All right, before we get started with this month’s harrowing trip through the back half of the Previews Catalog, there’s one thing that I’d like to point out up front.
…is the Tribble “Role-Play” toy, inspired by the the Star Trek episode that warns against the danger of keeping pets. It is literally a six-inch ball of hair. And it is thirty dollars.
Even for a catalog that contains an autographed fantasy sword and something called “MILF Magnet” in this issue alone, that is the stupidest thing I have ever seen in Previews, and if you buy it, you are stupid too.
As for what you can buy without my immediate contempt, well, that’s what we’re here to find out tonight, as the ISB takes on this month’s offerings for the small press and the merch!
P. 204 – The War at Ellsmere: Faith Erin Hicks’ previous work, Zombies Calling, was another one that I picked up on Rachelle Goguen’s recommendation (as she was going to bat pretty hard for her fellow Halifaxian), and I’ve got to say, it was… okay. Story and art are both above average, but in a lot of places it reads a little too much like it’s trying to be what everyone was saying it was–which was Scott Pilgrim with zombies, a comparison that was inevitable given the art style–and in light of more recent self-aware zombie stories like Shaun of the Dead (another inevitable comparison), a lot of its humor seems redundant.
But then you remember that Zombies Calling was her first work outside the world of online self-publishing, and the whole thing becomes a lot more impressive. As flawed as it is, it’s still a pretty fantastic debut, and it marked her as an upcoming talent with a lot of potential, so I’m curious to see where she goes next. Which, apparently, is into the fast-paced world of boarding school fiction.
P. 211 – Archie Comics: For those of you keeping score at home, this month’s Archie books feature covers referencing both Andy Warhol and the Beatles’ Abbey Road…
…which makes these the most current Archie Comics cover gags ever.
P. 225 – Alan Moore’s The Courtyard (Color Edition):: A few years back, before the good folks at Avatar switched their publishing schedule over to strip-mining Warren Ellis’s thousand ideas for reinventing the super-hero and Garth Ennis’s latest foray into gore-porn, they put out a ton of adaptations of Alan Moore’s non-comics work. They expanded things like short stories, poems and songs–yes, songs–into full-length stories, and to be honest, the majority of them were not very good.
The Courtyard was the rare exception. It’s a great, short bit of Lovecraftian fun–for, you know, a horror comic–and it was the first thing to turn me on to writer Antony Johnston, who would later go on to create Wasteland with Christopher Mitten, and I’ve got it on good authority that that comic is “probably the best take on the post-apocalyptic Western in years.”
P. 318 – Blue Monday: Thieves Like Us #2: And now, Oni Press proudly presents Making Money the Chynna Clugston Way!
Step 1: Draw a cover like this.
Step 2: Chris Sims gives you all of his money.
P. 370 – Dark Horse “Art Books” Ad:
I might be the only one who cares–or at least, the only one who pays enough attention to the ads in the book section of Previews to be in a position to care–but Patrick Hughes’s Diary of Indignities is actualy not an art book, unless you consider stories about the Four Horsemen to be art, which I do. It is, however, a collection of pretty hilarious stories culled from Hughes’s blog, and it’s well worth picking up.
P. 418 – Spirit Movie Merchandise: Aside from the fact that I always get a kick out of these MiniMate movie poster parodies…
…I mention this for the simple reason that I wanted to tell you all to go watch the new trailer. Not because this one actually makes it look like it’d be pretty darn fun (if it wasn’t for the small fact that it’s, you know, supposed to be The Spirit), but because it contains the line “Is every damn woman in this damn hellhole out of her damn mind?” which is officially The Frank Millerest Sentence Ever Written.
P. 444 – Ted Nugent Statue: Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: “The makers of this Ted Nugent statue really missed an opportunity here.”
Seriously, you’re making a statue of Ted Nugent. Why would you just have him standing there playing his guitar when you could have him in a zebra-stripe bodysuit using it to deflect bullets like he did in that Damn Yankees video? Or even better, why not a statue of this?!
P. 461 – Shuffle! Asa Shigure Ani*Statue:: “From the popular eroge (erotic game) Shuffle! by the visual novel company Navel comes the adorable Asa Shigure. A delicate tomboy (and great cook), Asa leaps off the screen in fantastic statue form capturing her famous scene. Catch the poor girl unaware with her skirt pulled up and her hands on her underwear.”
