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.