Right off the bat, let me say that the Yuri in this movie is next to nil. It is an exceptional portrayal of the concept of shinyuu, however. There’s a space in Japanese culture, where girls and women can be very close – and touchy – and bound emotionally, without there necessarily being “lesbian” under- or overtones. This relationship can, depending on the women, continue for nigh on ever. Realistically, this is the space where the soeur relationships of Maria-sama ga Miteru exist. In the west, we rarely see this kind of girl pal-iness. Thelma and Louise explored the area a bit – and you know what happened there. In order for them to keep that relationship and their own worldviews intact, they had to die. Just as the western fandom of that movie persisted in seeing lesbian themes in Thelma and Louise (despite the overt heterosexuality of the women) so does the fandom of shinyuu-themed anime, manga, Japanese live action movies and TV shows persist in seeing lesbian themes in what are not, really, meant to be lesbian at all.
As I am one of those fans, it seems logical to me. ^_^
But really, Shimotsuma Monogatari, which is being released as Kamikaze Girls in the west, is not Yuri, unless you squint hard. Turning up the Yuri goggles doesn’t help too much because it’s hard to stop laughing long enough to see sexual tension between Ichiko and Momoko.
Briefly, Shimotsuma Monogatari is a story about a girl who lives a Gothic Lolita lifestyle with her loser small-time criminal Dad and crazy grandmother way out in the boondocks. Momoko details the circumstances of her conception, birth and the travails of being a GothLoli in a place where everyone shops at the local Jusco (think Wal-Mart) for everything. Through a series of bizarre circumstances, Momoko meets gang girl Ichiko, who is right out of a mid-80’s Hana no Asuka-gumi type motorcycle gang. Ichiko befriends Momoko, despite Momoko’s protests, and the movie goes forward as a journey for the two of them; with short rest stops in love, violence, pachinko and, of course, friendship.
Apparently this movie has won all sorts of awards, and I can totally understand why. From script to acting to cinematography to music, this movie was *brilliant.* It’s almost completely free of the miserable pacing so many Japanese live action movies suffer from. If they had edited it to about 9 minutes shorter, it would have been perfect. As it was, it was damned excellent.
Honestly, there are so many good things about this movie, I can hardly begin to ennumerate them. The funny lines are funnier if you just see them. The pre-order for this movie on Amazon is $16.99. If you and three friends go in together on the DVD, you’ll pay $5/each, so don’t give me crap about not being able to afford it. :-) Rent it, buy it, borrow it – see it. Trust me – this is one a genuine “must-see.”
Cinematography – 9
Character – 9
Story – 9
Music – 8 (Yoko Kanno…)
Yuri – 2
Service – 2
The Yuri rating and Service ratings are basically the same thing this time. Only those of us who can’t stop seeing Yuri everywhere are gonna see it here, and that’s us. ^_^