And that’s this month’s offerings from the pages of Previews! As always, if anything caught your eye this time around, feel free to let me know about in the comments section below.
And for those of you who were wondering, the runner-up in the Frank Millerest Sentence competition was “I’m gonna kill you all kinds of dead,” which I seriously wish I’d come up with.
When the trailer for The Machine Girl hit last year, I got an email from a friend of mine almost immediately telling me that it was something I needed to see. Then I got an email from an ISB reader along the same lines.
Then I got another. Then a comment. Then another email.
Then the trailer got on Attack of the Show, and I got more emails, each one telling me that while this I’d probably heard of it already, they couldn’t let this one slide without making sure I was aware that there was a movie coming out that combined Japanese Schoolgirls, Machine-Gun Arms, the Flying Guilloutine, and Ninjas dressed in Adidas jumpsuits.
…and it is crazy awesome.
Long-time ISB readers might recall that while I have a general distaste for What If stories, there are a couple of premises–like What If Conan Was The Mack and What If Sgt. Fury Fought World War II In Space–that hook me. And as it turns out, “What If The Punisher Was A One-Armed Japanese Schoolgirl Who Went On a Blood-Soaked Rampage of Vengeance” is also a good one.
Unless you’re talking about the Mangaverse Punisher, I mean, because man. That thing is dire.
Anyway, back to Machine Girl: It’s not just one of the most mind-shatteringly bloody action movies I’ve ever seen, it’s also one of the most educational! So let’s get to it:
The movie opens with a kid being bullied into playing William Tell by a gang of older students, who while away the afternoon throwing knives at the apple on his head until a be-sailor-suited young lady shows up and orders them to knock it off. This is Ami Hyuga (played by Minsae Yashiro in her first acting role), and as it turns out, her brother was bullied to death by these same students.
Jimmy Hopkins remains unavailable for comment.
What follows is an opening sequence that I’m pretty sure is exactly what Louis Le Prince had in mind when he invented the motion picture camera in 1888: The lead nogoodnik pulls a knife on her, but Ami whips out a kama, jumps ten feet in the air, and cuts his freakin’ hand off…
…then tells him to stop crying and man up. After all, she’s lost an arm, too, and she does just fine. Though to be fair, that’s mostly because she replaced it with a Gatling gun. Thus, Ami expends more rounds than were fired in the entire works of Mickey Spillaine, and we learn tonight’s first lesson:
Lesson #1: Playing with knives is all fun and games until someone shows up to shoot you in the face eighty-nine times.
Once that’s dealt with, cut to flashback to show how Ami got to this lowwwwwly state. See, once, she was a normal high school girl, complete with the standard-issue lesbian best friend. Sadly, tragedy strikes before we can get down to any good ol’ fashioned yuri action, and–as previously mentioned–Ami’s brother Yu and his best friend Takeshi are murdered by…
…Sho Kimura, the tough-guy heir to a line of–I kid you not–Hattori Hanzo Yakuza Ninjas led by his parents, Wolverine and the Pin-Up Girl:
After her brother’s death, Ami is… inconsolable, and when she finds a diary listing his tormentors, she sets off to accuse one of them. Unfortunately, she does this first thing in the morning, and the kid’s parents respond by attacking Ami with a golf club and then deep-frying her arm.
Lesson #2: In Japanese culture, accusing someone of murder over breakfast is a major social faux pas, and often results in tempura.
And that’s just the beginning of the trouble with Ami’s left arm, as her next move is to make a direct assault on the Kimura household, which ends with her arm being chopped off at Mrs. Kimura’s request. Fortunately, she’s able to choke out a henchman with her thighs–like a much more alluring Riggs from Lethal Weapon–and make her escape, stumbling around the city following visions of her brother that will lead her to the edge she needs to take on the Yakuza Ninjas.
Lesson #3: Massive, untreated blood loss is really no big deal, probably because the human body contains around eight gallons of blood stored under high pressure.
