Shimotsuma Monogatari (2004)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Comedy, Teen Movie, Adventure Comedy  |   Release Date - Sep 9, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Josh Ralske

Kamikaze Girls is a super-stylized, fast-paced romp. Sharp-wittedly reflexive, culturally specific, and unabashedly fun, the film breaks new ground, not with its nonstop barrage of slick cinematic ideas, but with its heart and humanity. Unlike most exercises in movie-love pastiche (Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill saga springs immediately to mind), Kamikaze Girls offers a surprising degree of genuine emotional involvement in the lives of its two protagonists and their budding friendship. Unlike most films about teen-girl friendship, Kamikaze Girls doesn't get distracted by boys. Refreshingly, the film's one romantic subplot is comically dispensed with in a few short scenes, leaving the primary focus on the hilariously incongruous bond that develops between quiet, devotedly girly Momoko (Ky├┤ko Fukada), who would never think of wearing trousers or eating anything that wasn't sweet, and the gruff, husky-voiced biker chick Ichigo, played with a touching underlying soulfulness by Anna Tsuchiya. One might expect Momoko to be the pursuer in their relationship, but she sees herself as completely self-sufficient. When Ichigo, in asking for Momoko's help, refers to them as "friends," Momoko responds by buying the despondent biker a cabbage, telling her, "This is your friend," and sauntering off. Of course, the frequent flying kicks and headbutts Ichigo relishes upon her new playmate do little to win her heart. There's a surfeit of quirky supporting characters and subplots, all presented with visual relish, but it all comes together because writer/director Tetsuya Nakashima and his superb lead actresses truly seem to love and understand these girls in all their misguided glory. Their stylistic obsessions may initially seem bizarre to Western viewers, but that specificity and attention to detail actually help Kamikaze Girls transcend both nationality and genre and find a universal appeal.