Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Go Nagai x Noboru Iguchi = Terrible in a way I'm finding hard to comprehend

Sukeban Boy is Noboru Iguchi adapting an old Go Nagai manga that'd previously been animated, and actually released here by ADV as Delinquent in Drag. The ADV title sums it up-- it's about a bull-headed fightin' dude who looks like a lady, and ends up being forced to embrace the gender role thrust upon him and transferring to an all-girls' school where he saves time by making his rivals double as his harem. This was made about two years before Machine Girl, and it looks like Iguchi improved an awful lot in the interim. It was also shot in about five days, which explains much but excuses nothing. Let's list this movie's many fatal flaws, any one of which would be crippling, but the congruence of which scuppers the movie entirely.

Fatal flaw number one: Some things that work in comics just don't work in live action. Everyone knows skintight superhero costumes somehow seem unremarkable drawn on the page, but just make you look like Tron Guy in real life. Apparently sleazotron Go Nagai get-ups have the same effect. All through this movie I could totally see how nonsense like loinclothed sanskrit-covered nuns, bottomless football girls, and topless desperadoes could look sort of interesting as an illustration, but dressing actual people like that is even more awkward and off-putting than it sounds. No, even weirder than you're thinking. The bad cosplay kind of weird. No amount of skin can save that.

Which leads us to fatal flaw the second: If you only cast porno actresses in your movie, that means your movie has all the great acting porn is renowned for. While doing Go Nagai full justice requires some fearless ladies, I think he might be better served by making a movie that doesn't pain you every time someone speaks. They do at least cast the cutest girl and best actress as the lead, but in this movie "best actress" means "can actually change her facial expression". Asami kinda stole the show as the thug mechanic in Machine Girl, and her hammy double drag act is the one thing making this watchable at all, but it's definitely not worth suffering through everyone else's performance.

The acting in this movie is actually SO bad it occasionally busts through the fourth wall into something sublime. It's kind of amusing when the lead can't keep herself from cracking a smile during a particularly weak "fight scene", but we reach a certain kind of awesome badness when three of the only four men in the movie get mowed down by bullet-firing cyborg nipples (don't ask), and halfway through they give up on using blood squibs and just have the guys START PLAYFULLY THROWING FAKE BLOOD AT EACH OTHER to symbolically represent their deaths. The obvious fun they're having making the movie finally manages to bleed through and reach the viewer in a way the thing they actually made is totally incapable of, but after that it's back to shitty business as usual.

The third fatal flaw is that this movie is cheap, cheap, cheap. It's almost literally shot in someone's backyard, and I was honestly shocked when I saw someone was credited for the two Casio keyboard loops they dare call background music. My personal hero Yoshihiro Nishimura does provide the occasional special effect, but it's more telling that he also shows up a couple times as an extra, and apparently donated the use of his house to film in.

The US DVD doesn't help matters, with a feisty but sloppy translation that can't even be bothered to get the director's name right. I will give them props for at least attempting to sub the credits, given the depressing number of DVD releases that don't bother at all. They also pull one of my favorite moves, translating dialogue in the trailer differently than in the full movie, and this one is super egregious; the film version is like half transliterated or some shit:

Sukeban Boy is not recommended to anyone, no matter how perverse or masochistic-- any enjoyment that can be derived by spending the hour to watch it is more efficiently gained by the director's own four minute Sukeban Boy WTF Remix, which is on the disc as an extra and I can't quite believe hasn't been dumped to YouTube yet. The commentary track is surprisingly amusing, but I can't imagine anyone besides me hating themselves enough to sit through this more than once.

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