Said edge comes from Takeshi’s parents, Suguru and Miki< who are similarly bereaved by the loss of their son. They also happen to be mechanics who used to be in a biker gang and have advanced training in combat medicine, which comes in handy for the recently unarmed Ami. Also beneficial: Suguru is an expert at creating weapons that can be attached via stump, and Miki, true to her name, is so fine she blows my mind:
Lesson 4: Tired: MILFs. Wired: JMILFs.
Initially, Miki blames Ami for her son’s death, but after they settle their differences by arm wrestling–really–Miki decides that it’s time for all good men to come to the aid of the party and sets about hooking Ami up with a montage while her husband gets to making her a new hand… from steel.
Whoops, sorry. Wrong blood-soaked action movie replacement hand.
Anyway, this is about where the movie starts to get crazy. Before Suguru can finish Ami’s machine gun, the garage is attacked by a trio of ninjas wearing red Adidas track suits…
…known as the Junior High Shuriken Gang. He manages to finish up the replacement arm, but only just before he’s neatly quartered by a hail of shuriken, which leads Ami to give us futher instruction. Here comes the science:
Lesson #5: It is possible to shoot a man with a machine gun in such a way that it strips all the skin from his bones without breaking them.
You don’t have to believe me, people: That’s physics.
Anyway, Miki and Ami capture one of the Kimuras’ thugs and, after a scene where we learn that it’s possible to have thirteen nails driven into your face and come through none the worse for wear, find out where they’re hiding and head off to the final confrontation.
Now this part really has to be seen to be believed, and honestly, I don’t want to ruin it for anybody. I will, however, note that it involves:
Bisection via Chainsaw
A Master of the Flying Guillotine
And of course…
Mrs. Kimura’s Drill Bra
Eventually of course, good (well, goodish) wins out over Evil, revenge is gotten, and while the end of the movie offers an uplifting message of hope that wraps things up nicely, I’ve got to say: This could be the start of the next great movie franchise, and I know exactly where to go with it next.
I mean, really: Ami’s a stone-cold one-armed killer at this point, but she’s still a high school student, and when high school students get out of line, there’s only one girl they can send. I think you know what I’m getting at here, folks:
And seriously: Guitar Wolf’s gotta do the soundtrack.
I just love that fighting a bear is the Industry Standard of Ass-Kicking.
And who administers that standard? Bahlactus, that’s who!
Karin Kanzuki’s battle against a bear–and a giant bird, and a lion, and Ken Masters–can be found in the two-fisted throwdown that is Street Fighter: Sakura Ganbaru v.1. And seriously, you guys: That’s just the backup story.
Earlier this month, I took a break from the standard talk about comics for the evening to review 1987’s Sukeban Deka, which translates to the absolutely awesome title of Juvenile Delinquent Girl Detective. Due largely to the fact that it features a girl taking down a helicopter and battling a cyborg with the use of a yo-yo, Sukeban Deka has stood as the finest toy-based Japanese Schoolgirl combat film ever produced, but finally, after two decades of anticipation, its latest sequel has finally been released.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Yo-Yo Girl Cop.
Yes, it’s Yo-Yo Girl Cop, and despite the fact that the box art for the movie includes both explosions and a quote that praises it with the name of the movie franchise that gave us the concept of Tokyo Drifting, it’s actually not as good as the previous installment. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s a movie about a schoolgirl fighting crime with a yo-yo (which is awesome) that has a plot revolving largely around teen suicide (which is not), thus making for a largely schizophrenic movie that doesn’t quite know what the hell it’s doing half the time.
There are, however, some truly awesome bits.
The whole thing kicks off twenty years after the events of Sukeban Deka, opening with a schoolgirl strapped into a bomb blowing herself up in the middle of a busy street in Shibuya. So yeah, it starts things off just a shade dark for my tastes.
Cut to the opening credits, and we’ve got a reasonable Amanda Waller simulacrum leading a young girl (Aya Matsuura) in a straitjacket into a dimly lit Gitmo-esque facility where she’s put into a cage made of chicken wire, presumably so she won’t throw any bottles at the band.
