“All over the bloody place.”
I’m very confused, at to who is the target audience here. It’s part earnest drama about serious social issues, including gender identity and spousal abuse. But it also depicts a hardcore underground fight-club, “Girl’s Blood” in which women battle it out for the gratification of spectators. However, don’t expect a Japanese version of Raze, for while the fights are well-staged [Sakamoto has a good track record, most recently having done 009-1: The End of the Beginning], it has all the class of WWE’s Divas division and amateur night at your local strip-club, combined. For it panders shamelessly to every sexist stereotype imaginable, from sexy nurse through sexy schoolgirl to sexy idol singer. And don’t even get me started on the mud wrestling, filmed with such prurient camerawork, I was genuinely embarrassed for the participants. Then there’s copious and lengthy lesbian sex scenes, which appear to have strayed in from another genre altogether, albeit filmed with a good deal more style and bigger budgets than usual for such fare.
The central character is Satsuki (Haga), the club’s best fighter, but who is estranged from her family and refuses to change with the other girls. Her position as top dog is challenged by the arrival of Chinatsu (Tada), well-versed in MMA techniques. After the two have become close, personal friends, if you know what I mean, and I think you do, it turns out that she’s working without the knowledge of her abusive husband (Hideo) , a karate master who is unimpressed by the unsanctioned nature of these bouts. He abducts Chinatsu and brainwashes her back into submission; worse, still, he threatens to have Girl’s Blood closed down. There’s only one way to settle things: that old chestnut of a school-vs-school battle, in which his top three students will face off against Satsuki two of her colleagues: if they win, Girl’s Blood becomes official, but if they lose, they will have to disband forever [because, apparently, this is how sanctioning martial-arts works in Japan]. You will be unsurprised to hear this contest all comes down to the final match, which sees Satsuki facing off against Chinatsu.
I watched the Director’s Cut version which runs 128 minutes, and wonder if this is perhaps part of the problem; maybe the regular edition has a better consistency of tone or genre. Personally, I dug the action (and, fortunately, there’s no shortage), was disinterested in the drama, and gave severe consideration to fast-forwarding through the soft-core porn, while giving thanks under my breath that my wife was out. Not that she minds: however, the stream of sarcastic comments which would surely have resulted, might well have sunk what chance the film had of any serious evaluation. I’d be hard-pushed to argue with her in this case. While this could truly be described as a film with something for everyone, there are equally significant elements which will be of no interest – or even actively off-putting – for just about anybody. If the creators had made their minds up what they wanted this to be, the end result would likely have been stronger.
Dir: Koichi Sakamoto
Star: Yuria Haga, Asami Tada, Ayame Misaki, Sakaki Hideo
a.k.a. Aka X Pinku