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DVD Review: Yo Yo Girl Cop

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With a title like Yo Yo Girl Cop and a DVD quote claiming that "the acing [sic] is fast and furious," I expected to be considerably more entertained than I was. I was expecting to be as entertained as I was during, say, Volcano High or Anna in Kung Fu Land. Sadly, this did not live up to those expectations. That isn't to say this is bad or unwatchable, just that it would be best to keep your dreams of a girl kicking butt in a schoolgirl outfit while slinging a yo-yo in check. With lowered expectations, Yo Yo Girl Cop is a rather fun flick. It is goofy and expects the audience to connect a lot of the pieces for themselves, but when kept on a superficial level it delivers.

We open with a teenage girl, played by pop singer Aya Matsuura, deported by the US to her home in Japan, delivered Hannibal Lecter-style (on a hand truck with a half face mask). In Japan, she is recruited by a special operations detective named Kira (Riki Takeuchi), or rather she is coerced with the promise of the release of her mother, currently imprisoned back in the States on suspicion of being a spy. Her job is to infiltrate Seisen Academy and smoke out a terrorist organization that has been targeting the high school. Her armament consists of a standard schoolgirl outfit and a deadly steel yo-yo.

After watching this moderately entertaining film, I found that I was at a disadvantage before I even began. Yo Yo Girl Cop is more or less a self-contained film, but it has a long pedigree. The story began its life in 1976 with the manga title Sukeban Deka (translated: Delinquent Girl Cop). In the mid-1980s it was translated to a live action television series, which had three seasons (each with a different story cycle and casts). That was followed by a pair of live action films in the late '80s and an anime iteration in 1991. That brings us back to Yo Yo Girl Cop which was released in Japan under the title Sukeban Deka: Kôdo nêmu = Asamiya Saki. The title was changed for the international audience. So, as you can see there is much more to the universe than just this film. They all may be separate works, but I am sure that some knowledge of them would have aided in my enjoyment of this film.

Back to the film at hand.

The teen, called K on the DVD sleeve, is given the code name of Saki Asamiya. She is enrolled at Seisen Academy, where a mysterious organization is using a website called Enola-Gay.net (it's not a registered address… I checked) to dispense suicide and bomb making tips to the depressed and picked on student population. Now, Saki has her work cut out for her. She has to find out who is behind the site, and where these bombs are coming from.

The mystery of the bombs and the website slowly unravels through the first 75-80 minutes. Everything builds up to the final action sequence pitting yo-yo against yo-yo, good against evil, life against death. When it was all done I was left in the dark as to what happened or why. There was never any motive given, nor was anything given up to explain anyone's actions.

Essentially, Yo Yo Girl Cop features a lot of exposition and some action that fails to lead anywhere. The plot is there, but fails to connect the dots. The best I can make of it is the belief that all the students are either suicidal or rebellious and everything should get blown up. There is a lack of faith of the adults in the younger generation. In a way I was reminded of the basis for Battle Royale, a film that has a government-sponsored program that allows for the kidnapping of students and then has them kill each other until only one is left. That was another (better) film that took a look at the changing attitudes of youth and the reactions of the establishment. Still, it would be better to leave the social commentary out of Yo Yo Girl Cop and just enjoy it for the cute girls duking it out with yo-yos.

The movie was directed by Kenta Fukasaku, son of director Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, the Japanese portion of Tora! Tora! Tora!). He does a decent job with the flash, but when it comes to the substance he is betrayed by a scatter-shot script from SirLaosson Dara Shoichi Maruyama and mediocre (at best) performances. The screenplay is all over the place. It moves from point to point with no real direction or purpose, while chunks of it seem to be absent all together.

The teen performances are filled with flat angst. While stars like Aya Matsuura and Rika Ishikawa are cute they never convinced me as being full fledged characters. Riki Takeuchi, on the other hand, brings some class to the film as Kira. There is something about his on-screen charisma that feels genuine even in the middle of this nearly plotless exercise in style. He brings an emotional center to the movie as details for his involvement in the project come to light.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and the image looks quite good. The colors are all bright and crisp with nice separation. Nothing to complain about there. Audio is presented by both the original Japanese track and an English dub, both in Dolby Digital 5.1. The dub actually sounds halfway decent, although I will always prefer the original language with subtitles. It is interesting to note that there are a couple of scenes that were shot in English. These scenes feature Chinese subtitles that cannot be turned off.

Extras. There is a single featurette on the disk. It is an original Japanese behind the scenes featurette called Yo Yo Girl: Mission. It runs over 40 minutes and features plenty of set footage and interview clips covering a few aspects of the production. The original Japanese trailer is also included.

Bottom line. Superficial fun with little depth to be had. The final action set piece almost makes the whole worthwhile. It is definitely a fun watch even if it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Worth tossing in your Netflix queue for a little light entertainment.

Mildly Recommended.

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