever, whimsical, and amusing, Kamikaze Girls is not your average buddy comedy.

The film’s quirky plot centers on Momoko (Kyoko Fukada), a country girl who rejects the pastoral boredom of her hometown of Shimotsuma and instead embraces the “Lolita” fashion subculture, which a) involves a total adoration of Rococo-era France and b) requires her to dress up like a pink and frilly Little Bo-Peep. To be clear, while Momoko may possess a sweet and innocent exterior, she is – by her own admission – cold and probably a little dead inside. The highlight of her life is shopping for new fashions at “Baby, the Stars Shine Bright,” a trendy boutique in Tokyo.

Momoko’s world gets flipped upside down when she crosses paths with a loud, slightly ignorant Yanki biker grrl named Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya). Needing money to support her expensive shopping habit, Momoko decides to pawn some of her father’s imitation name brand clothing (Universal Studios and Versace – together!). Ichigo answers the ad, and is enthralled by the fake, utterly tacky products. Through a series of events, the two end up becoming unlikely pals, eventually finding themselves scouring Tokyo together in search of a legendarily badass biker/embroiderer (no, really) who possesses the proper skills to create a special embroidery on Ichigo’s coat as a way to honor her mentor.

Based on the novel by Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls is an absurd, often funny female coming-of-age story that is unlike any Hollywood or Asian production I’ve ever seen. Anna Tsuchiya is a consistent scene-stealer, totally inhabiting the role of the snarling lout with an oh-so-sentimental core. The flashback to Ichigo’s days as a teenager is perhaps the most hilarious highlight, as it requires Tsuchiya to act in a completely different style for much comic effect. Kyoko Fukada makes a good “straight woman” to Tsuchiya’s more broad comedy stylings, as Fukada’s character is clearly the saner of the two, despite her peculiar fashion fetish.

Ultimately, it’s the budding chemistry between these two performers that makes the movie worth watching. Granted, much of the film is over-the-top and hyper-stylized, but the film works because it presents us with an intriguing, surprisingly believable friendship that we can immediately invest in as well as root for. Kamikaze Girls clips along at an almost breathless pace, but the film’s constant in-your-face shenanigans never become tedious or annoying (For a negative example of this, see 2007’s Ming Ming. Ugh.). Without a doubt, Kamikaze Girls is one of oddest “Odd Couple” derivations you’ll see; it’s cartoonish, broad, and over-the-top, yet it somehow works dramatically thanks to fine performances from its two leads and a cheeky, infectious style. (Calvin McMillin, 2009)


Region 1 NTSC
Viz Video
16 x 9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
English Subtitles
Trailer, Interviews, Music Video

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