It seems the young lady–whose name is the imaginative “K,” at least for the duration of the next three scenes–is being deported from the far-off land of New York City for reasons that aren’t exactly clear, with equally murky charges being brought up against her mother for alleged spying. As it turns out, her mom’s actually the original Sukeban Deka (played here by Yuki Saito, the actress who played the original on TV), so a friendly detective named Kira offers her a deal: The Japanese government will offer a plea bargain to the Americans to free her mother if she goes undercover in the reactivated Sukeban Deka program.
Dubious legality aside, you’ve probably already figured out that she agrees… but not before she escapes from her straightjacket and busts out of the rage cage, a backflip-ridden process that was too dimly lit to grab any good screenshots. Sorry.
Anyway, once they’ve got her chained up in the steel cage–which continues the theme of bondage that runs through this movie so much that it transcends subtext and just becomes actual text–they give her the briefing, preparing her to be sent into one of the deadliest high school environments in the entire country.
Sadly, it’s still not Cromartie, which is a real shame, since the kind of unexplained phenomena that plague that school would be the perfect target for a yo-yo weilding juvenile delinquent. It is, instead, Seisen Academy which, thanks to a website named after the Enola Gay that functions like an profoundly more emo Anarchist Cookbook, has become a hotbed of suburban suicide bombers. And to make matters worse, after the death of the previous agent (the girl who gets blown up in the opening sequence), the website’s recently started a 72-hour countdown, so K’s assigned to go undercover, find out what the hell’s going on, and put a stop to it.
To go through that one more time: They’re sending in a completely untrained operative into a hostile environment where a previous agent’s cover has already been blown, and giving her a three-day time limit to stop “something.” That may seem like a completely bat-shit insane way to run a police force, but like Kira says, “The only one who can solve a teenage case…”
Please note that K buys that line of thinking about as much as I do.
But eventually, they finally come to an agreement. Thus, she gets her equipment from Inspector Awesome Shades…
…straps her yo-yo to her thigh in a garter holster…
…and heads off to her new school as Saki Asamiya, the codename used by all the Sukebans Deka.
Incidentally, they also give her the traditional blue sailor-style uniform worn by the other girls, which is pretty remarkably different from the uniform that’s actually worn at Seisen Academy. Because, y’know, you want your covert operatives to stick out as much as humanly possible. It makes their job way easier.
Once at school, Saki quickly ingratiates herself with her classmates:
This is immediately followed by an encounter with local Mean Girl Reika (Rika Ishikawa) and her crew of flunkies…
…who get their kicks bullying “fashion retard” Tae (Yui Okada), to the point where they throw her entire desk off a balcony, narrowly missing Saki’s head.
This aggression, as the Dude says, will not stand, man, which leads Saki to pretty much cockpunch her entire class.
There is also kicking.
What follow is, aside from the part where Saki brains herself with her own yo-yo while chasing down a member of the chemistry club, incredibly uninteresting, so I’m just going to do my best to sum up.
As it turns out, Tae was involved with a fellow student who used the screen-name “Romeo” last year while she used “Juliet” for herself. The catch, however, is that “Romeo” was another girl, which marks what is possibly the first time a lesbian affair between two Japanese schoolgirls has been this monumentally boring. Anyway, like the ones from the Baz Luhrmann movie, this Romeo and Juliet were marked for tragedy, and after she was mopped half to death by upperclassmen (which is only slightly more surreal than it sounds), Romeo–or Kotomi (Erika Miyoshi) decided it’d be a good idea to blow herself up. She lives, but is catatonic in a hospital, continuing the absolute laff-riot that is Yo-Yo Girl Cop.
To make a long story short (too late!), Kotomi and Tae had a website for bullied kids with the eye-rolling name “Verona,” but after she blows herself up, the website’s shut down and replaced with Enola Gay (remember Enola Gay from like three subplots ago?), complete with a new, far more sinister Romeo that advises kids to blow themselves up, and he’s now organizing something pretty horrendous.
He’s also the school janitor, and it turns out that Reika is his sidekick. And further confusing matters is the fact that the mass suicide he’s orchestrating is all just a red herring: Just like Hans Gruber, he’s just creating a distraction while he pulls off a robbery elsewhere.
