Kamikaze Girls

Kamikaze Girls


Reviewed by: Daniel Hooper

So, like, Momoko, a girly-girl “Lolita”, is riding along on her scooter and is hit by a truck and dies, which is, like, ‘whatever’, and then she is in 18th century Versailles, which was so, like, weird, but then Momoko flashbacks to her own past, living with her gangster dad, who is sooo uncool, and then they run away because her dad’s a counterfeiter and Versace are going to hunt them down, so they, like, move into her grandma’s house and then Momoko makes a friend with her opposite, the biker chic “Yanki”, which is sooo not her real name but Ichigo is a way lame name, and Momoko does some embroidery for her and it’s, like, really good, so she gets a job as an embroider but, uh-oh, Ichigo is in trouble with the biker gangs and Momoko has to, like, save the day…

Intrigued by that? If so, you are quite likely a teenage girl with a penchant for Hello Kitty and, consequently, there is a slight chance might get something out of Kamikaze Girls. For the rest of us, however, this 2004 adaptation of a popular Japanese novel is a kitsch nightmare in which the hyper-real and action-packed Japanese style has been married to a story that is an unsatisfying mix of the indecipherable and the mundane. To say that something has been lost in translation may be misleading as the problems with Kamikaze Girls really begin in adaptation.

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At the heart of the car wreck I have generously been calling a story is Momoko (Kyoko Fukada), a vain protagonist and narrator who, for the most part, is pretty hateful, and who espouses the virtues of selfishly pursuing happiness at whatever cost, while conning her “loser” dad into buying her expensive frilly dresses. It is only after making friends with Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya) that Momoko exhibits any signs of human decency, and even then their combined presence mostly serves only to irritate.

What redeems this from the ignominy of a one star review is that Kamikaze Girls is too bizarre to completely hate. Tetsuya Nakashima, director of the equally hyper Memories Of Matsuko, uses every visual trick in his repertoire - from graphics to anime cutaways - to keep the viewer focused and it almost works as the film often plays like a foreign interpretation of “crazy” J-pop cinema. Except Kamikaze Girls isn’t a foreign pastiche and other directors, such as Takashi Miike, have proven that there are excellent narratives to be told in this frenetic, culturally influenced style. Seek them out before braving this.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2010
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Kamikaze Girls packshot
An odd-couple friendship forms between two teens in small town Japan.
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Director: Tetsuya Nakashima

Writer: Nobara Takemoto, Tetsuya Nakashima

Starring: Kyôko Fukada, Anna Tsuchiya, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Sadao Abe, Eiko Koike, Shin Yazawa, Hirotarô Honda, Kirin Kiki, YosiYosi Arakawa, Katsuhisa Namase, Ryôko Shinohara, Yoshinori Okada, Kanako Irie, Haruo Mizuno, Yûichi Kimura

Year: 2004

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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