Noboru Iguchi has made a name for himself in cult film circles with his deliriously over the top pictures. Movies like Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police, in which he teamed up with effects wizard Yoshihiro Nishimura, were a lot of good, gory, exploitative fun and had just enough humor behind them to ensure that their bizarre premises' worked well enough. Enter Robo Geisha, one of his more recent offerings, and sadly, while it has much in common with his earlier pictures, it lacks the same sort of kinetic energy that made them what they were and it sort of feels like here he's simply going through the motions.
This film tells the story of two sisters, Yoshie (Aya Kiguchi) and Kikue (Hitomi Hasebe), who have been orphans for some time now. Kikue, the seemingly prettier one of the pair, is in training to become a geisha while her sister is left to do all of her dirty work and constantly belittled for it. This all changes when Hikaru Kageno (Takumi Saitoh), one of Kikue's clients, takes an interest in Yoshie and after seeing her martial arts skills, decides that she may be of value to the weapons company that he runs with his father (Taro Shigaki).
It turns out that this company, Kageno Steel, has been behind a long running secret plan to kidnap innocent girls and turn them into surgically augmented robotic war machines and that Yoshie is next on the list of people to receive that treatment. They change her body into something as deadly as it is pretty, and attempt to brainwash her into becoming one of their machines. Yoshie, however, isn't like the other girls who have been 'enhanced' so far and rejects the brainwashing tactics, eventually going rogue and getting revenge for what was done to her against her will. Kikue, too, has undergone the same sort of treatment, however - and her machine gun tits are ready for action!
The plot definitely lends itself to all manner of excuse to get gory, sexy and trashy but can't really bothered to do too much of any of that. There's some scantily clad girls here and there, some with phallus' on their noses and over their nipples and sure, those same phallic nipples squirt acidic breast milk when needed, but the movie never even tries to hit the same heights of glorious gore and fucked up body modification effects work that has made some of Iguchi's other films as popular as they are. Working with an obviously low budget, as is typical of his output, it seems like this one was just phoned in. The effects set pieces, which are rendered almost entirely in CGI, albeit fairly creative (if completely unrealistic) CGI, lack the punch that his earlier work had. There's nothing really shocking here, nothing that will make you gasp or question why you're watching what you're watching. Instead, there are a few mildly provocative characters and some interesting ideas (a buzz saw mouth that comes out of one robotic character early on is kind of neat) but nothing that really stands out.
The first half hour or so of the film is poorly paced, this despite a strong opening attack sequence, but the movie does manage to pick up steam in the later half, once the revenge cycle sets in. The film owes more than a few nods to Robocop for inspiration and borrowed plot points, so if you've seen that movie a lot of this will seem oddly familiar. Entertaining enough in spots, rather dull in others, Robo Geisha never really takes off.
Robo Geisha was released on Blu-ray a few months ago in the UK, and the transfer on this release appears to be identical to that one. The film was shot on high definition video and the AVC encoded 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p presentation showcases the movie in its original aspect ratio. The image is as clean as you'd expect though it has a very artificial look at times, no thanks to the goofy CGI that is used throughout the movie. This actually works in the context of the world where the film takes place, however - the movie isn't going for realism, it doesn't want or need to. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts to note, and black levels are generally strong and deep. Contrast is properly set and while it doesn't take an eagle-eyed viewer to notice periodic instances of banding and aliasing, these problems are minor and overall this is quite a good transfer of some screwy looking source material.
Audio options are supplied in Japanese language Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with optional subtitles available in English only. The Japanese track is a decent one but obviously limited in rage compared to the 5.1 mix. Aside from that, the mix sounds pretty decent. Dialogue is well balanced as are effects and the film's score. As far as the English track goes, there's some good, strong directionality here that makes some of the combat scenes more interesting than they would be otherwise but this is still primarily a front heavy mix. The quality of the dub is okay, but the original Japanese language track definitely suits the film better than the English track does.
The main extra is a short film entitled Geishacop: Fearsome Geisha Corps--Go to Hell (16:51, in HD) which picks up where the feature left off. At fifteen minutes long it doesn't over stay its welcome and it's done very much in the same spirit of the feature - that being wacky and violent above all else. Aside from that, look for a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Funimation releases, animated menus and chapter stops.
Funimation's Blu-ray looks very good and contains a reasonably strong audio mix even if it is light on extras - though the inclusion of the short film is a nice bonus (and one which wasn't on the Cine Asia UK Blu-ray release). As to the movie itself? It's nowhere near as outrageous and shocking as it wants to be and it pales in comparison to Iguchi's earlier and more interesting films. It's quirky enough and amusing enough that it's worth a look if you're a fan of his style of filmmaking ,but those expecting the levels of excess he's known for will surely be disappointed by this tamer, much more restrained effort. Rent it.
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.