Shimotsuma Monogatari   2004   Japan Kamikaze Girls
Kamikaze Girls Image Cover
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Director:Tetsuya Nakashima
Studio:Viz Video
Writer:Nobara Takemoto, Tetsuya Nakashima
IMDb Rating:7.3 (4,508 votes)
Awards:14 wins & 2 nominations
Duration:103 min
Tetsuya Nakashima  ...  (Director)
Nobara Takemoto, Tetsuya Nakashima  ...  (Writer)
Kyôko Fukada  ...  Momoko Ryugasaki
Anna Tsuchiya  ...  Ichigo Shirayuri
Hiroyuki Miyasako  ...  Momoko's Father
Sadao Abe  ...  Ryuji 'the Unicorn' / Doctor
Eiko Koike  ...  Akimi
Shin Yazawa  ...  Miko
Hirotarô Honda  ...  Yakuza Boss
Kirin Kiki  ...  Momoko's Grandmother
YosiYosi Arakawa  ...  Grocery Store Manager
Katsuhisa Namase  ...  Pachinko Parlor Manager
Ryoko Shinohara  ...  Momoko's Mother
Yoshinori Okada  ...  Baby, 'The Stars Shine Bright' Owner
Kanako Irie  ...  
Haruo Mizuno  ...  Himself
Yuichi Kimura  ...  Yakuza
Ryôko Shinohara  ...  Momoko's Mother
Yûichi Kimura  ...  Yakuza
Masakazu Ato  ...  Cinematographer
Yoshiyoshi Arakawa  ...  Grocery Store Manager
Yôko Kanno  ...  Composer
Yoshiyuki Koike  ...  Editor
Chiaki Toyama  ...  Editor
Comments: People are born in tracksuits and people die in the tracksuits

On the one hand, there's hardly anything wrong with this movie except for a few instances of fart-humor. On the other hand, there are many things that are really cool. On the third hand, The World of Kanako makes more sense now. Visually it's all over the map, with the saturated color up close and personal look being the anchoring motif in a surreal candyland. Maybe nothing new but Nakashima is in control of it here as he was in Confessions. None of it might have been possible, though, without the two actresses cast. I can barely speak to how adorable and tough and smart Kyôko Fukada plays this--in Lolita garb and bonnets! I never once questioned her inhabitation of that character. Then here comes Anna Tsuchiya. My god. Talk about grunting man. Tsuchiya is like an elephant in a shop with a bunch of fragile things in it. The name escapes me right now. She is so over the top the top jumps up to be with her. The chemistry between the two girls is outstanding. And the head-butting! I loved that move. I swear she screams almost all her lines and I loved it.

A thin Yoshi Yoshi!

Some of the storytelling bits might not appeal to everyone, and I wasn't a fan of the sweatpants and bathrobe fashion Tsuchiya sported but I think it was supposed to be weird and yakuza-y. That scene shortly after they meet and Tsuchiya is going on about motorcycles and Fukada says "You ride a scooter". I can't remember if that prompted the first headbutt or not. But it sort of shocked me. The fact that Fukada was never once intimidated by Tsuchiya is the gold in this film. Tsuchiya scared the crap out of me. I should give this thing a ten. I can't put my finger on the limiting factor.

Summary: 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.

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