Still with me? Okay, good, because this is where it gets awesome, because this is where Saki puts on her crazy leather super-hero outfit that still has the crazy schoolgirl-uniform neckerchief and goes to fight the bad guys. Which means it’s time for Yo-Yo Girl Cop… versus Evil Yo-Yo Girl Cop!
Yes, it’s Reika, and it turns out she was a plant by Japan’s counter-terrorist secret police gone rogue, and she’s got a secret weapon yo-yo of her own that even Saki’s can’t match. Ladies and gentlemen… the dreaded Duncan Butterfly!
What follows is about four minutes of unmitigated radness, as Saki and Reika fight using a combination of karate kicks and Matrix-dodging each other’s yo-yos, complete with a scene where Saki is in imminent danger of being killed by a razor-bladed yo-yo swinging like a pendulum while she is trapped under a conveiently toppled pile of lead pipes.
It is, in short, the entire reason this movie was made.
But sadly, it can’t last, and even the following scene where Saki and her yo-yo battle Romeo and his katana can’t quite live up to it. Regardless, Saki eventually beats up enough people that it all works out okay, and Romeo ends up blowing himself up after removing a wig that he’s been inexplicably wearing for the entire movie up to that point.
There is one last high point, though, right before Saki takes on Romeo’s gang of thugs, where she gives what may in fact be the most ridiculous Magical Girl Action Challenge speech ever committed to film:
And in the name of the Moon, she will punish you!
Japan is a weird place.
I realize that this doesn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. I mean, I’m talking about the same nation that gave us tentacle rape, octopus-based game shows, and the Transformers, so when it comes right down to it, “weird” may not actually cover it.
But with that weirdness comes a certain kind of magic. Magic that, for instance, allows for the existence of not one, but multiple movies with the premise of a teenage schoolgirl fighting crime with a yo-yo that can blow up helicopters. The latest, Yo-Yo Girl Cop won’t be released in the US until later on this month, but in the meantime, we can all enjoy its predecessor: 1988’s Sukeban Deka
Sukeban Deka–literally translated as “Juvenile Delinquent Girl Detective”–is essentially the Japanese version of 21 Jump Street, except that instead of sending Johnny Depp to high school to deal with teen pregnancy, it’s about the Dark Director recruiting a teenage girl to battle sinister high school-based terrorism by beating the living hell out of people with a huge metal yo-yo. It is, therefore, infinitely superior.
Said schoolgirl is Saki Asamiya (Yoko Minamino) who, at the ripe old age of 18, has retired from her previous life as a high school crimebuster in order to seek peace of mind as a relatively normal high school student. At this point, I feel that I should point out that Sukeban Deka is actually the movie version of a TV show of the same name (which was itself based on the original manga), which would explain why there’s a scene about a half hour into it where a bunch of teenage girls stand around giving your standard Sgt. Murtaugh “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit” speech. Anyway, Saki’s turned in her badge and yo-yo, but alas! It seems she’s just not fated for 19-hour days of studying to meet the strict entrance requirements for Tokyo University, a fact that becomes abundantly clear when she meets Kazuo, a student on the run from an evil conspiracy.
See, the sinister principal, Hattori, has taken over a high school known for taking in the worst, most badass delinquents in the city, and he’s brainwashing them with the goal of mobilizing them to stage a coup d’etat. That’s right, folks:
No, sadly, Freddie fails to make an appearance. The real threat for Japan comes from Sankou Gakuen High, an offshore reform school known as the Hell Castle with an extensive, possibly nuclear-powered underground level. No, really. According to Kazuo, it’s known to the public at large for Principal Hatorri’s “spartan education methods,” which one can only assume means there’s a lot of naked push-ups and kicking people into bottomless pits going on around there.
No sooner have Saki and Kazuo’s paths crossed when they’re ambushed on a bus by a couple of Hattori’s cronies, hell-bent on dragging Kazuo back to the school before he can warn the cops. A fight ensues, and it’s at this point that we see Saki’s deadliest technique: Her dreaded Bukkake Attack!
Oh calm down, she’s actually just using a fire extinguisher. But given that the bus suddenly rams a rather large piece of construction equipment, all the high-pressure fluids to the eyes can’t keep her from getting captured by the forces of evil.
