Stephen reviews: Assault Girls (2009)

assaultgirls_1Assault Girls [アサルトガールズ] (2009)

Starring Meisa Kuroki, Rinko Kikuchi, Hinako Saeki, Yoshikatsu Fujiki, Ian Moore

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


It’s been a while since I last dived into Mamoru Oshii’s filmography, and it seems I have blundered into the worst spot to do so. Assault Girls is apparently a semi-sequel to a variety of short films Oshii made earlier, so perhaps I would better appreciate what it was trying to do if I had already seen those. But the film ought to stand on its own in any case, so I won’t be pulling any punches here.

Another of the film’s quirks is that it is almost entirely in English, with the unfortunate fact that all the actors, aside from narrator/gamemaster Ian Moore, are not very fluent in English. Rinko Kikuchi (best known to American audiences for Pacific Rim) would undoubtedly have been the best at speaking English intelligibly, so it’s pretty sad that her character, Lucifer, is the only one that has no dialog, remaining completely silent throughout the film. As such, much of the English in the film still requires subtitles to understand, and the resulting stiff acting really drags the film down.

Assault Girls follows the Mamoru Oshii tradition of combining evocative visuals with sluggish pacing. As such I’m a bit torn on it, just like most of Oshii’s films. This time I’m leaning much more towards boredom than interest, and only partially from the acting. The movie talks a lot about abstract social concepts, dumping a lot of explanation right at the outset. On top of that, the film has a lot of slow sections where nothing much is happening. This is a very good combination for tuning out and losing interest.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Assault Girls (2009) →

Stephen reviews: Talking Head (1992)

talkinghead_1Talking Head [トーキング・ヘッド] (1992)

Starring Shigeru Chiba, Fumihiko Tachiki, Masaya Kato, Mayumi Tanaka, Natsumi Sasaki, Shinichi Ishihara, Takashi Matsuyama, Yoshikatsu Fujiki

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


A place where one can speak accurately about a movie, if such a place exists, is probably only inside the theater when the movie is actually in progress.

And I thought last week’s review was hard to classify. The above quote buried in the second half of Talking Head sums up the entire premise of the film. If I were going to follow that advice, I would end this review right here. But that wouldn’t make for much of a review, now would it? That takes me to the hard part. Just how do I describe this movie?

It’s not a documentary. It’s not a drama. It’s not action or romance. It’s subtly sprinkled with Mamoru Oshii’s inexplicable humor, but it’s not a comedy either. It pretends to be a murder mystery, but it’s really not. There is no killer really, unless it is Oshii himself who kills the characters for the purpose of advancing the conversation, not the plot. A conversation. That, perhaps, is the best description of Talking Head. A conversation about film, done in the only place one can speak accurately on the subject: during the movie itself.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Talking Head (1992) →

Stephen reviews: Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991)

Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops [ケルベロス 地獄の番犬, Keruberosu: Jigoku no Banken] (1991)

Starring Yoshikatsu Fujiki, Sue Eaching, Takashi Matsuyama, Shigeru Chiba

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


Yes, as amazing as it may seem, I am reviewing a live-action film today. If you’re wondering why, it’s because this is a film from the Kerberos Saga, of which I have already reviewed the third installment, Jin-Roh. Since I started at the end, I figured I might as well keep going backwards and watch the second film next. It helps that the films are set in a backwards chronology as well, so in a sense I am watching them in order. Neither are they closely related judging by the two I have seen. Only occasionally recurring characters and that ominous black armor tie the series together, although I suspect the first film, Red Spectacles, will be more directly linked to the others.

Stray Dog opens with the Kerberos unit in revolt against the government. I’m not sure if this name refers to the entire Capital Police of Jin-Roh (in this film translated as Metropolitan Police) or if it is just one unit within that organization. Neither do I have any real idea why the Kerberos uprising even happened, or what caused it to end. I wish I could tell you that the film rewards your patience and answers your questions, but it doesn’t. A character who the credits simply refer to as “Man in White,” though we might as well call him the white spy from the Spy vs. Spy comics, says that most people have forgotten about the uprising, and apparently the film expects you to do the same.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991) →

Stephen reviews: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999)

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade [人狼, Jinrō] (1999)
AKA Man-Wolf (Literal translation of the Japanese title)

Starring Yoshikatsu Fujiki, Sumi Muto, Hiroyuki Kinoshita, Yoshisada Sakaguchi

Directed by Hiroyuki Okiura


This is actually the third film of a trilogy, but before you start walking out on me, you ought to know that the trilogy actually goes in backwards order with the first film taking place after the other two. I had no idea this film was part of a series until I started writing up this review. The first two films, The Red Spectacles in 1987 and Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops in 1991, were live action, making Jin-Roh the only anime film in the series. It is also the only film not directed by Mamoru Oshii, the creator of the series, though he is best known for directing the 1995 Ghost in the Shell film.

A grim and terrible mood fills this anime. It can’t be called a dystopian future, mainly because it’s not in the future. It does feature an oppressive government regime ruling with its fists over a disenfranchised populace, so I suppose we should call it a dystopian past. Mamoru Oshii, who still wrote the script even if he didn’t direct this time, was politically active in his youth, and this film seems to portray the future he was afraid Japan would turn into. After entering the film industry, Oshii used that feared future as the setting for his series, nevermind that it’s now in the past.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 81 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages