Saturday, September 27, 2008

NYAF: Machine Girl, Eventually

The Japan Society’s booth seemed a little out of place at this year’s New York Anime Festival. Evidently, they have an exhibition of bamboo art opening October fourth, but I am not sure how many of the costumed patrons will be showing up at Turtle Bay for that show. Friday night, there were plenty of kids wearing anime ears at the Javits Center—plenty of adults too. There were a lot of women dressed up as maids as well. Sometimes that was okay. Sometimes, not so much.

I have a hard time relating to all that so I thought I check out the screenings, figuring that would be familiar territory. Anime and manga can be a little weird, or at least what I sampled was. The live-action screening room was also serving up decidedly mixed fare. Like everyone else, I walked out of zero-budget alleged manga spoof that was truly unwatchable. The one thing I responded to (as a guilty pleasure) was Machine Girl (trailer here).

This is not exactly a lost Kurosawa film. It is basically girl in school uniform with large gun. If you are looking for a gory actioner this may actually exceed the bill. The plot is the basic vigilante story amped up on amphetamines. Ami is a terribly put-upon college student, but she can fight. Her parents committed suicide, unable to bear the shame of a false accusation of murder. Now Ami’s only family left in the world is her younger brother, Yu. When the vicious son of the ninja yakuza boss murders Yu and his friend, it sets Ami on a blood-spattered quest for vengeance. When captured by the yakuza, her arm is sliced off in a gruesome torture session. No worries, after escaping, the grieving parents of Yu’s friend mount a powerful machine gun in its place. Of course, once you have artillery for an appendage, you have to use it.

Machine is essentially the film Tarantino’s retro-exploitation movies want to be. People at the screening likened it to a Japanese Troma picture, and that is not far wrong. As Ami though, Minase Yashiro brings more humanity to the picture than is ever on display in Troma fare. Still, Machine is only about one thing: killing. Writer-director Noboru Iguchi never lets the lunacy slacken, showing the kind of frenetic energy and odd black humor that marked Sam Raimi’s early pictures. It is what it is.

NYAF continues throughout the weekend, with the Japan Society giving introductory lessons in Japanese on Sunday. I might possibly make it back for another report, but make no promises.