Movie Review: Sukeban Deka

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.

25 thoughts on “Movie Review: Sukeban Deka

  1. that’s the thing when converting a comic book into a live action performance. certain things just don’t translate well, no matter WHAT you do. american film makers tread lightly when faced with something which could be construed as “too silly”, such as a 100 foot tall pink and purple armor clad giant guy who eats planets is now suddenly a vague space cloud which needs to eat. the japanese on the other hand, have no such hang ups. while i do admire their tenacity on keeping to the original artform’s “vision” as much as possible (and i’m only assuming in this particular instance, having never read the source manga) there does come a point when they just have to picture certian things being done by actual PEOPLE and not cartoon characters and think about the possibilty of looking stupid. i mean, if they ever want to be taken seriously by international markets or something.
    i dunno. i’m trying to sound smart and that’s difficult in the wee morning hours.
    oh look! ginzu knives! do i NEED ginzu knives? who cares!

  2. There comes a time for these awesome flicks. But there has been a trend I’ve noticed with these Japanese films. What are they putting on their Highschool students? Every other movie it’s Highschool students saving the world, going to Hell, fighting crime, killing each other, killing terrorists, piloting giant robots, dealing with rape and tentacles, and clubs about suicide! I mean, Battle Royale… A government is having problems controlling student terrorists? So they take a classroom of Junior High students, stick ’em on an island, and force them to kill each other in a TV show! Which I hope everyone has seen, because that movie is bad-ass.

  3. coming from any other country, this concept would be strange. by Japanese standards, this is kinda ordinary. possibly even mundane, especially after watching an anime in which, to defeat a giant monster space bug, Earth was turned into a giant missile but then a planet-sized giant robot girl got in the way and kicked the bug in the face.

  4. Despite my students having almost exactly the same uniform, I’m pretty sure the only amazing abilities they posses are to sleep during class and add the word sex to any phrase I teach them.

  5. Based on what I’ve seen, Yui Kazama is my favorite too, based on her resemblance to Pat Benatar.

  6. Japan is a wacky place. They have one of the worst suicide rates on the planet, yet they get all the good shit. Yo-Yo explosions are about all I need to be happy, good sir.

  7. Out of curiosity, Chris, have you ever reviewed the Cromartie High School movie?

  8. God I love live-action Japanese cinema, especially when there are exploding anythings.

  9. Did you not even thank me publically for giving you this beautiful gift? This masterpiece? I am insulted sir, INSULTED!

    And you know what happens when you insult an Italian…

  10. I’m a little hurt that you reviewed this before the movie I sent you, but it *did* sound brilliant, so I find this acceptable.

  11. There is also a Sukeban Deka animated movie. In that one, Yo-yo Girl has to infiltrate a school controlled by a powerful rich guy and his three psycho daughters, who have no problem in putting bombs inside a couple of school buses and send them to their doom to control the drug traffic inside the school. I mean, how much money does school drug traffic actually gives ya? I have seen those guys selling pot outside schools and not one of them looks like he has Bill Gates’ money.

    Here it is:

  12. Testing testing. I tried to post a comment, but it never showed up. Do comments have to wait for approval?

  13. Oh, never mind. Anyway, what I posted was that there is an animated Sukeban Deka movie. In this movie Yo-yo girl has to fight a super millionaire guy and his three psycho daughters who have no problem in blowing up a couple of school buses to control the school’s drug traffic. I have seen those guys selling pot outside school, and I don’t think they make enough money to make the whole thing worth it, but then again I am not super crazy millionaire with three slutty crazy daughter, so what do I know?

    This is the movie

  14. Out of curiosity, Chris, have you ever reviewed the Cromartie High School movie?

    Seen it, but I haven’t reviewed. To be honest, I found it a little disappointing, although it does have its great moments. Freddie on the horse, for example.

    Heck, anything with Live-Action Freddie, really.

    Did you not even thank me publically for giving you this beautiful gift? This masterpiece? I am insulted sir, INSULTED!

    I honestly didn’t know if you were still in Internet Stealth Mode, and I thought it was best to err on the side of caution. I know how you folks are about people lookin’ into yer business.

  15. No problem, I thought it might be that. I don’t mind a mention or a link here and there, Phil does it every once in a while, so it’s cool. Besides, I figured the next time I showed up at the store, you’d pay me the proper respect anyway.

    And it better not be light this time…


  16. I love how in Japan it’s not enough to be given a better weapon; you have to be told exactly how much more powerful the new weapon is, in precise mathematical terms.

    How are they even measuring how much damage it does? Do they throw it at a force gauge and see how much force it has at impact? Do they measure how many hits it takes to cave in a human skull?

    You might think it started with the power levels in Dragon Ball Z, since that was the first time I’m aware of it appearing on American TV, but it goes back at least as far as Astro Boy and his obsession with becoming a 1,000,000 Horsepower robot.

    You know, just because the other robot can lift as much weight as a million horses, it doesn’t mean you have to be able to do the same thing to beat him. Trading up your butt machine guns for butt lasers might do just as well.

  17. The only way this movie could have been better is if Takeshi Kitano had played Principal Hattori. But then, I would have combusted with the sheer awesomeness of it, so for my health, I suppose it’s better that he wasn’t.

  18. Okyo’s marble throwing was more impressive in the TV series. There’s a look-a-like who’s running around Japan beating up female gang members and everyone thinks it’s her, so they try to sabotage her when she’s in school. She She has a pimple that’s hurting her and someone punches it while she tries to reason with them, so she gets pissed and whoops on everyone. Then she has a marble throwing battle with her double in a hall of mirrors!

    !! mirrors!


    It sucks that the supporting characters from the TV series did absolutely nothing in this movie.

  19. I’m watching this right now, having enjoyed the heck out of Yo-Yo Girl Cop. Soon, I shall be conversant with all aspects of the Sukeban Deka canon!