Director Noboru Iguchi keeps his foot firmly on the crazy gore accelerator after The Machine Girl by engulfing the screen with a vivid, controlled explosion of colour, in this, his latest addition to the throbbing swell of daft and extreme Japanese gore movies. There’s a notable shift towards the use of CGI in lieu of more traditional gateways to gore, and whilst this means the film loses some of its potential immediacy and any strong visceral element, the computer generated approach lends it a fluid and cartoon-esque quality which opens up an opportunity to push many of the ideas to gloriously ridiculous extremes.
The plot centres around the shy, quiet, and modest Yoshie (Aya Kiguchi), who grew up in the shadow of her arrogant, unpleasant, and bullying elder sister. Yoshie’s deeply repressed anger as a result of the abuse at the hands of her rival sibling – who is now working as a geisha for moneyed clients – makes her an unexpected target for a father and son duo who spearhead the shadowy corporate behemoth, Kageno Steel. After inadvertently demonstrating her powerful combat ability (in hilarious fashion), the younger Kageno (Takumi Saito) snaps her up for his academy of young, attractive, female warriors, a troop constituted of the alienated and disenfranchised amongst Japan's young distaff population. As Yoshie is pitted directly against her unpleasant sibling, and then converted into a robot, she discovers the truth about the supposed weapon of peace held by the steel corporation, and chaos erupts to feature female posterior sword fighting, a transformation of Yoshie into a speedy mini-tank, and a castle that strides up Mount Fuji clutching a giant grenade. Yes, RoboGeisha is an unhinged journey into fantasy, but note the title carefully; RoboGeisha. Repeat it once again; RoboGeisha. What exactly were you expecting?
For what could have been an unwatchable mess, the imagination, vivid swathes of bold colour, and well choreographed combat scenes make RoboGeisha an exciting and lively watch. The comedy, which is presented both verbally and visually, is amusing and frequently outrageous; check out the face of the guy who is forced to drink the 'breast milk from hell' of one of the disgusting and uber-phallic Tengu ‘beauties’. Often, the 'joke' is simply the extreme to which an idea has been taken, and there are plenty such ideas as the picture progresses.
Of course, if you watch RoboGeisha with the expectation of depth, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The primary focus here is on exciting and imaginative filmmaking, and with wig napalm, throwing stars that are projected out of bottoms, and killer-cleaver socks, the resultant flow is one of daft but satisfying output. Not all of it sits well; the Tengu ‘beauties’, with their phallic faces and hideous sneers are fairly revolting, the bonkers plot does stagger and lurch in places, and the CGI inevitably dilutes some of the impact. Yet overall, if you thrive on colourful and creative extreme film-making, you’ll find lots to entertain your bizarre movie tastes here.
Cine Asia have done a commendable job with the transfer of this film. The picture is delivered on a single DVD, with an aspect ratio of 1:78.1, encoded for region 2. The rich colour and vibrancy of the movie is reproduced impressively, and the fast moving action is captured with accuracy. If anything, the quality of the transfer almost betrays the finished product by exposing the limitations of the computer generated graphics, but this can hardly be considered a criticism.
The subtitles are large and clear. The spelling and grammar maintains a level of quality, but some of the translation feels a little artificial. For instance, when the would-be president is about to have his face cut open by a geisha robot with a circular saw for a mouth, he cries “You've cut me. It hurts. No, this is so stressful”. The meaning is there, but the accuracy feels wanting. Maybe the translation is accurate, and it reflects the bizarre delivery of this unique film.
Audio is delivered via the original Japanese soundtrack. It's only available in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, but performs acceptably. The voices can sound a little tinny at times, though this appears to be the original soundtrack rather than any issue with the transfer to the DVD. The often enjoyable accompanying music (at its most exhilarating during the oriental-tinged seventies themes which provide an aural canvas for some of the fight scenes) provides a suitable fit for the fast moving action on screen.
Extras are limited. The RoboGeisha trailer is a wonder to behold in itself; a Japanese male voice grumbles words in (intentionally) barely recognisable English (barely recognisable to the extent that subtitles are provided!) whilst most of the highlights of this crazy flick whiz by. It's a cracking trailer to watch after the movie, but it's very important that you aren't tempted beforehand, unless you enjoy spoiling the highlights of the film you are about to watch.
There are some similarly daft, insane, and depraved movies showcased here, including close family friend The Machine Girl, the brutal and twisted Ichi: The Killer, and Raging Phoenix (featuring the phenomenally agile Chocolate girl).
It’s something of a barebones release, but Cine Asia focus on quality by presenting us with a respectful transfer that does full justice to a movie that revels in its depth of colour, and thrives on its visuals. There is some impressive momentum gathered by the exhilarating fight sequences and crazy visual jokes, though some mileage is lost as a consequence of the profligate use of CGI. That said, the computer-rendered elements do lend this crazy picture a certain comic-book feel, and fans of the insane nature of this brand of Japanese extremity will enjoy the twisted tale of Yoshie, our shy and repressed RoboGeisha.