Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams Review
Rika Kageyama (Reiko Oshida) is a nineteen year-old juvenile delinquent, who has just finished her one year sentence at the Akagi Girls reformatory school. Now given another chance at life she seeks to find earnest employment, but she finds it increasingly difficult to settle down when her employers continue to look down on her. A chance meeting with an unlikely fellow named Tsunao Marui (Tonpei Hidari) brings forth an opportunity for her to work at a bar in Shinjuku. It’s at ‘Bar Murasaki’ that she meets Madam Umeko Watanabe (Junko Miyazono) - a former Akagi attendee - along with fellow former inmate Choko. Rika immediately finds herself at home amongst those who understand her, and it seems that things are beginning to look up for her. However, it’s not long before Boss Ohba shows up to throw a spanner in the works. For years he’s been after Umeko’s bar, so that he may build his own, fancier version, but she constantly turns down his offers. Ohba, a known drug-dealer, has been pushing his narcotics with the help of a local girl gang onto weak individuals, including the sister of Rika’s new friend Mari. Soon Rika finds herself acting as the law, taking matters into her own hands in order to secure the livelihoods of her new friends.
Not to be confused in part with the ‘Girl Boss’ Sukeban series, kick-started by Norifumi Suzuki in ’72, Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams was the first in a four-part series made for Toei known as Zubeko Bancho, each directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi. These four films, subsequently Tokyo Drifters, Delinquent’s Lullaby and Worthless to Confess were made in the space of one year, between 1970 and 1971. As precursors to the wave that later included Sukeban, Terrifying High School, Stray Cat Rock, Female Prisoner Scorpion et al, the Zubeko Bancho films are by large far tamer offerings, not so much delivering explicit material by way of rape, torture and murder, but serving up a far lighter comedic tone, whilst still retaining qualities befitting of the illustrious genre. The plot mechanics throughout each are largely the same and anyone who has already witnessed Panik House’s Worthless to Confess will pretty much know what sequence of events to expect from this instalment and the two between, and yet they’re each undeniably charming efforts, mostly carried out with gusto by star Reiko Oshida.
Oshida was a pleasant, early edition to whole Pinku Violence wave and is a particular favourite of mine due to her boundless energy and captivating looks. She’s not the most immediate choice in comparison to some of the bigger names doing the rounds, but she was perhaps the most intrinsically balanced, given her liking toward the more mocking nature of the films she appeared in, and it is with these particular outings that she is undoutedly best remembered for. Her cute visage coupled with her larger than life playful manner saw her fit into her roles as a juvenile tearaway remarkably well; just in her body language and laid back delivery with winks and beaming smiles there’s a strong sense that she doesn’t take her position nearly all that seriously, demonstrating with her effortless charm that these are simply fun little pieces, and for that we get a lot more in return. This sees her play nicely off of Yamaguchi’s predominantly restrained, though focused storytelling. Blossoming Night Dreams is notable in that it presents her first real starring role, having merely been in a couple of supporting positions previously, which included the Poisonous Seductress series, and it’s here that she’s re-united with former co-star Junko Miyazono, who appears to act as an adequate motherly type figure. And indeed Blossoming Night Dreams gives her superb support all round: Tonpei Hidari lends a wonderful comic hand, while Masumi Tachibana, Yukie Kagawa and Keiko Fuji make equally memorable appearances amongst a host of zany characters which include compulsive liars, uncontrollable drunks and homosexual transvestites. Even Yakuza vet Tatsuo Umemiya drops by for a somewhat lesser, though integral role to one of the film’s back-stories.
And of course it’s not without its social merits. One of the themes throughout all four films is of social acceptance, and in Blossoming Night Dreams its message is clear enough. Director Yamaguchi address both drug abuse and reformatory in no uncertain terms. Rika struggles to find acceptance in light of her past; no matter how hard she tries to settle into a new and honest life she’s still looked upon as an offender, and someone whose name always gets nominated first if something happens to go amiss. Meanwhile the characters of Ohba and Bunny act as stark warnings against drug consumption: the dealers and victims are hardly played with depth, but then they don’t have to be, the former of course being nothing but stock caricatures, while the latter is more of a tragic figure which serves to act as a desperate counter-balance to the overall chirpy nature of the narrative. Overall, though, Yamaguchi makes his points without being overly forceful, never forgetting that there is always some tongue-in-cheek humour to be had around every corner, and its his zestful approach that makes these films so fun to watch. Additionally Blossoming Night Dreams looks great, perfectly capturing the Hippy hey-day with lush cinematography from Hanjiro Nakazawa and a hopelessly cheery score by Toshiaki Tsushima, which all leads up of course to a frenzied finale in which an eruption of knives and swords takes over a Pachinko Parlour in true Pinku Violence style.
This is a better effort from Exploitation Digital, who in the past have churned out some pretty ropey looking transfers. Blossoming Night Dreams isn’t perfect, it still shows signs of compression, but it’s a notable step in the right direction. They’ve obviously received better materials this time from Toei, and we’re looking at a nice conversion, free from the usual ghosting and interlacing. Presented with an anamorphic 2.35:1 ratio it seems to be quite well preserved. It’s notably softer than some of the other transfers we’ve seen from Synapse for example, but detail is pleasing enough, while colours and contrast levels appear natural throughout.
The Japanese mono track comes with no real complaints. Dialogue comes across exceptionally well, while Toshiaki Tsushima’s nice, poppy scoring and songs from Keiko Fuji and Golden Half sound as lively as ever.
Optional English subtitles are included. I’m not overly keen on the yellow fonts that Media Blasters seems persistent on using, but they do their job, aside from one or two very minor errors. It should be noted, however, that they fail to translate the opening song as sung by Keiko Fuji, and once again forego translating the main cast and crew, which often comes in handy when placing names to faces.
These are very thin on the ground, comprising of a small photo gallery, a promo trailer for the film and promotions for several other Exploitation Digital releases. Not even an original trailer in sight.
Blossoming Night Dreams is a bright and breezy beginning to an overall fun collection of films. Hopefully Exploitation Digital will see it fit to release the remaining two flicks on DVD for completists. For now, you can't really go wrong if this is what floats your boat.
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