Magnolia Entertainment has done a fine job lately of bring over some very cool Asian cinema to both theatres and DVD lately. With releases like The Host and Tears of the Black Tiger we get some highly entertaining looks at other cultures, all wrapped up in very good films. The Host was a terrific look at Korea and Tears of the Black Tiger gave a great look at Thailand, and now Magnolia is back with a look at Japanese school culture, but in a very over-the-top way with Yo-Yo Girl Cop.
It’s the present day in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, and a young school girl is running about frantically with a bomb strapped to her chest, trying to get clear of the crowd of people- and then the bomb goes off! We learn that she was a special police operative who’s mission was to look into a website called Enola Gay, that’s counting down to something mysterious. The site is a resource for students without hope, and that leads the police to want to place a special operative within the school to find out more. There’s only 72 hours left to the countdown, and desperate measure force the “recruitment” of a new operative, a young girl named K, who’s been deported from New York is given the option of either serving the force or not having any hope of seeing her mother again. She takes on the name of Asamiya Saki and begins her job of uncovering the secret behind the Enola Gay site, with her only weapon being a deadly steel yo-yo…
Now I’m not that familiar with this, but apparently Yo-Yo Girl Cop has some heavy duty history and this is the first the character has been seen in 20 years. The DVD package touts this as from the creator of Battle Royale which is also heavily vested in Japanese school culture. To an American audience, watching this and taking it literally will no doubt have you thinking that Japanese schools are Columbines just waiting to happen, but yet to me this is all played very, very broad, very tongue-in-cheek, almost like this wild adolescent anime come to life. I really had no problems following it at all, but at the same time, again for a Western audience, you’ll no doubt see moments in this film where it just looks like logic has flown out the window.
The action is pretty decent in the film and it even takes it upon itself to make fun of itself in a few places (basically moments when Asamiya Saki is getting ready to go into action with her yo-yo), but once it gets to it’s end, it goes fairly balls out, and again, I thought very entertaining to watch.
Aya Matsuura is the young actress who plays Asamiya Saki, and again, near as I can tell, she’s a Japanese singing star who’s making her acting debut with this film. Well, she certainly does commit to the part and definitely brings an earnestness to it.
It’s a good-looking disc, in anamorphic widescreen with a 1:1.85 ratio and it features 5.1 and 2.0 surround sound in both Japanese and an English dub. I watched this with the English dub, and overall it’s pretty good, though the original Japanese will give you the natural voices of all of the characters. Usually movies like this I think are worth watching both ways.
This includes a Making Of featurette, that’s right in line with what Magnolia did for Tears of the Black Tiger. What this is is a subtitled TV special made in Japan about the film, and it features some nice behind the scenes footage, as well as some background on the various actors and actresses in the film. And of course, it’s very cool to see a Japanese television show like this, just to get a tast of the culture.
While I really enjoyed this, I can’t necessarily give it a good recommendation for a wide audience, but then I don’t think that’s who it’s for either. This one’s for fans of Japanese films, anime and manga and for those that like to see a little something different. It brings to mind for me other Japanese films like Takashi Miike’s Fudoh (though Fudoh is a way more extreme piece of work and definitely more for an audience that knows Miike’s films) and Suicide Club, a film with a similar premise at it’s core, but much, much more serious in it’s execution. While this doesn’t carry the same impact as either of those two, still I thought it was fun to watch.