This film was made between season two and season three of the television series, and represents a passing of the torch from Saki, SD #2 (Minamino) to SD #3 (Asaka), in preparation for the upcoming TV show. Saki has just about given up her life as a detective, but finds herself dragged in when she, literally, bumps into someone on the street. He turns out to be an escapee from Hell Castle, a reform school for wayward kids on an island near Tokyo, and she discovers that Principal Hattori (Ibu) is training the pupils to be a brainwashed army for an upcoming coup d’etat [the word is exactly the same in Japanese, incidentally]. She goes to her bosses with the information, but the investigation is quickly killed from above, for reasons I’m sure you can guess. So, it’s up to Saki to put together a team, sneak onto the island, rescue the inmates and stop Hattori. He turns out to be a nemesis from the TV show, though that back-story will, for obvious reasons, be lost on the vast majority of Western viewers.
It’s entertaining enough, with some great moments: probably none quite surpasses the one where the girls stealthily make their way, by rubber dinghy, onto the island, and remove their camouflage to reveal… their sailor-fuku school uniforms, a moment of beautiful surrealness – more of this would have been welcome. Almost at the same level is the sequence where our heroines apparently decide to have a meeting in a gravel-pit and are attacked by a helicopter, which they have to fend off by yo-yo. The martial arts of Minamino are nothing too amazing, though she performs credibly enough, and Tanaka at least keeps the camera in one position, and lays off editing the fights with a weed-whacker [even if this may simply be a result of the era, rather than a conscious stylistic decision]. Also worth noting, the manga creator, Wada, cameos as a street yo-yo seller.
The main weakness is that the movie doesn’t really seem too concerned about giving any of the girls much personality – it compares badly in this area to something like the Charlie’s Angels film [in honour of which, I almost titled this piece, “…and then there’s the yo,” but thought better of it!]. This is perhaps a function of its origins on television: with the characters already established there, the makers may not have felt there was much point in rehashing the territory. It’s hard to blame them for this – they likely didn’t foresee the advent of DVD, or that anyone outside Japan would ever watch the movie – yet it undeniably does hurt things, from the viewpoint of a Western audience.
Dir: Hideo Tanaka
Star: Yoko Minamino, Yui Asaka, Masato Ibu