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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!]]>
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
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Unfortunately, the release is flawed for anyone outside of the UK (or with a region-free/PAL player).
First, the good news: Video quality is very good (the DVD used a non-anamorphic transfer (so on a widescreen TV, black bars on all 4 sides) with "permanent subtitles" part of the video and pretty poor video. The Blu-Ray improves these in every way -- video is sharp for the most part (some scenes seem a little soft, but a very big improvement over the DVD. Definitely doesn't appear to be an "Upscale/Upconvert"). I will note - while it is Anamorphic widescreen, there are STILL black bars on all 4 sides, just much smaller (about 1 inch on each side (left/right/top/bottom), on a 32" TV) - I don't know why this is.
Subtitles are removable, audio is Japanese only (5.1).
Unfortunately, part of the problem comes with the 2nd disc (extras) - the extras include music videos, trailers, a short film, interviews with director & cast, and a 40-minute making-of clip (all on the 2nd disc) - while Disc 1 (Blu-Ray) is region free, Disc 2 is PAL-only and will not play on all/most players (a PS3, for example). These were NOT all on the US DVD, so this is a disappointment. There are no extras on the Blu-Ray itself.
Additionally, the "Sideways Mode" is missing (it was on the US DVD). The US DVD also included a booklet (Kamikaze Girls: Novala Takemoto preview) and a nice insert for the chapter listing.. none of which are on this set.
If you only care about the movie, this is still a great upgrade from the US DVD, just don't expect to be able to access the extras.
This Third Windows Films' BR release (mistakenly coded with no region lock) was my cinematic salvation... Too bad all their other releases come coded for UK regions, their catalog is one of the coolest out there. This one comes with crisp image and color to honor the visual style of Tetsuya Nakashima, and lets you enjoy all the grand visuals of the movie (with optional English subtitles). Sound is a little on the low side, but it's pretty good. Extras in the R2 DVD include a 30min. Making Of (that's more a Behind the Scenes look at the cast, than making of the film), Anna Tsuchiya Music VIdeo, about 5min. of workprint footage, short interviews with Nakashima and Kyoko Fukada, the Japanese trailer of the film (plus TWF trailers), and the 10min short film Unicorn Ryuji (Sadao Abe's character).
Some people may think the premise has been done before, but truth be told, everything has been done before. In my opinion it hasn't been done quite as well until now. Underneath all the quirkiness and silly moments, you catch a glimpse of what SOME teenage girls are looking for as they grow up...and that is simply someone they can really call a friend.
At first, you would think one girl is weak while another is strong, but they are more appropriately described as apprehensive. The frilly Momoko hides behind her fantasy Rococo/Lolita facade and the vulgar Ichiko her tomboy/grease monkey grimace. But what both girls hide and sometimes try to run away from is finding true friendship in an otherwise empty and uncaring world.
This really is a beautiful and smart movie, it just so happens to be absolutely hilarious. Witness Momoko's distaste for mass produced fashion from Jusco, and the fictitious tale a once mousy Ichigo created to run away from.
Buy it, watch it once for the experience...watch it again and again for it's little nuances, and see if you can pick up on the extra layers.