Some series are simply too good to let die. Not just franchises like Gundam, but the actual series themselves. I don’t think it’s any accident that all three of the insanely popular girl-gang series that I love, Yaji Kita Gakuen Douchuuki, Sukeban Deka and Hana no Asuka-gumi keep coming back like Asuka’s gold coin.
Sukeban Deka began life as a manga, which was then made into an anime OAV and, in the 80’s, a popular three-season live-action TV show, all of which I have reviewed previously. For the basic plotline, general Yuri-ness and links to manga and anime on Amazon JP and Amazon respectively, click the link to the past review.
Last year, Sukeban Deka came back once again as a new live-action movie. And I was *dying* to see it, let me tell you. :-) It took a while, but I finally did manage to watch it and it was probably the best 90 minutes I’d spent in a long time that involved me doing nothing more than staring at a screen.
The movie starts with a young woman chained and gagged in a cage. Her rage at her condition is apparent, and she does everything she can to escape, eventually dislocating her own shoulder to escape the strait jacket she’s been put in. She does escape, but a momentary fit of humanity as she stops to comfort a lost child puts her back in the hands of the coppers.
We never learn the girl’s real name, but the cops offer her an ugly deal – her mother is in New York illegally and will be deported back to Japan, where all sorts of warrants are out for her, unless the girl helps them out. She’s given a yo-yo with the police’s chrysanthemum seal as a weapon and a new name…Asamiya Saki. Armed and decidedly dangerous, Saki heads back to Japan to infiltrate a high school at which several mysterious deaths have occurred. She’s also warned that there is another undercover operative – but they haven’t heard from that other operative in months.
Saki runs into institutionalized bullying almost immediately and, also immediately, saves the damsel in distress from same. The leader of the bullies is Reika, a girl with classic shoujo evil girl ringleader hair. I completely approved.
So, Saki takes on the entire school, from teachers, to pathetic manipulated geeks to evil henchmen and women, all the way up until she faces Reika once again in a battle of the yo-yos. This scene was SO awesome, I cannot express it in mere words. Where Saki is wearing full body armor leathers, Reika is kitted out in studded pleather miniskirt. I said to the screen, as she pulled out her own evil yo-yo, “Please let it have blades…” and you know, it did! I was so happy, I stood up and cheered.
Of course the final battle is meant to be poignant, as Saki faces a guy who kind of sort of was her love interest, and it was an okay fight until he, quite inexplicably, pulled off his nice hair to reveal and incredibly stupid looking wig underneath. I guess he wanted to die blond. I don’t know.
In the end, Saki and the damsel in distress actually had a sweet moment, where said damsel admitted that she liked Saki, although I really think it was in a “friend” way. But it was still sweet and more heartfelt than the bad guy’s quasi-sexual schmoozing.
Amazingly, this movie almost completely lacked any of the usual Japanese live-action pacing problems. I was quite impressed.
Throughout, the cop who becomes Saki’s keeper keeps saying things that implies that Saki is the daughter of the “real” Asamiya Saki. So it was a pleasure that Saito Yuki, who played the first Saki in the TV series, appears as this Saki’s mother. Total “fanboy casting” but it worked.
This movie did such a great job of capturing all the qualities of the original (manga) series, while still having a personality of its own. And even as it updated the myth, it never once lost sight of its roots. An outstanding adaptation of a classic story.
Cinematography – 7
Story – 9 for the sheer faithfulness to the original concept
Characters – 9, ditto
Yuri – 3, but just right
Service – 6
Overall – 9
This movie is da bomb. A great way to resurrect what was the grandmother of all girl-gang series. (Now if I could only get a picture of Matsuura Aya with a lowball and a cigarette. ^_^)