Kooky, kinetic, and colorful, 2004's Kamikaze Girls
is a delight, and one that could only have come from Japan. Our principal character and narrator is Momoko (Kyoko Fukada), the 17-year-old product of a highly dysfunctional marriage who wishes she'd lived in 18th Century France, during the Rococo age; instead, she and her bonnets and frilly dresses are stuck in Japan's rural outback, where she abides by a philosophy that claims, "If I can't live independently, I'd rather be a water flea." Enter Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya), a tough-talking, head-butting, scooter-riding thug who doesn't know rococo from rock & roll, and whom the haughty Momoko deplores and mostly ignores--at least until they're brought together by, of all things, embroidery (Momoko's good at it, Ichigo needs some for her biker threads). Suffice it to say that these two oddballs form a union of sorts, and Kamikaze Girls
(entitled Shimotsuma Monogatari
in Japanese) ultimately delivers a fairly straightforward message about independence, loneliness, and friendship. But getting there is quite a trip. Director and co-writer Tetsuya Nakashima combines live action, animation, special effects, fourth-wall asides, fantasy sequences, and more in a dazzling onslaught of images; in that way, as well as in its overall outlook ("Humans are cowards in the face of happiness," says one character), the film is somewhat reminiscent of Amelie
. True, Kamikaze Girls
lacks the full measure of that French film's grace, heart, and charm. But for sheer imaginativeness and cinematic virtuosity, this one's hard to beat. --Sam Graham
Meet Momoko, a self-absorbed dreamer who fantasizes about fleeing her backcountry home and living life in 18th century Versailles. When she unexpectedly meets the rebellious Ichigo, a rough-and-tumble biker chick, the two misfits form a unique friendship--together, nothing can stop them! Born from the pages of favorite cult author Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls is a frenetic roller-coaster ride brimming with day-glo visuals and wild hilarity that you will never forget!