Tetsuya Nakashima (Confessions, Memories of Matsuko) put himself on the map back in 2004 with a film that has become something of a cult hit across the globe, a kitsch-filled and pop-culture sparkled delight of Japanese panache and Eastern cultural influence, with a side salad dollped with brightly coloured and fantastic costume design, surreal and howlingly silly comedy, dashes of stylish and cute anime sequences, and a storyline that’s about as bonkers as its bright, glowing characters.
Nakashima also penned the screenplay for the film, which was adapted, and apparently quite faithfully I might add, from a novel of the same name by Nobara Takemoto. His obvious passion for this project shines brightly from the opening sequence until the final moments as the credits roll and out lead characters are still entertaining us.
Meet Momoko, she’s a teenage girl who is besotted with the Rococo period, and has a passion for Lolita dresses which she wears constantly. She has a father who is a small-time gangster who is trying to sell knock-off Versace merchandise, and a mother who is a low-life, attention seeking and disloyal woman. Momoko is, self-proclaimed, “rotten” inside, she has no friends, nor does she want any, and she is closed off to love, romance, and even sour flavours. She dresses like candy, and has a diet of it too. Enter Ichigo, a “Yanki” gang member who goes to meet Mokoko because she wants to buy some of the fake Versace clothes. This ignites an unlikely and explosive relationship between Ichigo and Momoko. With a storyline involving animated sequences, a big gang fight, a search for a renowned embroiderer, a guy with a massive pointy hairstyle and some of the zaniest sequences you’ll ever see, Kamikaze Girls, at its core, is a film about friendship and standing up for yourself. You have to dig underneath the pink, yellow and glittery shell to see the meaning, but it’s there, and it works wonderfully.
Kyoto Fukada, as Momoko, and Anna Tsuchiya, as Ichigo, are fantastic, and their rapport on screen makes for a real treat. One minute they are smiling, the next they are arguing, the next Ichigo is head-butting Momoko and spitting on her porch. It’s wild, it’s silly, and it’s an absolute joy.
With a charm reminiscent of Amelie and a zany visual style not unlike Run Lola Run, and a fast-paced and comedy filled screenplay that takes it to an entirely different level, this is a film that is just impossible not to like. The costume design is a major factor, and it really is brilliant, and representative of certain Japanese sub-cultures. It’s nice to see it on screen and in such a gratifying way. A fun and complimentary J-Pop soundtrack pulls it all together. I left the film with a huge grin on my face and a feeling that I had just watched something so wonderfully light-hearted that I just know I will revisit it again and again. I’m just sorry it took me so long to get around to it in the first place.
Third Window Films have done another great job with the release too. Watching the film on Blu-ray brought out the vivid colour that shone throughout the movie. It sounded great, the subtitles were top notch, and the special features offered plenty to smile about too. There is an entire disc of extras, featuring interviews with the cast and director, a short film: “The Birth of Unicorn Ryuji”, a 40 minute making of documentary, workprint footage, an Anna Tsuchiya music video, and a selection of trailers. The variety of feautures, as well as the beautiful transfer of the wonderful film, is a must-own if you are a fan, or even remotely intrigued by it. I couldn’t recommend it enough.