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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #536  (Vol. 11, No. 27)  This edition is for the week of June 28--July 4, 2010.

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"  by Phillip Smith
Happy Anniversary Video Watchdog!  by ED Tucker
June Album of the Month: Alejandro Escovedo-Street Songs Of Love  by Terence Nuzum
Book Review: The Flamingo Rising by Larry Baker  by Lisa Scherer
Kamikaze Girls (2005)  by Jason Fetters
Staring Down "the Last Airbender" .... Passing On .... Another Thing I Hate .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Kamikaze Girls (2005)

Sometimes in life an unlikely duo teams up for all the right reasons. Such is the case in this highly entertaining Japanese comedy that has a Lolita girl teaming up with a Yanki. A brief cultural note, a Lolita girl follows Victorian fashion from the Rococo period. The Lolita look is part of Japanese fashion subculture that started in the late 70’s and gained popularity in the 90’s. Basically, the dresses are long and frilly with knee-high socks and platform shoes. The Lolita look is part of the Japanese cult of cute.

A Yanki is a Japanese bad girl that usually rides a motorcycle and joins a biker gang and loves getting into fights. The Yanki look is highly individual with leather jackets, helmets, and usually smoking cigarettes. Despite the crazy look there is still respect and a hierarchy structure within each biker gang, with members generally following the leader. The leader is typically the best fighter.

In Kamikaze Girls, Momoko, is played by Kyoko Fukada, (a Jpop idol singer and actress,) who is in love with Victorian dresses and longs to get away from her failure of a father. She spends time eating ice cream and escaping the dreary rural life of Shimotsuma, a cow town located just above Tokyo. If you were ever stuck in a boring Midwest town far away from city life where everyone knows each other then you have a good idea of Shimotsuma.

Soon Momoko meets up with Ichigo Shirayuri, played by Anne Tsuchiya. Tsuchiya is half Japanese and half Russian/American on her father’s side. She is also a J Rocker who acts and models just like Fukada.

At first Momoko doesn’t want anything to do with the slang speech of Ichigo that cuts into her fantasy world of polite Victorian British English. Worst of all, Ichigo spits and such behavior is frowned on.

When Ichigo won’t leave Momoko alone, eventually the unlikely pair bond and team up to take on rival female biker gangs, a Pachinko parlor prevent, and the owner of a clothing store who Momoko admires and Ichigo knocks out.

Some of the funniest moments are when Momoko’s useless father, a Yakuza member who just isn’t cutting it, is shown robbing a man and taking just enough money to pay for milk and baby supplies. When the head Yakuza boss hears of it he comes close to chopping off his pinky because he has been disrespected.

Another great scene is when Momoko is politely eating a sundae as Ichigo sits bored and shouting loud vulgar words to disrupt the Café setting. Generally such a café would have Lolita customers who are escaping from mainstream Japanese life and wouldn’t spoil the atmosphere.

Japanese culture and the need to confirm is a key topic that pops up in the beginning as one of Momoko’s boring fellow rural inhabitants chastise her for wearing silly childish dresses and demands that she shops at Jusco. Cultural note, Jusco’s is the Walmart of Japan filled with the same type of unstylish boring clothing. Momoko regards him with disgust and sets off to buy accessories to make her own dresses.

Kamikaze Girls shows how the individual artistic type and the rebellious biker type are actually similar because both are always at odds with the boring conforming nature of society. Once these types graduated from high school and college and enter the workforce, doing your own thing is replaced by being rigorously forced into corporate culture. However there is hope in that at the end of Kamikaze Girls both Momoko and Ichigo are still allowed to do their own thing. Momoko gets a job at a clothing store, making her own dresses and selling them. Ichigo gets into modeling and knocks out a prevented photographer. Together they have escaped the daily grind that enslaves so many.

Kamikaze Girls is definitely a funny and entertaining look at the Girl Buddy picture with a Japanese Twist. To help out Western viewers there is a DVD option that has pop ups that appear throughout the movie with cultural tidbits.

Highly recommended with 4 out of 4 Stars.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.