It’s no secret that the Asian extreme cinema wave of the late 90s/early 00s has slowed down quite a bit in recent years. Directors like Takashii Miike and Ryuhei Kitamura have been working on very different projects than the ones they were churning out back then and as a whole the trend seems to be more toward comedy and drama. The recent collapse of several “extreme Asia” themed DVD labels can probably be attributed to this, having made their bones in the Asian horror heyday of the early 00s. So one has to wonder how a label geared around these movies can possibly stay afloat when there’s only a tiny pool of appropriate new titles coming out each year and plenty of bigger companies overbidding for distribution rights. The answer, at least for Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters, is to fund some of your own. I have to admit I’ve been pretty ambivalent about the process, but I did enjoy Yuji Shimomura’s Death Trance in a “mindless fun” sort of way. 2008 brings us two of these US-funded corkers: Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Tokyo Gore Police which comes out later this year, and Noboru Iguchi’s The Machine Girl which is the subject of this review.
To anyone fearful that US funding will stifle the creative process of Japanese directors and force them to pander to what they think an American audience wants to see Noboru Iguchi is either the worst or best choice as a director. Worst because The Machine Girl perpetuates stereotypes that many casual fans pin to Japanese movies, and best because it’s exactly the kind of movie he would have done either way. As a former and occasional adult video director, Iguchi isn’t exactly concerned about the boundaries of good taste. He’ll do absolutely anything for a laugh, and just when it seems like he’s gone a step too far he’ll take 5 or 6 more steps. The Machine Girl is a shining example of that philosophy.
The story in the movie is fairly simple, albeit completely insane. A girl named Ami (Minase Yashiro) lives with her younger brother Yu and has taken care of him ever since their parents committed suicide for being accused of murder. When Yu and his friend Takeshi are murdered by Sho - the evil son of a Yakuza family directly descended from the legendary ninja Hattori Hanzo, Ami investigates what happened. A “People I want to kill” list in Yu’s school notebook leads her to one of Sho’s henchmen, Ryota. She calmly speaks to Ryota’s parents, who in turn try to murder her. Ryota’s mother (Nahana) dips Ami’s arm in tempura batter and fries it, but she’s able to escape with only minor burns.
From this point on, Ami decides that a murderous rampage is her only option. However, things go badly when she confronts the Yakuza alone and she winds up having her arm chopped off by Sho’s dad. Again, she’s able to escape and she eventually finds refuge with Takeshi’s parents. His grieving mother Miki, inexplicably played by 22-year-old AV actress Asami, is hesitant to trust Ami at first but that’s nothing a nice arm-wrestling match can’t fix. Now best buds, Miki’s mechanically-inclined husband builds Ami a machine gun arm and the two women face off against ninjas, yakuza, and a group of grieving parents-turned-super soldiers in their insatiable quest for vengeance.
If all that seems like overkill, it is. Clocking in at 97 minutes, the repetitive scenes of severed limbs and arterial spray did eventually start to grow tiresome. Minase Yashiro quells that pain a bit though. Not only because she’s not too shabby to look at, but also because she plays Ami with 100% conviction—and that really helps sell some of the funny lines she has to deliver with a snarl. There’s no false advertising with this one though. The Machine Girl is a comedic bloodbath from start to finish and never pretends to be anything else.