Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma monogatari): You MUST see this film!
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.
Netflix sometimes offers me extremely strange suggestions. My favorite one so far was "since you liked Eddie Izzard: Glorious (liberal standup by a transvestite Brit) and Throne of Blood (1957 Japanese masterpiece based on Macbeth), you will like The Motorcycle Diairies (Ewan McGregor riding a BMX bike around the world.)" Because, you know, they're all foreigners. I have mocked Netflix on my personal blog and in conversation for its wacky ways.
Starting today, though, I swear never to complain or even make humorous observations about the Netflix recommendation engine, because without it, I might never have seen Kamikaze Girls.
Kamikaze Girls is not an action film, but rather an over the top comedy drama quasi-fantasy Japanese flick. About teenage girls and fashion.
STAY WITH ME HERE, PEOPLE!
Momoko (Kyôko Fukada) is a teenage girl who dresses in pink and frills, wishing she lived in France during the Rococo period. (This is part of a trend called Lolita fashion, not as scary as the name sounds.) Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya) is a member of The Ponytails, a tough girl biker gang. When Momoko runs short of cash for the boutique clothes she adores, she takes to selling her father's stash of counterfeit designer merchandise. When Ichigo arrives as a customer, she also takes a liking to Momoko and starts to hang around a lot.
The two have little in common. Momoko's philosophy of life is basically "if it feels good, do it" but for her that does not include having friends, especially friends who yell and spit. She is an island, thank you very much, and she's bored to tears by Ichigo's stories. Ichigo is prone to threatening Momoko with death in a "blustery teenage girl biker gang member who rides a scooter" kind of way. There's also her unfortunate tendency to head-butt Momoko periodically when they are arguing. (This would obviously not be funny in the real world, but it's a great gag in the film.)
As they spend more time together, however, both girls change. Ichigo loses some of her tough facade in favor of showing her real feelings, and Momoko finds it very hard to continue living in her detached, pretty fantasy world - especially when Ichigo gets in trouble and Momoko must find her inner badass to save the day.
The film is surreal at times, wildly exaggerated, and some of the plot points are a bit hazy (including a draggy part where they go on a quest), but I absolutely loved it. The girls appear at first to be caricatures. That's the point! They have built those caricatures themselves as they were growing up. But they're not done growing yet, and watching them both evolve is a joy. They both become much more deliberate in the choices they make, and more flexible and genuine in how they approach the world.
I give Kamikaze Girls four well-earned stars (even though there are no machine guns or bombs like the movies I usually review here.)