After she’s captured, she’s immediately tied up and tortured with a defibrillator, because really, it just wouldn’t be a Japanese movie without a scene where a teenage girl was bound and electroshocked for a somewhat uncomfortable four minutes. She and Kazuo eventually manage to escape though, and at that point, Saki realizes that she has to take up the mantle–er, yo-yo, whatever–one more time to shut Hattori and his cronies down. Thus, she gets the band back together.
First up is Marble O-Kyo, who–as should be fairly obvious–fights using marbles. This is significantly less impressive than it sounds in each of the two times it actually happens. Then, it’s off to get some help from Megumi, the sister of Kazuo’s friend who is still being held by Hattori on the island, and to whom Kazuo was instructed to give a memento of her brother, which appears to be a little man made of string cheese.
Still, those two aren’t going to be enough, and so it’s off to the beach to meet up with Saki’s replacement: Yui Kazama: Sukeban Deka III, who scores bonus points for wearing one of those crazy metal arm-guard things that Sonny Chiba sports in The Street Fighter.
Incidentally, she’s my favorite, if only for the above shot.
Of course, before she can actually join the team, the girls (and Kazuo) are attacked on a beach by some guys in a helicopter, who quicken the pace of the movie by shooting Kazuo about thirty times and generally making a mess of things.
Then Saki blows them up with a yo-yo. Let’s all pause to reflect on how awesome that is for a moment, shall we?
“You just killed a helicopter with a yo-yo!”
“Yeah, I was out of bullets.”
Once that’s done, the shit is on, and after a pause to collect the Veronica-esque Yukino–who seems to serve no purpose whatsoever except to show up and collect her paycheck–the girls plan their seige on Hell Castle over a healthy breakfast, using an incredibly detailed crayon drawing of Hattori’s fortress:
Before they leave, though, Saki’s old police contact, Nishiwaki–although honestly, I’m not sure why I’m using everyone’s name, since I don’t really remember them myself and I just watched this thing two hours ago–shows up with a parting gift: A yo-yo that is “four times heavier than the one you have and can do 16 times as much damage.” In fact, the new Yo-Yo (which I believe can be found on page 244 of the Dungeonmaster’s Guide) is so powerful that she’ll have to wear a special brace to absorb the impact, and will still cause her bones to shatter if she uses it too much.
Not to spoil anything, but “too much” turns out to be about six times, which would seem to defeat the purpose. But hey, I don’t know what it’s like for a Juvenile Delinquent Yo-Yo Girl Detective on the mean streets of Tokyo.
Properly equipped, the girls put their plan into action, creeping stealthily onto the beaches around Hell Castle in breakaway pink-and-white jumpsuits, which are of course pulled off to reveal their schoolgirl outfits underneath in what I believe passes for a live-action magical girl transformation sequence.
Unfortunately, the mission is doomed to failure, thanks to the fact that Megumi has betrayed the team to Hattori in return for the chance to see her brother again, because apparently she’s forgotten that she’s sabotaging a rescue mission designed around her brother. The girls are captured and tired up–again, because without a scene of schoolgirls in bondage, this thing couldn’t possibly get past the studio execs-and faced with certain death at the hands of Principal Hattori.
At first, he’s going to leave it up to his subordiates, who have been trained to kill pineapples with deadly precision, but after Saki appeals to his ego, he decides to face her mano a schoolgirl, even going so far as to arm her with a flail. It is, however, a battle that Saki cannot win. Why?
Because Principal Hattori… Is a Cyborg:
So the girls are imprisoned, but thanks to Megumi switching sides again after she finds out that Principal Robot has had her brother lobotomized–or at least gotten someone to draw a little line with Xes on his forehead in Sharpie–they escape, and put their plan into action.
Which, for the record, is the same plan they were going to use before. The one that Hattori already knows every step of. And yet, the bad guys are taken completely by surprise.
Thus, the kids escape, Megumi sacrifices her life to save Saki, and Saki eventually hits Hattori hard enough with her Super Compound Metal Yo-Yo (16X Damage!)–a process that requires her to “cock” her arm, complete with gun noises–that everything works out. But not before Principal Cyborg delivers what is probably the single greatest line of the entire movie:
Truly, those are words to live by.