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Kamikaze Girls

Someone out in the wide Internet suggested that I watch Kamikaze Girls (2004, Tetsuya Nakashima: Shimotsuma monogatari in Japanese), and I did--rather, we did; we watched it as a family--and it was very odd and very great. The protagonists have both escaped the dreary roles they were born into and created satisfying personas for themselves: Momoko, the daughter of a small-time failed gangster and a floozie who abandoned the family early on, has gotten into what she terms the 18th-century Rococo look, but which we know better as Japan's Lolita look: over-the-top frilly, fancy dresses. She's doing her best to remain untouched by life in backwater, style-compromised Shimotsuma, where she currently lives.


Then there's Ichiko/go, timid and unpopular as a kid, who was transformed by a chance encounter with the leader of a girl biker gang into a confident, slang-slinging, head-butting, bike-riding tough.


Momoko advertises some of her dad's old counterfeit Versace/Universal Studios gear (two great tastes that go great together! with Versace rendered as "Versach") to raise some money, and Ichiko comes to buy it--and then insists on a friendship between herself and Momoko, despite Momoko's diligent attempts to completely ignore her. Ichiko is emotional and romantic, Momoko is cool and aloof (she offers Ichiko a cabbage at one point and tells her it can be her new best friend. Ichiko doesn't take it well).

Ichiko tells high-color [this movie is VERY high-color--as you can tell from the stills, it's actually supersaturated] tales of key figures in her gang's history, but it's Momoko, who's had a keen understanding of human nature from a young age (dismissing her mother with the advice that she go off and enter a beauty pageant, as time's a-wasting and her mom's life is passing by1) who proves the master storyteller, saving the day at the end (though she herself is saved by Ichigo's aggressive affection, which provides sunshine for the first shoots of outward-directed love Momoko experiences).

The side-characters are fun too, from Momoko's eyepatch-wearing grandma to the gangster known as "the unicorn," thanks to his prodigious coiffure.

Watch the trailer. If you like the look, you'll love the film. It funny and sweet without being cloying.

1Her mom takes her advice.


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 5th, 2015 08:56 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, not available for streaming on Netflix
Dec. 5th, 2015 08:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, what's available for streaming is really haphazard--it's why I went back to getting DVDs: nothing was ever available. I have a very limited DVD service from Netflix now where they send me just two a month.
Dec. 5th, 2015 09:51 pm (UTC)
I've heard of this (not least the Unicorn)! It sounds like a delight!
Dec. 5th, 2015 10:53 pm (UTC)
Oh it is! If you need a pick-me-up, I recommend it.
Dec. 5th, 2015 09:59 pm (UTC)
Sounds interesting! Thanks for the link!
Dec. 5th, 2015 10:53 pm (UTC)
My pleasure--enjoy :-)
Dec. 5th, 2015 11:16 pm (UTC)
At the top of my queue now - I always welcome good recommendations. Thanks.
Dec. 6th, 2015 12:16 am (UTC)
Yay! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Dec. 5th, 2015 11:54 pm (UTC)
Eeeee, I love this movie! So glad that you enjoyed it! I love Momoko's flights of fancy and the whole hyper-saturated aesthetic and Ichiko's snap decision that she and Momoko are going to be FRIENDS and Momoko's "...." in response to that (the cabbage scene is glorious).

But of course Ichiko is right and she and Momoko do become great friends. And I love that they both have such complicated personalities:Ichiko tries so hard to be tough, but she still has these moments when her inner little kid enthusiasm comes bursting out, and Momoko has surrounded herself in frilly soft sweetness but she's actually cold as ice. At least, till she begins to melt a bit for Ichiko.
Dec. 6th, 2015 12:15 am (UTC)
Yeah, there's really something about how tranquilly heartless Momoko is. We're used to heartless women in fiction/drama, but usually they're motivated by powerful emotion or are seen by the male gaze as vain, whereas in Momoko's case you can see it as a retreat from everything sweaty,messy, and crude (and unreliable)--i.e., her natal family--and into calm, self-sufficient, decorative loveliness, untouched by all the--cow poop! And Jusco shopping. And we're used to seeing tough guys (or gals) with tender hearts, but Ichigo doesn't bury hers very deeply--she's pretty warmhearted with Momoko right from the start.

Yeah, good film :-)
Dec. 6th, 2015 03:19 am (UTC)
Yes, exactly! There's no malice behind Momoko's heartlessness. It's self-protective.
Dec. 6th, 2015 12:11 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link to the trailer! Amazing!
Dec. 6th, 2015 12:16 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it! It's a really fun film.
Dec. 6th, 2015 02:28 am (UTC)
I've had the book in my to-read queue for ages; this is encouraging!
Dec. 6th, 2015 03:23 am (UTC)
The Wikipedia entry leads me to believe that the book is much more in-depth and has a longer storyline (which I guess makes sense).
Dec. 6th, 2015 08:27 am (UTC)
the gangster known as "the unicorn," thanks to his prodigious coiffure.

