戦闘少女 血の鉄仮面伝説 「Sento shojo: Chi no tekkamen densetsu」
Release Date: May 22nd, 2010
Running Time: 90 mins.
Directors: Tak Sakaguchi, Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura
Writer: Jun Tsugita, Noboru Iguchi
Starring: Yumi Sugimoto, Yuko Takayama, Suzuka Morita, Kanji Tsuda, Maiko Ito, Tak Sakaguchi, Asami, Chiharu Kawai,
Splatter outfit Sushi Typhoon (a subsidiary of Nikkatsu) was founded in 2010 and one of its earliest releases was Mutant Girls Squad (2010) which features three of the company’s biggest talents directing individual chapters of the film. The first part is orchestrated by action star/fight choreographer Tak Sakaguchi, and special effects maestros Noboru Iguchi and Yoshihiro Nishimura follow him up in parts two and three. What starts out as an outrageously silly splatter-tastic tale of kick-ass girls taking on corrupt authorities in a tidal wave of blood and mutant body-parts falls apart by the end as Nishimura over-indulges his fetish for splatter special effects.
Being a teenager can be hard enough what with all the hormones and physical changes but it gets much harder also being a member of a super-powered ancient mutant race reviled by mankind so spare a thought for Rin (Sugimoto), a seemingly normal high school girl with latent supernatural abilities about to burst forth!
Despite being beautiful but mousey Rin is bullied at school by the rich kids and she has no friends. She may be an adolescent but she is plagued by really strange pains in her arms and her right hand which surely go beyond growth spurts. She’s living a miserable existence but the one bright spot are her loving and supportive parents who cheer her up.
Alas, this is going to be taken away from her on the night of her sixteenth birthday because what she doesn’t know is that she is a mixed-race girl, part human (her mother’s side) and part Hiruko (her father’s side). Being a Hiruko means that Rin has access to super powers which transform a person when they turn sixteen, which sounds awesome, but the government sees this as a threat so they employ agents to hunt mutant Hiruko down. Rin is shocked to find this out but it explains why she has the strange pains and why her right hand is developing into a claw!
Just as her father reveals all, in the shape of some freaky appendages and family history, the government trained Racial Supervision Unit crash Rin’s party by bursting into the house and gunning her parents down in a bloody mess. She sees her mother’s head explode in a gout of gore and a gush of blood while her father’s head takes a tumble onto Rin’s birthday cake!
Just as Rin is about to be executed she gains to access her own burgeoning powers – armoured arms and claws!
Rin beats back the government forces but finds her ENTIRE hometown is out to get her.
Fortunately she hooks up with a group of girls who are also Hiruko mutants and, under the command of their cross-dressing leader Kisaragi (director Tak Sakaguchi himself!) they plan on striking back against the humans who hunt them!
As an opener to the world of Sushi Typhoon and the splatter genre it’s a pretty good one because it delivers gory special effects, unrestrained action and comedy and gives a good indication of what the three biggest names of this horror subgenre can do in their individually directed parts which show their different styles.
The best section by far is the first with Tak Sakaguchi’s action-heavy opener setting up the story and immediately throwing Rin into a relentless anime-esque series of battles punctuated by gore and comedy all shot with some flair.
The meat of the action is Rin’s escape from government forces which begins at home after the massacre with her father’s headless body punching out katana-wielding police goons. This precipitates a city-wide chase seemingly involving the entire population of Rin’s town. The audiences can witness careening section full of sight gags as Rin, with her knife-like claws, takes on hunters, housewives, hoteliers, cooks, cross-dressers, and cops, all wielding everyday props like knives, bouquets, chainsaws, frying pans and lanterns, and even their friends/partners!
With steady editing and a swift camera, the film keeps pace with sailor-suited Rin’s relentless run and riotous battles through alleys, bakeries, a mall and streets. Everything is well-filmed, brilliantly showing the comedy deaths and CGI blood spray, the cool physical effects as people die horribly (and humorously). Yumi Sugimoto displays solid martial arts skills (and her panties which flash from round-house kicks). The energetic fighting involves people who look as if they were pulled off the street mixed in with a bunch of stunt men/women. Everybody is having a ball spinning through the air and dying dramatically, spitting out blood and issuing death groans.
