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17-year-old Momoko Ryugasaki is a bit of an oddball, a rococo Lolita whose idyllic dreams of 18th Century Versailles clash sharply with her isolated existence in the Ibaraki hinterlands. She wears her version of what she thinks people wore there at that time and dreams of being able to get away from her boring life. Momoko's father makes his living selling counterfeit brand-name clothes, but when he gets on the wrong side of some bad people, he has to flee to the countryside. Momoko decides to escape from her boredom, and to make some money by selling the last of her father's dodgy stock. When a chance encounter brings Momoko together with head-butting biker chick Ichigo, the quest for a mysterious embroiderer sets the unlikely friends off on an explosive, pachinko-studded series of adventures in which the odd couple lurch into situations both comic and dangerous.
For more about Kamikaze Girls and the Kamikaze Girls Blu-ray release, see Kamikaze Girls Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 15, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
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Kamikaze Girls Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 15, 2010
Winner of the Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress Awards at the Yokohama Film Festival, Tetsuya Nakashima's "Kamikaze Girls" (2004) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Third Window Films. The supplemental features included with this release are: interviews with director Tetsuya Nakashima and cast members Anna Tsuchiya and Kyoko Fukada; a lengthy making of featurette; Unicorn - Ryuji short film; workprint footage; Anna Tsuchiya promo video; and more. With optional English subtitles. Region-Free.
Based on the bestselling novel-turned-manga by cult author Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls is a mind-bender of a film about a beautiful but very strange friendship. The main characters in it are two teenage girls who find themselves attracted to each other even though they barely have anything in common. One of them is firmly grounded in the present. The other is a hopeless dreamer stuck in the past.
17-year-old Momoko (Kyoko Fukada, Angel) is obsessed with everything Rococo. Most of the time, she fantasizes about living in 18th century Versailles where style is everything. She imagines wearing a corset, being kissed by noblemen, even taking long strolls in the countryside. Unfortunately, Momoko lives in 21 century Shimotsuma, where Yakuza members wear jogging suits and cow poop is everywhere. Here, people are crazy about bargains, not style.
Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya, Sakuran) is a biker. She likes head-butting people and fake "Versach" T-shirts, which, luckily for her, Momoko sells. Many moons ago, Momoko's father was smart enough to combine "Versach" with the Universal logo, make a bit of cash and set up a small business. But the studio complained and the Yakuza goons started asking questions. Almost immediately after that, Momoko's father lost a pinky and moved the family from Tokyo to Shimotsuma.
Ichigo is impressed with Momoko's style. She isn't like the rest of her biker friends. Some of her dresses are a bit strange - Momoko is a shopaholic and a big fan of a Tokyo boutique specializing in Gothic Lolitas clothing - but this does not matter. What does is that Momoko gets Ichigo.
Approximately 15 minutes into Kamikaze Girls, I concluded that Tetsuya Nakashima must be a big fan of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. 15 minutes later, I was convinced that he was an even bigger fan of marijuana. After I finished watching Kamikaze Girls, I saw an interview with Nakashima, which Third Window Films have placed on a separate DVD that is included with this Blu-ray disc, and changed my mind. Apparently, I did not get most of what Kamikaze Girls was about. I sat down and watched it again. True story.
I think I feel better now. There are still parts of Kamikaze Girls that I am unsure I fully understand, but I am probably not supposed to. The film is about teenage girls, and it clearly speaks their language, not mine (if you have a teenage daughter, then you probably know exactly what I mean). I am doing my best to understand it, but occasionally I still feel lost in translation.
The parts in the film that make sense to me are about fashion and its ability to reflect our personalities, imagination and its importance in confronting and dealing with reality, and modern societies and their obsession with quantity - and bargain prices - not quality.
Kamikaze Girls is a visual feast. After awhile, however, all the bright colors and animated sequences in it became so overwhelming, I felt like I had eaten a very large box of chocolates, some of which might have been bad. My eyes got tired and my brain refused to keep trying to make sense of everything that was happening on the screen.
In 2005, Kamikaze Girls won the Newcomer of the Year Award granted by the Japanese Film Academy as well as the Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress Awards at the Yokohama Film Festival.
Kamikaze Girls Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Tetsuya Nakashima's Kamikaze Girls arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Third Window Films.
The high-definition transfer for Kamikaze Girls is extremely difficult to grade. There are a number of wild color-manipulations and contrast fluctuations in the film that practically make it impossible to determine what is intentional and what isn't. There are certain scenes, for example, where the contrast is blown out so dramatically that the prevalent yellows become whites. Elsewhere, you would notice a very strong green tint that affects sharpness levels. I suspect, however, that a lot of these image manipulations are intentional, and Kamikaze Girls was more or less shot with an Amelie-esque look in mind (take a look at the wild orange and blue skies in the captures we have provided). Some mild noise-filtering has been applied, but, again, it is difficult to tell how much of the film's softer looking scenes were meant to look differently. Additionally, mild edge-enhancement is easy to spot during selected scenes, but macroblocking is not a serious issue of concern. Finally, the high-definition transfer is free of large cuts, debris, or stains. All in all, considering the highly stylized look of Kamikaze Girls, I am quite pleased with the presentation. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Kamikaze Girls Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1. For the record, Third Window Films have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The fact that the British distributors have not included a loseless audio track is somewhat disappointing, but I am willing to bet that their future Blu-ray releases will eventually offer either a DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD track of some sort. Showbox's first Blu-ray releases also did not offer loseless audio, but now they do. I have a feeling that Third Windo Films would follow a similar route.
The Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn't overly impressive, but I would not say that it is disappointing either. I just feel that a loseless track would have been a lot more appropriate for many of the film's wild scenes. On the other hand, the dialog is definitely clean and easy to follow. The surround channels are active, but, again, do not expect any serious effects that would force you to reach out for your remote control. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hiss to report in this review.
Kamikaze Girls Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features are placed on a separate SDVD and are encoded in PAL. Therefore, if you reside in a territory where PAL is not supported, you must have a Region-Free SDVD player capable of converting PAL-NTSC, or a Region-Free Blu-ray player capable of converting PAL-NTSC, in order to view them.
Making of - a lengthy featurette with plenty of raw footage from the production process. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (40 min).
Trailer - the original Japanese trailer for the film. (2 min).
Interview - director Tetsuya Nakashima discusses the unique look of his film, the colorful story and its characters. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (4 min).
Interviews - Kyoko Fukada and Anna Tsuchiya discuss their collaboration with director Tetsuya Nakashima and the characters they play. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (7 min).
Workprint footage - raw footage from the film. (5 min).
Unicorn - Ryuji short film - a hilarious short film about four friends. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (12 min).
Anna Tsuchiya Music Promo Video - (4 min).
Trailers - a gallery of trailers for other Third Window Films releases.
Kamikaze Girls Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Tetsuya Nakashima's Kamikaze Girls is a wild, Amelie-on-steroids, Japanese film with some quite incredible visuals. British distributors Third Window Films have put together a nice package for it, with some very good supplemental features. My only complaints here are that they have not included a loseless audio track and that they have used a BD-25. Nevertheless, I think that it is more than obvious that Third Window Films are committed to please their fans, and I am most definitely looking forward to see more of the films in their unique catalog. Most of them look as wild as Kamikaze Girls. RECOMMENDED.
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On February 8, Third Window Films is releasing Kamikaze Girls on Blu-ray, a Japanese movie described by The Sunday Times as "a wild, surreal speed-freak's walk on the kitsch side of pop culture obsessions." It tells the story of a Rococo-loving, fashion-victim ...
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