I wonder if he listens to the Leningrad Cowboys.

That sounds like a delightful movie. Thank you!
Dec. 7th, 2015 02:21 am (UTC)
Leningrad Cowboys
Wow! He must, honestly!
Dec. 6th, 2015 06:10 pm (UTC)
I read the book! It's also a novel that Kestrell gave me a couple of years ago now. I didn't realize there was a live-action movie. This looks wonderful. You can have my copy of the book if you ever feel like it--you'd probably be interested by the divergences between the movie and book.
Dec. 7th, 2015 02:21 am (UTC)
I'd heard it was both a novel and a manga--yeah, I should take a look one day.
Dec. 7th, 2015 09:11 am (UTC)
It looks interesting. I watched Flying Colours (ビリギャル) and Departures (おくりびと) on the plane recently. Have you seen them? Flying Colours was light and fluffy (and highly predictable), but I enjoyed it a lot. I thought I'd like Departures more, but I actually gave up quite early because I was annoyed at the protagonist for not simply being upfront about his job. But, having read the plot description just now, maybe he had good reason not to...
Dec. 7th, 2015 12:16 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen either of those! I'll have to see if I'm able to rent Flying Colours. What's available here is surprisingly (or maybe not...) limited: A friend on Twitter recommended "Memories of Matsuko (she didn't say what the title was in Japanese) from this director and Netflix looked at me all wide-eyed, pleading ignorance of the film's existence.
Dec. 23rd, 2015 06:43 pm (UTC)
The original name is better (下妻物語 - Kamakaze Girls? What does that even mean?), and supposedly the book is even better.

I actually once hopped on a train (well, two, you have to transfer once out of Tokyo on the most direct route) and visited Shimotsuma just because of this movie (I didn't have the heart to tell the fearless old dude who wanted to practice his English why I was really on the train, I let him think I was an English teacher). It really was the station in the movie, only difference is that the monitor was busted when I visited.

On the other hand, it didn't seem that inaka, just kind of bland almost-suburban. Two platforms! No wanman trains there. Apparently there's a section in the book where Momoko actually thinks "Shimotsuma isn't so bad! We have two platforms... Wait? What am I saying? Aaaah."
Dec. 23rd, 2015 06:51 pm (UTC)
Another random fact, a lot of the stations/towns along that train route have odd -tsuma names. 三妻, 中妻, etc. Made me wonder how they got their names. I forget the line, just that I took the Tsukuba Express (probably from the terminus at Akihabara) and, maybe transferred in Moriya? That would make it the Joso Line, I think: http://www.hyperdia.com/en/cgi/en/intervaltime.html?dep_node=MORIYA&arv_node=SHIMOTSUMA&search_target=intervaltime&diagram=157074&year=2015&month=12&day=23&searchday=20151223
Dec. 23rd, 2015 07:04 pm (UTC)
Heh, I would not want to be the 中妻 --sounds very ... uncomfortable. Yeah, it would be good to hear some legends connected with those names.
Dec. 23rd, 2015 07:02 pm (UTC)
OMG Doug you still have your LJ!

"Shimotsuma isn't so bad! We have two platforms... Wait? What am I saying? Aaaah." --Perfect.

Three cheers to you for making the journey! Did you walk around while you were there? Did you see the Jusco in the distance? How about the Buddha?

My daughter's teaching in a Kansai place that's pretty much equivalent to Shimotsuma. Not dō-inaka, but that sort of weird empty suburban on the outskirts of nowhere.

Dec. 24th, 2015 04:25 am (UTC)
Yeah, walked around some. Not far enough to find the Jusco (looking at the map, I think I went the wrong direction, towards the lake -- didn't have an iPhone back then, so no maps, this being 2007), and I suspect the Buddha is a good hike off somewhere out of the built up area. I've seen Juscos in other places almost exactly like Shimotsuma, though (like where we had the spring track team training camp, there was one right next to the track), and, well, in Malaysia, too (first comment seeing one in a mall in KL: "I got it at Jusco!").

I was more of a Donki shopper when I needed cheap stuff, though.

As for my LJ... Well, it'll be there until they close LJ down, I have a permanent account. Mostly ignored, though, I read people through RSS these days, so the only non-public posts I ever see are my wife's.

Found this: http://doubt72.livejournal.com/222485.html
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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