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  Robo-Geisha Sushi serving cyborg revenge!
Year: 2009
Director: Noboru Iguchi
Stars: Aya Kiguchi, Hitomi Hasebe, Shoko Nakahara, Naoto Takenaka, Asami, Takumi Saito, Suzuki Matsuo, Cay Izumi, Kentaro Shimazu, Yuya Ishikawa, Etsuko Ikuta, Demo Tanaka, Asami Kumakiri, Taro Shigaki
Genre: Horror, Action, Science Fiction, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: When a high-ranking politician is targeted by sexy ninja vixens, Yoshie (Aya Kiguchi) the Robo-Geisha swings to action. Armed with death-dealing gadgets like wig napalm, butt blades and killer-cleaver socks, she kicks their scantily-clad butts and leaves the men flabbergasted. “Who are you?” inquires the aspiring prime minister. Whereupon Yoshie narrates her origin story in flashback. As an apprentice geisha, Yoshie suffers cruelly at the hands of her bullying big sister Kikue (Hitomi Hasebe) until smooth-talking Hikaru (Takumi Saito) enters their lives. He and his billionaire industrialist father (Taro Shigaki) are plotting a right-wing coup d’etat against the Japanese government and kidnap both girls for their all-girl army of scantily-clad assassins. The feuding siblings are forced to fight each other for the honour of being top girl. When Yoshie emerges the unexpected winner it fuels a series of tit for tat escalations, as the sisters augment their killing skills with cybernetic surgery. As unstoppable Robo-Geishas they set about eliminating their targets, until Yoshie has a crisis of conscience…

Back in the Nineties, ultra-low budget filmmakers like Takao Nakano made a string of outrageous fantasy/horror/action/sex-and-splatter-spoofs aimed directly at fans and often sold via mail-order. This otaku subculture has since gone mainstream and international, resulting in much slicker, bigger-budgeted efforts pitched at English cult film enthusiasts with a taste for Japanese wackiness - the sicker, the better. Since scoring big with The Machine Girl (2008), writer-director, editor, cinematographer and sometime actor Noboru Iguchi has emerged the biggest name in this field amassing a prolific array of horror, sci-fi action and soft-core porn titles to his credit and even lending his skills to friends’ films including Tokyo Gore Police (2008).

Iguchi’s films sometimes strain to hard to seem “cultish” mixing campy humour with hardcore gore and soft-core sexual perversity, though there is less of that in Robo-Geisha aside from the stimulating sight of lingerie models - including Asami, co-star of Machine Girl as one of the mutant ninja girls - swinging swords while striking cover girl poses. What lifts them above their nearest American equivalents, namely Troma trash atrocities is that the acting is of a surprisingly high standard and Iguchi himself is a gifted stylist. He harbours an obvious affection for the innocent joys of the “tokkusatsu” (effects-driven superhero) pictures from the Seventies and the not-so-innocent gore movies of the 1980s, e.g. Entrails of a Virgin (1986). Iguchi’s oddly light-hearted, Hanna-Barbera cartoon style makes the ultra-violence a little more palatable, with only one faintly misogynistic misstep when a ninja schoolgirl is stabbed in the arse and squirts blood from her anus. At one point Iguchi pokes fun at his own movie's bloodthirstiness by having buildings stomped by a giant super-robot spurt fountains of blood.

Easier to like than Machine Girl, Robo-Geisha doles out very broad, very silly gags that are nevertheless genuinely amusing and parody both geisha culture and the po-faced melodramatics of Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). The sick set-pieces rifle through a back catalogue of campy Japanese cult movies, with the acid breast milk gag stolen from In Bed with the Enemy (1976) the movie that spawned the popular Female Ninjas: Magic Chronicles films of the 1990s, and the usual machinegun breasts jokes that are fast becoming clichéd. Yet no matter how ridiculous things get, Iguchi gives the film an emotional backbone in the form of the sisterly conflict between Yoshie and Kikue which is resolved in a uniquely lyrical, if bio-mechanically perverse way.

Given that anyone who kidnaps young women to remould them into ninja-cyborgs is unlikely to be a nice guy, the big plot twist comes as no surprise to anyone except Yoshie. However, her encounter with the “Take-Back Family Group” (including veteran character actor Naoto Takenaka) - who explain their motives via an hilarious guitar-strumming sing-along - blossoms into an engaging subplot about loving family trying to rescue young people from heartless corporations intent on turning them into mindless automatons. When father and son corporate villains offer a false apology to the outraged seniors, you cannot help but recall all those shamed tycoons doing the same to the Japanese public during the global financial crisis. Iguchi gets carried away during the climactic slaughter, but genre fans will relish the traditional man-in-a-suit effects when a castle transforms into a rampaging super-robot intent on planting a bomb in Mount Fuji.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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