Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Ky˘ko Fukada, Anna Tsuchiya, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Sadao Abe, Eiko Koike
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Animation
Studio: Viz Media Llc Release Date: 01/10/2006
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What great little film...
Stephen Ressel | North Dakota, USA | 11/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this in Tokyo when it was released and loved it. Got the Japanese DVD here. Sadly, it is ever so slightly hollow a movie, but where the story isn't as lush and gripping as a classic, the visuals make up for it through acting and filming.
"Kamikaze Girls" (why oh why couldn't they have called it SHIMOTSUMA STORY?!??) seems like a Japanese manga brought to live action. It displays and parodies facets of society in Japan, and using humor and design it keeps the viewer engrossed. The two main actresses and their characters are adorably cute and expressive. The lead man, the father, is amazing in his own way as an actor and a character caught in the grimy world of the 'cheap fashion' underground. The anime sections slipped in are maybe the least congruous sections of the film, but provide a splash of visual variety. It's Japan having a laugh at itself, it's stereotypes from within, and mostly poking fun at the earnest ways of young women. The greatest let down of the film to me must be the end scenes of the climax- they were shoddily handled as if the entire crew was worn down and out of cash in the final days, but it tells the story and makes its point well enough.
I knew it was amazing when it began with the lead character flying through the air caused by a road accident, dressed in Rococo/Lolita garb not unlike Little Bo Peep, surrounded by cabbages, pachinko balls slipping from her purse to signify her life slipping away, and she mentally bids farewell to the world... then she backs up to contemplate what caused this, everything rewinds super fast and the story begins. Interesting, crafty, silly, striking, and just pure fun for the family. (No sex or nudity, language seems clean, no serious violence aside from a fight at the end, and some cartoonish head butting)"
Meet Momoko and Ichigo: Sweet Tale with Two Charming (and To
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 02/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"`Kamikaze Girls' is a delightful, pop, unique, and utterly sweet tale of the friendship between two Japanese girls Momoko and Ichigo. Sure, some part of the film's very disarming charms can be appreciated more with knowledge of modern Japanese culture, but that doesn't mean the film should be seen only by the small coterie of moviegoers. After all the film's theme is a universal one.
First, remember the film's original title (and its original novel) is called `Shimotsuma Monogatari' (The story of Shimotsuma) because this actual town that is located in the northern suburb of Tokyo City (about 60 km to the north of the metropolis) is the place where we meet our cute heroines.
OK, this rural town is the place where Momoko (meaning literally `peach-child' in Japanese) is living. She loves wearing pretty, girlish (and expensive) clothing (usually referred to `Lolita' or `Lolita Fashion' in Japan) and in order to buy them she goes all the way to Tokyo. One day, she thinks of a brilliant idea to get money. Following the `business' of her ex-yakuza father, Momoko sells counterfeit designer clothing on the net.
Only one customer shows up. It is Ichigo (literally meaning `strawberry'), a teenage girl clad in a long coat (signature of Japanese teenage motorcycle gangs), and riding a ridiculously decorated pink-colored scooter. Somehow this incongruous pair of girls gets friendlier to each other, and Momoko, confirmed loner, finds there is something precious that she cannot buy, more precious than the fancy dress that she is wearing.
[DELIGHTFUL] The incredibly charming film is not so much about the story as the two incredibly charming characters Momoko (Kyoko Fukada) and Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya). From the exaggerated cartoon-ish style of introduction, we immediately fell in love with these heroines, whose unique outlook on life and original code of behavior perfectly matches their equally unique and original fashion. Actually, Momoko's costumes are one of the assets of the film, which will be good inspiration for designers.
Unfortunately, some amusing scenes might be lost on non-Japanese viewers, which heavily rely on the linguistic differences between some regions in Japan. Please remember this. Momoko's father is from Kansai area, of which dialect is more down-to-earth and slightly earthy than the words Momoko usually uses with a posh voice, who loves the French rococo fashion. Momoko's always gramatically correct speech makes a great contrast with Ichigo's frequent verbal slip-ups when heard in Japanese. And as to the several funny episodes about selling counterfeit goods, they are very exaggerated, but not totally fictional.
But you don't have to worry about the languages, because the joy of `Kamikaze Girls' means its amusing visuals and portraits of the likable heroines, Momoko and Ichigo. The only thing I disagree with `Kamikaze Girls' is its misleading English title. Why not call it simply like `Momoko and Ichigo' or something? Otherwise it is an absolutely charming film with these cute, lovely, and inimitable heroines.
By the way, contrary to the impression you might have from the role of Ichigo, Anna Tsuchiya started her career as fashion model."
