Movie Review: Kamikaze Girls

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Kyoko Fukada and Anna Tsuchiya are two young Japanese women who are sure to grab your attention in Kamikaze Girls, directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. Their lives exemplify some of the fascinating intricacies of Japanese youth culture in a feel good film with art direction designed to blow your socks off. This is a true cinematic delight, and as proof it was one of the audience award winners at the Far East Film Festival in Udine Italy last April.

After Momoko’s mother leaves her small time crook husband, her young daughter grows up on the farm, 60 miles from Tokyo, with her ex Yakusa father who sells fake Versace merchandize and grandmother, a woman with an extraordinary ability to catch flies in mid air. Nearby in the surrounding area – of Ibaraki - is the World's tallest Buddha statue. Not many suburbs can claim that. Momoko is an inventive child, able to levitate and convey a few words of wisdom to her departing mother. As she grows up she spends her time learning to sew her own wardrobe, dreaming of a life in another century - preferably the Rococo period in 18th century France. Her designs are so enticing they draw attention from a Tokyo designer and Ichiko, a “Yanki lady” and member of an all girl biker club --The Ponytails. Ichiko commissions Momoko to embroider her biker clothes.

This is no ordinary biker but a legitimate speed biker from a kamikaze biker cult. Ichiko as a female biker has a real gender bending thing going and can project her voice like a samurai. As a typical Yanki, Ichiko sports shaved eyebrows and dresses in wild colors.

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship – a Gothic Lolita and a Yanki biker. What is fascinating about the film is how the two young women have almost identical histories of abandonment but evolve very differently. Ichiko hates sentimentality and frills, which is basically Momoko’s entire life. However she doesn’t seem to get far enough from her father’s criminal roots—as kamikaze bikers traditionally have been the training grounds for the Yakusa, and the small enclaves today of one or two members still exist in the Japanese suburbs. Yet Momoko surprises us more, despite her resistance to the gruff biker world. At a showdown with bully biker girls, she swings a mean baseball bat. Whether frequenting the Pachinko gambler inns or Tokyo design shops the adventures of Momoko and Ichiko are guaranteed absolutely brilliant fun. It’s the kind of film that you can actually appreciate one for the plot, two for the art direction and three for the experience of the extraordinarily rich Japanese youth culture.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Udine Italy
More Information:
Kamikaze Girls
Japan 2004