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Machine Girl (Kataude Mashin Garu)

(Kataude mashin garu)
[img_assist|nid=1280|title=Fear girls with prosthetics|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=496]
dir: Noboru Iguchi

I’m starting to get the knack of this current crop of Japanese violence-fests. It’s not a complicated equation: Ham acting, cheap effects, both physical and computer-generated, and thousands and thousands of litres of fake blood.

I’ve watched a bunch of these flicks lately, and they really look like what they are: cheap movies made by special effects guys who know more about how to put together a prosthetic body they’re planning on cutting into multiple pieces with blood spraying out of it every which way, rather than coming up with a script that makes any sense.

Not that it matters.

I’m getting to the stage where I’m starting to be able to enjoy them. I’m not sure if I’ve figured out whether they’re action flicks, comedies or horror flicks, or a curiously Japanese blend of the three. Whatever the actual genre is, is irrelevant, I guess. All that matters is whether I’m entertained or not.

And I was entertained by this flick, significantly so, compared to the last Fever Dream production that I saw, being Tokyo Gore Police. Or maybe what’s happening is that I’m becoming desensitised to the level of gore, the sheer crazy magnitude of gore on display.

I don’t think so, though. When these flicks are done right (no matter how cheaply or shoddily), they get the tone right, which makes it at least tolerable, at best enjoyable. Some people are not going to be able to accept a flick where two high school kids are bullied to death, but if you can’t laugh at the mother of one of the bullies attacking our heroine Ami (Minase Yashiro) and trying to turn her arm into tempura with a maniacal glint in her eye, then I can’t help you much.

For all of the flick’s insane overreliance on cartoonish Itchy and Scratchy level violence, there might be some kind of thematic relevance regarding the torments of bullying, the propensity for people to become almost like demons through their desire for revenge, even if it seems justified, and for the idea that people who’ll do anything for their families could end up doing a great deal of evil.

Having said all that, it’s really just an excuse to have people act completely fucking nuts for 90 minutes, and to look cool doing it. Ami looks like your general cute Japanese school girl, except her arm has been brutally cut off, and in its place are various killing machines of overwhelming lethality. Her Gatling gun-like arm mows down many a bullying teenager, turning their heads into paw-paws, and the chainsaw attachment: well, I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

The arterial blood sprays are fountains, geysers, spouts of the red stuff whenever the slightest harm comes to any character. A paper cut alone would result in the Red Sea crashing against the camera lens and the faces of all present. You come away from this flick remembering the buckets and buckets of blood, and the almost ashamed chuckle in you they produced.

Ami, whose girly teenage brother Yu (Ryosuke Kawamura) dies at the hands of some bullies led by the girly son of a yakuza, tries to kill each and every person who had anything to do with Yu’s death. Before her arm is burned and then cut off, she’s pretty lethal, for reasons never really articulated. After the arm’s gone, well, it’s like the arm itself was holding her back. Now she’s free to kill practically everyone who gets in her way.

She’s not alone in her mission. Yu had a friend who also died at the hands of the bullies, and it’s his parents who both help her and construct the Machine part of the equation that justifies calling her Machine Girl.

The mother, Miki (Asami Sugiura) is a handful, who initially blames Ami for her son’s death (for no reason that would make sense in our reality or in anyone else’s reality). She’s plenty violent, though, and she ends up taking Ami under her wing. Despite the fact that she’s meant to be a mother figure to Ami as well, I’m pretty sure they’re both the same age, which would be their mid twenties.

Don’t bother asking how I know: I do this research so that you don’t have to, even if you could be bothered. And how likely is that?

Regardless, for me the strange issue was that I’m sure there was a subtext going on there, possibly a sexual one, but I can tell you now for free that, student and fan of Japanese cinema that I might be, the last thing I want to think about is the disturbing sexual shit that turns up in their movies.

Despite the sheer quantity and quality of violence on display, the one thing I appreciated about it, or at least the thing that doesn’t put me off too much, is the lack of sexual or sexualised violence. Anyone has limits, and I have my own, meaning that there are things like someone’s head being cut into multiple pieces with shurikens that I can take far easier than much of the stuff that turns up in the more extreme Japanese horror (Takashi Miike, I’m looking at you, you old pervert).

No, I was relatively safe here, safe to laugh and enjoy what is ultimately a very cheesy and very silly flick. There’s practically nothing to take seriously about any of it, or anything serious to take away with you after watching it, but I have to say I did piss myself laughing a fair few times.

The absurdity, which hurts plenty of other flicks, really helped here. When the yakuza’s fey son gets in trouble, his mother, who’s even more vicious than her yakuza husband, tries to come to the rescue with a drill bar that Madonna and Lady Gaga would kill each other for. The drill bra isn’t even the most absurd part of the flick.

In the course of Ami alternately pursuing her vengeance, and protecting herself from the dastardly yakuza’s henchmen, she kills a lot of people. These guys, these poor sheep-like chaps who were only following orders, they have parents too, you know. And the strange yakuza, with balding hair turned up at the back so that he looks like a cross between Wolverine and some Kabuki actor, enlists the parents in his drive to finish off Machine Girl once and for all. What follows is the cheapest and craziest battle between a one-armed girl with a machine gun hand, a mother with a chainsaw, a guy throwing a box on a chain that grabs people’s heads and cuts them off, and the bullies’ parents, wearing football/gridiron gear with photos of their dead sons stuck to their chests, trying to kill Ami and Miki.

It’s insaner than it sounds. It’s probably beyond my descriptive powers to capture just how insane it all is, so perhaps it deserves to be wrapped up right about here.

The last moment, the very last moment of the flick, looks like it’s going one way, as the katana and the chainsaw are poised to complete the story in the inevitable way, and then it ends ambiguously, meaning The Machine Girl will be back. I don’t know if I’ll follow the inevitable sequels with diminishing returns like it’s the Silence of God trilogy by Ingmar Bergman, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out, as long as they don’t poke it out with their horripilating visuals.

The thing about watching insane stuff is that you can’t help but wonder how much more insane it could get. And once you get a taste for it, well, the Japanese sky’s the limit.

7 times it’s hard to feel bad about bullies being chopped into a million pieces out of 10

“How do you like my drill bra?” – as long as it works properly, I like it fine, thanks – The Machine Girl