Based on the hit Japanese novel 'Shimotsuma Story' by Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls stars Kyoko Fukada as leading lady Momoko. All bonnets, frilly dresses and fancy parasols, Kyoko makes for an adorable presence with personality and performance to match. After her mother (Ryoko Shinohara) leaves, and her would-be yakuza father (Hiroyuki Miyasako) gets kicked out for selling the wrong kind of designer knock-offs, Momoko and her dad move to the country.
They move in with her grandmother (Kirin Kiki) who displays lightning fast reflexes when it comes to ridding the house of unwanted bugs. Desperate for money, Momoko starts selling the remainder of her father's counterfeit clothing, but her only customer is a tough-talking biker chick called Ichigo (a husky Anna Tsuchiya), who belongs to an all-girl gang. Soon enough they become the best of friends, even if they won't admit it, and when Ichigo faces serious danger, Momoko steps in to save the day. Not before they head off on a barmy quest to find a legendary embroiderer however.
Writer-director Tetsuya Nakashima (Memories Of Matsuko) throws quirky flashbacks, dazzling colour schemes, surreal charm, zany animation and endearing characters into an offbeat blender. The end result is Kamikaze Girls; similar in style and tone to his previous works and unmistakably mad as a Hatter. Some will claim that the imaginative visuals and inventive camerawork are an orchestrated diversion, because in truth, Kamikaze Girls doesn’t have a lot to say. They’re probably right. It's basically a warm-hearted tale about friendship, but it's how we get to that sweeter than candy denouement that counts, and Kamikaze Girls really is a whole world of fun.
There are some seriously entertaining characters waiting to be discovered at the end of Nakashima’s rainbow and the performances are spot on. It might feel a little disjointed at first but you'll soon get used to the topsy-turvy nature of the plotting, finding it both refreshing and funny along the way. The pigtails certainly help but I’m sure I'll be spending a lot more time with Kyoko Fukada in the future; the relationship between Momoko and Ichigo is the driving force behind the picture, and Anna Tsuchiya makes for an arresting accomplice too.
Nakashima's style is distracting for all the right reasons and his use of colour, animation, CGI and surreal imagery is at times enchanting. It's a delight to behold even if it is as shallow as they come, but Kamikaze Girls is a true original. The soundtrack is pretty tasty too. If you haven't checked out this little oddity for yourself then now is the time. The storyline is skinnier than a pair of Victoria Beckham’s spray on pants and the giddy direction is enough to provoke nausea, but the fact remains that Kamikaze Girls is a funny, charming, quirky little movie like nothing you've seen before. Unless of course you’ve had the chance to check out Nakashima’s back catalogue.
Kamikaze Girls, with all its surreal charm and outlandish flavours, was made for high definition TV screens. Colourful, refreshing and fun, it’s the dictionary definition of dreamy, whimsical, bubblegum pop - light on substance and heavy on flavour. Isn’t it time you took the girls for a ride? AW