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:
From that wounded city, New York…
For some strange karma, now working for the cops.
I’d sworn I’d go it alone,
But for a friend I met by chance.
For a limited time only, Special Agent!
And in the name of the Moon, she will punish you!
So…it’s basically a fetish movie with better lighting?
To be fair, teen suicide is apparently a legitimate problem in Japan.
Though still horrible action movie plot fodder. It’s like making Die Hard With a Vengeance a meditation on the perils of reckless driving.
I wonder if there’s any connection between this and the Ehrgeiz fighting game’s “Yoyo Yoko” character, another female cop who uses a yoyo for a weapon.
Tom Smothers must be huge in Japan.
This is the greatest movie of my life!
Eerie, I just rented this last night. I liked it better than you did, despite the fact that the actresses playing the original Romeo and Juliet are really not very good at all, and there’s simply not enough Reika in this movie. Not enough. Plus, the teen suicide thing I could sort of take, but the bit where Tae is giving exposition is so calculated to make us think, “oh no, she’ll blow herself up!” it’s offensive.
What saved the movie for me was Aya Matsuura, who for a first film role is surprisingly assured and is a terrific screen presence. I could pretty much watch 20 movies with her fighting in that outfit at the end.
I was left feeling, though, that a sequel might be much more entertaining.
Sukeban Deka New York, anyone?
i thought Romeo was another girl
and that she was ‘blown up sir’.
later you wrote:
“Saki and her yo-yo battle Romeo and his katana canâ€™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 heâ€™s been inexplicably wearing for the entire movie up to that point.”
So was Romeo really a boy all along?
Was His/Her death faked?
I do intend to buy this movie…just curious now…
No, they were both Romeo.
What I found fascinating about this film is how utterly straight it plays things, given that it’s about an teenaged girl armed only with a yo-yo who is forced to go undercover to stop bullied high-school suicide bombers. It’s like “24” crossed with “Mean Girls” – yet oddly, not as rad as that sounds.
Though Yo-Yo Leather Girl Fight certainly made it worth renting.
Incidentally, the director worked on the Battle Royale movies, so it seems reasonable to presume he’s trying to say something about teenage disaffection and the breakdown of society and blah blah blah. Really, though, he should’ve made it all about the yo-yo.
What, no cyborgs?
The director was involved with the BR movies?
Did he direct Battle Royale 2? Because that forever kills any desire I had to see this movie.
Chris, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there is yet another Sukeban Deka movie, which came out in 1988. (I bought both it and the first SD movie after your review), featuring Sukeban Deka III from the first movie. Not quite as good as the first, and sadly lacking cyborgs, but it does contain both an Evil ukeban Deka with Bladed Yo-Yo and more Yo-Yo vs. Aircraft Action.
Say the word and I can send it to you.
Yes, that is the same director of part 2.
That closing monologue is what happens when you let The Ultimate Warrior write your dialogue.
Me, I’m holding out for this film to get the Criterion treatment.
We need more yo-yo wielding superheroes. It seems to me to be a natural weapon.
That monologue is actually a really good strategy; after you say it, people go, “Wait, what?”
And then you hit them while they’re distracted trying to figure out what the hell you just said.
“May God help you if she walks the dog.”
Brilliance, thy name is the-isb.com
Oh, wow. I need this movie like I need *air*. :)
Wasn’t this based on an old Akira Kurosawa script for Toho studios? I’m pretty sure he was juggling this project or “Rashomon.” Whew! Glad somebody finally made it.
Actually Lewis, that’s what Yo-yos were designed for.
The toy thing came later.
Bret, you have referenced a legend commonly regarded as a fact. Yo-yos were found to be toys as far back as ancient Greece and there is no evidence that supports the yo-yo was used as a weapon in the philippines centuries later. Realistically, that would be a pretty crappy weapon as opposed to something more practical, like the “sharp rock tied to a stick.”
I recommend http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/myo-yo.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yo_yo for further education.
‘Yo Yo Girl Cop’ is perfect movie. I advise everyone ;)
This is my favorite Movie and Aya Matsuura is a great actress as Asamiya Saki. Anyone who doesn’t like this movie doesn’t know what their missing.
Haha, great post..Thanks man.
Is it just me or is Saki the worst superhero of all time. First she beams herself in the head with her own yoyo the first time she uses it and then when we final get to a real yoyo fight after sitting through sixty minutes of whiny emo suicide bombers, she gets totally dominated in the fight by Reika. I’m serious. That fight was awesome but she was getting her ass kicked. She lucked out at the very end when Reika knocked a bunch of pipes onto herself. And I guess she did ok in the final fight with Romeo but she was struggling, getting shot, sliced, and beaten. In the end Romeo blew himself up and she looked bloodier than a klansman at a DMX concert.
As retarded as using a yoyo as a weapon is, it’s been done before, at least in fiction, and done well. Michaelangelo from the Ninja Turtles, Mike Jones from Startropics, that one demon kid from the Dark Tournament in Yu Yu Hakusho, and even Yoko from Erhgeiz. All of them use yoyos as lethal weapons and do so effectively.
But not Yoyo Girl Cop. She is the most ineffective super hero I have ever seen. And the worst part is she struts around in the first part of the movie like she’s the biggest badass of all time, but the rest of the movie she’s either getting beat up, captured, or hurting herself with her own weapon. I’d rather depend on Joe Lieberman to save me from suicide bombing Japanesse kids than this incompetent, blustering, poor excuse for an anime character!!
God, where’s the tylenol…
How can I apply to be a guest writer in your blog? please contact me.
I must have this movie for my Japanese collection!