Sukeban Deka started out as a manga in the seventies, morphed into a popular television show in the eighties, and then once the nineties rolled around, morphed again into a feature film. The premise? Cute Japanese schoolgirls fight crime with yo-yos!
Asamiya Saki (Minamino Yoko) is doing her best to finish up her education at her high school. She hopes to get into college and lead the kind of life that most teenage girls want when they approach that age range. As luck would have it, however, her life is to be anything but normal as she and her friends discover that a reform school in Tokyo isn't training the kids to be productive members of society or to find a place in the work force, instead the principal is training them to become commandos whom he hopes to use in his plan to over throw the government!
Asamiya and her pals decide that they have to free the kids from the brainwashing inflicted upon them before it's too late and so off they go to save the day. Unfortunately once their plan is set into motion, they realize that for some of the students it is already to late and that they're willing to fight to the death to protect their principal. It all leads up to the inevitable showdown in which the girls square off against the principal and his elite guard of drone solider students in a battle for the lives of the entire student populace.
This movie probably make a lot more sense if you've seen the television shows that it has been spun off of, but even as a stand alone film and going in without any knowledge of the source material whatsoever, the movie isn't too difficult to follow. We do learn enough about Asamiya and her pals through a couple of flashback scenes (most importantly that it is their past as juvenile delinquents that finds them having to work for a secret part of the police department as crime fighters) to understand who they are and what it is that they do, though a little more exposition would have gone a long way. At it's core, it's simply a superhero film but rather than a buff guy in tights fighting crime it's a teenager girl with a few of her friends and a yo-yo. Other than that, the principals are more or less the same – exaggerated abilities, a vile villain with evil intent, and plenty of over the top action highlighted by a scene in which one of the girls obliterates a military helicopter using only her yo-yo skills!
The performances are just as loopy as the story itself. The leader of the military group is completely over the top and he makes hams like Riki Takeuchi look restrained by comparison. He's vicious and evil and prone to dramatic turns, which makes his character a lot of fun. Minamino Yoko is completely adorable in her role, and she brings the right mix of sex appeal and an innocent-but-maybe-not-so-innocent personality to her character that helps what is otherwise a completely ridiculous idea for a movie.
Considerably bloodier and more violent than you might expect, Sukeban Deka is still a lot of fun. It's completely 'pop' in its execution, much more so than a lot of comic book adaptations tend to be. It's a colorful film that has a nice mix of action and humor that is an entertaining watch regardless of how goofy the whole idea behind it might be.
Sukeban Deka: The Movie is presented in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer which appears to preserve the original aspect ratio of the film as there isn't any obvious cropping or matting issues to note. Quality on this transfer isn't bad. The image is pretty stable and while there is some moderate aliasing present and some mild print damage in spots, color reproduction is decent and for the most part the picture is pretty clean. Black levels stay fairly strong and detail levels are average or slightly above average. Not a reference quality release, but good quality over all.
The Japanese language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is of reasonably decent quality and it does come complete with optional English language subtitles that are clean, clear, easy to read and free of any typographical errors. In terms of quality, this is about on par with the video transfer in that it's fine even if it isn't exceptional. Dialogue is clean there are only one or two instances where you'll note any background hiss (and even then you need to be looking for it). Range is obviously limited by this gets the job done without any glaring problems.
There's not a ton of extra features on here but Media Blasters have supplied the original trailer for the movie and a brief behind the scenes documentary that features some interesting on set footage and a few really basic interviews with a few of the participants. There's also decent still gallery provided.
While hardly a classic, Sukeban Deka: The Movie is a fun time killer. The girls are cute, the action is ridiculous and the movie is entertaining enough that it's worth a rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.