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DVD Review: RoboGeisha

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This rocked up in a package of other films and I had no idea what the hell it was. After watching it I can tell you that Memoirs of a Geisha this ain’t and in all honesty the expression “WTF” does not even begin to cover writer/director Noburo Iguchi’s RoboGeisha, which is now available on DVD. If you loved the graceful, dignified geisha of Memoir then you’ll probably want to steer clear of Iguchi’s murderous, robotic creations.

If you still want to give this film a go, ask yourself this. Have you ever wanted to see a building bleed? A robot castle perform the robot dance? A person stabbed in the eye with some fried shrimp? Sexy pose activated armpit katanas or robot geisha assassins? Well if you answered yes to any of those — be honest, at least one of those things probably piqued your interest — then RoboGeisha is for you.

Iguchi’s film, which lives in the realm of normality for all of three minutes at the beginning, is the latest offering from Japan’s cult gore and shock cinema movement. About the most normal thing in this film is the fact that one of the geisha assassins has machine gun boobs. Sorry, Noburo, but Austin Powers already beat you to that weird and wonderful invention. Everything else though is distinctly Iguchi and probably distinctly Japanese. We’ve all heard of the more twisted side of Japan, stemming from the weird fantasies of overworked employees — the bizarre vending machines in the red light district, all the anime, manga, and video games that are made just for Japanese distribution. RoboGeisha is kind of our glimpse into that world.

It begins with a politician enjoying an evening with a geisha. His aide informs him of a death threat stating that in three minutes he’ll be dead if he doesn’t pull out of the race for presidency. The politician then goes on a hilarious tirade about all the stuff you can do in three minutes before dancing with the geisha. After asking her to be his sweet-mama, which just sounds even more hilarious in Japanese for some reason, he touches her breast and this is where RoboGeisha goes from being anything normal into WTF territory. The geisha’s eyes spin around in her head and she begins to make mechanical sounds before she splits in half to produce two Tengu, scantily clad Japanese phallic goblins. I only know that because they take the time out to inform you that’s what a Tengu is, a nice consideration on the director's part. They proceed to boob-stab one guy to death and shoot shuriken out of their butt to kill another guy, normal stuff you and I do all the time, right?

The Tengu aren’t the only twisted assassins here and the geisha who spawned the two Tengu isn’t left out of the weird stakes after that task; she has a circular saw in her mouth. That’s right, a circular saw in her mouth. Now this all happens in the first few minutes of the film and you might think Iguchi and his team have peaked early but you’d be wrong. There’s plenty stranger and more messed up stuff throughout the film. Like I said, there are sexy pose activated armpit swords, demonic acid breast milk, geisha missiles, the fried shrimp, the bleeding buildings (which just begs so many questions), a kneecap gun, and tons more.

Aside from the weird stuff, which there’s a lot of, there is a bit of a story. The evil organization Kageno Steel is building robot geisha assassins so they can rid Japan of corruption and basically dominate the world. Why geishas, do you ask? Simple, the easiest way to get at those Kageno needs to kill is through their ‘love affairs’ and beautiful geisha girls are their way into those affairs. Yoshie and her sister Kikuyakko are the latest additions to Kageno’s geisha army. After initially thriving under the circumstances, Yoshie, after a chance encounter with the relatives of the geisha, realizes what the company is really planning and, after further improvements (she can transform!) decides she has to take the company down.

I said there was a story. I didn’t say it wasn’t completely twisted. It’s certainly not the greatest but then again if you are watching this film expecting a great story then you’re watching it for the wrong reasons. It’s purely used as a vessel for introducing the next messed up thing.

The dialogue is freaking hilarious and rather stupid at times. The acting is often way over the top, which is what you’d expect from such a ridiculous film and the special effects are equally ridiculous. Imagine the cartoon effects Stephen Chow uses in Kung Fu Hustle except even more ridiculous and throughout the entire film and you’ve got an idea about what’s going on in RoboGeisha. There’s plenty of gore which is quite funny and lots of action which is good if a little unconventional. Often blood fills the screen yet the person shot or stabbed has no visible wound on them (the Kageno apology scene is the best example of this). The film is filled with memorable moments like the old man using his kneecap gun and saying “bang, bang, bang, bang” as he shoots at all the geisha or the robot castle which looks like something out of a Godzilla movie or the hip katana fight scene, which is just a whole other level of bizarre.

The DVD is oddly presented in Japanese Dolby 4.0 and is probably one of the first movies I've seen presented in that format. It means you don't get true surround sound or any sub action and it's a bit of a disappointment. The DVD contains two extras: the RoboGeisha trailer which set the Internet on fire with positive buzz and a short film called "Geisha Cop" from Iguchi. It's a nice set of features and the short will please fans but it would have been nice to see a making of feature or something.

RoboGeisha is certainly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. In fact I’d wager that very few people will enjoy its twisted humor and bizarre violence and its sexploitation undertones but for those people who have seen Tokyo Gore Police and other like-minded films, RoboGeisha is more of the twisted same. There isn’t much in the way of a story and everything is over the top including the acting but for those who like the genre it’s a fun, nonsensical film that’s unlike anything you’ve seen.

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