Living by your own threads instead of the cheap and casual
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 06/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
One of the few delightful movies I've seen in recent years is this quirky adaptation of Novala Takemoto's novel. Dreamer Momoko Ryugasaki feels stranded in Shimotsuma in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo, i.e. the boonies. She feels more at home in France's opulent Rococo period (1715-1770), cutting quite a figure dressed in her pink Lolita dress, white parasol, and white platforms. She is the main character and narrator, occasionally speaking to the camera.
Momoko lives with her loser father and grandmother in a shabby hut, a far cry from her birthplace, the bustling bargain hunters' paradise of Amagasaki in Hyogo Prefecture--a suburb of Osaka on the northeast shore of Osaka Bay. She has an individualistic approach to life, at one point not hesitating to tell made up stories of a classmate in trouble to get money to buy her expensive Lolita clothes, leading her father to bawl in sympathy and fork over the cash. "So what if I was deceitful? My happiness was at stake. It's not wrong to feel good. But actually my soul is rotten." A retread of that 60's mentality of if it makes you happy, do it.
Enter Ichiko Shiyayuri, a tough-looking, rough-talking, sometimes hot-tempered member of the ladies biker gang The Ponytails who occasionally spits, to the disgust of the more refined Momoko. She is astounded and appreciated at being able to buy a bogus Versace jacket for only 2000 yen ($20), and there starts the beginning of the one of the most unlikely friendships ever. Ichiko's more down-to-earth and more connected to people than Momoko and when the latter makes a comment that really pi**es her off, headbutts her.
Ichiko wants to find a legendary embroiderer named Emma in Tokyo's Daikanyama area. Turns out that Akimi, the fierce but elegant leader of the Ponytails is retiring and Ichiko wants to show her gratitude by having some special stitching done on her long kamikaze coat. However, they need money and poor Momoko is hijacked by Ichiko to a pachinko parlour.
Scenes not in the book: some surreal humour when Momoko buys a cabbage then hands it to Ichiko. "This is your new friend." Another is a low-ranking yakuza named Ryuji whose hairdo has to be seen to be believed--hint, his nickname is Unicorn Ryuji. The dual branding scene of tying in Universal Studios and Versace has a humorous side, when to mock the copyright violation done by Momoko's dad on his counterfeit goods, the words "Versace" and "Universal" are bleeped to make them "Ver*ch" and "Uni*sal Studios." Also satirized are people who feel proud to save money at Jusco--Japan's Walmart, and pose like in brochures, cheesy smile and all--"this polo shirt cost me only 800 yen." "These people are twisted," says a disgusted Momoko with a sour expression on her face.
Shimotsuma Monogatari benefits from the dynamic performances of Kyoko Fukada as Momoko and half Japanese/half Russian Anna Tsuchiya as Ichigo. Fukada's very fetching in the supercute Lolita costumes, which do a nice job of contrasting her tanned complexion and milk-tea coloured hair. Her expressions are delightful from her cute babyishness to when her eyes widen. Tsuchiya herself has some comic moments, when she clowns around in the Aristocratic Forest café trying to attract Fukada's attention. But there is a poignant moment when she gets heartbroken, showing her to be more human than Momoko. Tsuchiya is definitely the better actress, having won more awards for this film than Fukada.
Included in the eclectic soundtrack are the Petula Clark-ish "Lucie Est Amoreuse," the melancholy Lisa Loeb-ish "She Said," the slamming power pop of "Time Machine wa Onegai," and Yoko Kanno's score, ranging from sweet violin, ragtime piano, and French café accordion melodies.
One other theme is finding one's niche. Momoko feels at home wearing her Lolita clothes and is great at embroidery. Ichiko's happy fixing bikes at a mechanic's shop in Tsuchiura, but doesn't want people telling her what to do. Also, choose your own style over the cheap and casual--Daikanyama's Baby The Stars Shine Bright boutique over Jusco.
Watching Shimotsuma Monogatari inspired me to visit the Ushiku Buddha and Shimotsuma itself during my Japan trip. The interior of the Shimotsuma station has been altered from the original, no big screen TV, but the platform where Momoko is seen waiting for her train is accurate.
Shimotsuma Monogatari is a funny off-the-wall cult comedy that will be appreciated by Japanophiles, particularly those interested in the youth and fashion scene. One complaint: why Kamikaze Girls? What's wrong with the original title?
This review sponsored by Ver**ch and Uni**al.
My current favorite movie!
Darlena Bach | Petal, MS USA | 03/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie will make you both laugh and cry. Not only does it have the super funny parts, it also has parts that make you feel for the characters. The first time, I watched this movie, I was totally wrapped up in it. I had to watch it a few more times afterwards! The characters show how two totally opposites can attract each other, whether they like it or not. Also, the movie was directed in a Kungfu Hustle-esque style. It may be a movie about a friendship between two girls, but guys love this movie, too. Definitely put this movie on your wish list!!"