The baby-faced teen whose self-centered musings and obsessions make up the bulk of the film, Momoko Ryugasaki (Kyoko Fukada) lives in Shimotsura, what she thinks of as the most remote, podunk corner of Japan. It's a land of small farms and small-minded people more interested in getting a bargain than wearing interesting clothes, a fact that horrifies the fashion-obsessed Momoko to no end. She dreams of living in 18th century France, and rhapsodizes endlessly about the Rococo era, which in her gauzy imaginings seems to be a split between Dangerous Liaisons and an outré fashion spread. Thinking of clothing as an extension of personality, she's disgusted by the people in her hometown (who she imagines as being born and dying in tacky tracksuits) and is constantly working on self-improvement, thinking "When I see clothes I like, I want to become worthy of them." So there she is, walking the lonely roads in her frilly corseted dresses, demure demeanor, parasol and all, living only for her occasional trips to a haute couture shop in Tokyo, many hours away by train.
That's when biker chick Ichiko Shirayuri (Anna Tsuchiya) comes roaring into the film. She's come to Momoko's house to buy some fake Versace (or, as the subtitles would have it, "Ver**ce") - Momoko's dad being a former ace-clothing counterfeiter and she needing money for more high-end togs - and before you know it, they're fast friends. Or at least Ichiko is friends with Momoko, who couldn't care less about this deep-voiced, spitting, greasy overall-wearing girl who's about as far from rococo as could be. It's like an opposites-attract romance, with Ichiko the brazen butch (she likes to head-butt when angry) to Momoko's remote femme, only director/writer Tetsuya Nakashima keeps things on the straight and hetero.
As Kamikaze Girls lives mostly in Momoko's rather dizzy head, it keeps its feet planted firmly in the clouds, with Momoko having a tendency to go flying up into the sky at artistically appropriate times. When Ichiko tells the dramatic story of the heroine of the local girl biker gangs, the style switches from sunny and pastoral to angry anime, slashing swords, roaring motorcycles and all.
Apart from Momoko's slowly burgeoning love/friendship with Ichiko and her desire for a more fabulous life, there isn't a whole lot going on, story-wise - which is not to suggest that this is a slow film. On the contrary, the whole thing zips by at about 80 mph, even when detailing something as exciting (to the girls) as going to Tokyo to get Ichiko's biker gang jacket embroidered. Utterly silly but still thoroughly original, it has more spunk than a half-dozen studio teen flicks.
Reviewed at the New York Asian Film Festival 2005.
Aka Shimotsuma monogatari.
Pop a wheelie!
Run time: 102 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 29th May 2004
Distributed by: Toho Company Ltd.
Production compaines: Amuse Pictures, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Hori Production, Ogura Jimusyo Co., Parco Co. Ltd., Shogakukan, Toho Company, Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), Tokyo FM Broadcasting Co.
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 11
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Producer: Yokichi Osato
Screenwriter: Tetsuya Nakashima
Starring: Kyoko Fukada as Momoko Ryugasaki, Anna Tsuchiya as Ichigo Shirayuri, Hiroyuki Miyasako as Momoko's Father, Sadao Abe as Ryuji 'the Unicorn' / Doctor, Eiko Koike as Akimi, Shin Yazawa as Miko, Hirotaro Honda as Yakuza Boss, Kirin Kiki as Momoko's Grandmother, YosiYosi Arakawa as Grocery Store Manager, Katsuhisa Namase as Pachinko Parlor Manager, Ryôko Shinohara as Momoko's Mother, Yoshinori Okada as Baby, 'The Stars Shine Bright' Owner
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