Iguchi’s gag-laden script sets up some gags that threaten to detract from the action but Sakaguchi’s swift editing and lithe handling of camera movement ensures that the action doesn’t slow down. There’s a running gag about a variety show camera crew filming the action (an interviewer, boom operator, and cameraman intruding in and narrating the battles) which leads to a varied camera shots and a nice comedic pay-off as they get caught up in the action. Sakaguchi cannot resist a show of bad-assery and the final part of the chase, which doesn’t feature a an edit, sees Sugimoto stalking down a street, clawing and kicking down a dozen different people to some country and western.
The momentum of this first part wears off in the second and third chapters of the film as Iguchi and then Nishimura take over.
Iguchi’s section furthers the story by providing a boot-camp sequence and while there is action Iguchi is more interested in mining the comedy and playing up Nishimura’s weird physical effects. We get the introduction of the bizarre and varied Hiruko mutant girls that show up which plays up all sorts of fetishes to go along with Rin the schoolgirl. Witness a tsundere bird girl named Rei (Takayama), a cosplay nurse named Yoshie (Morita) who sprouts tentacles and a trunk, a girl in a maid outfit who has katanas coming out of her breasts, another girl with a fully functioning chainsaw that sprouts out from her ass, and more with strange powers (for some reason there’s a girl who has a red face and can sing well, which I’m not sure constitutes a weird power but whatever). There’s also director Sakaguchi’s effeminate, softly spoken cross-dressing leader Kisaragi who has a wicked sharp crotch claw that suffers something akin to erectile dysfunction. Don’t snigger at it or you’ll get decapitated!
Some of these creature effects are too dumb to countenance but the sight gags work and fit in with the goofy and extreme atmosphere.
Iguchi races past the clichéd boot-camp section, which acts as a great way to get some exposition done and into the attack on an evil general where the girls’ showcase their stuff by cutting people down and, in a reversal of the cliche, the cute girl Yoshie raping most of the men in sight with her tentacles. There’s also a funny stand-off with a cyborg which is effectively a guy painted silver with an arm cannon that shoots crazy cool laser bolts.
This entire section, from tentacle rape to laser battles is funny and fast if you lower your comedy threshold, not least the moment that Rin has visions of her father’s head, still on her cake, giving her spiritual advice. The audience can enjoy dozens of gags and some decently silly effects.
And then we get to Nishimura’s part.
Even for someone as tolerant as I am about splatter films I found Nishimura’s section irritating. Despite seeing some of Nishimura’s great gloopy blood and guts physical effects and some decent CG body destruction and transformation he throws so much blood and so many monster suits on screen that the film goes beyond humour and becomes dull as he drags out the gags for too long. Everything is so extreme in a series of brutal fights between various girls that the film can find no other tone other than hyperactive and all of the weirdness on display becomes tiresome.
The editing is wild as Nishimura intercuts between different battles sequences which strung out the rhythm and story of final chapter of the film too much and made it feel longer and more incoherent than it actually is. In contrast, Sakaguchi’s opening was tight, rapid and fun and I replayed it multiple times. The disappointment of the final part is a shame because throughout the film Nishimura’s effects are pretty good in a goofy sort of way.
While this is very much a showcase film where the three directors work on their own segments and display their different styles they share their skills across the entire endeavour so Noboru Iguchi contributes the mostly comedic script, Tak Sakaguchi choreographs the many action sequences, and Yoshihiro Nishimura’s CG/special effects paint the screen with weird costume and blood. As well as behind the scenes work, the three directors also appear on screen Iguchi and Nishimura being victims of the mutant girl squad while Sakaguchi, a great actor in his own right, takes on a dramatic role as the cross-dressing sword wielding leader of the mutant girls.
Mutant Girls Squad does not hold any intellectual value beyond its ingenious use of budget to create effects and costumes but it is whole heaps of fun so you can watch and enjoy it for the most part. Tak Sakaguchi’s more action-oriented opening section is fast fluid and funny and is the highlight of the movie. Noboru Iguchi earns some points for his use of comedy and bizarre action. The downside is Yoshihiro Nishimura’s section which is the weakest as he reveals that he is an undisciplined director and overindulgent with his effects. As is sometimes the case with Nishimura, he drags out the joke to far until it loses coherence. Overall, two thirds brilliant trashy fun that should please gore-hounds, action fans and those seeking bizarre comedy.
The DVD comes with a short movie called Yoshie Zero, directed by Noboru Iguchi. It gives background to the cosplay nurse Yoshie and Kisaragi, explaining why he took to cross-dressing. There’s some action and more of Nishimura’s special effects.