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NOTE: Please be aware that this DVD is an import DVD from Hong Kong and is coded for Region 3 DVD players. In order to view this DVD, you'll have to have either a Region 3 coded or Region Free DVD player. It will not play in standard Region 1 North American DVD players.
Momoko (Kyoko Fukada) likes to dress up, Lolita style. For those unfamiliar with this uniquely Japanese fashion trend, it's a cross between old renaissance era French design, gothic culture, and a bit of sassiness. At any rate, her life hasn't been easy thus far, her mother left her right after she was born to run off with the doctor soon after her birth and her father is a crackpot thief who has been kicked out of the town they lived in for selling bootleg handbags. It's with her father and her crazy old grandmother (a strange old woman who sports an eye-patch) who Momoko has been living with for the last little while, in a small town out in the middle of nowhere.
Because of the downbeat area that she lives in and the dire circumstances that have put there, Momoko's mind tends to wander a bit and she spends a lot of time fantasizing about living in a different time and a different place – reflected in her style of dress, another characteristic that sets her apart from the locals. When, seemingly by chance, she meets a biker girl named Ichiko (Anna Tsuchiya), and the two become very fast (and very strange) friends. Once they become friends, their lives change forever and they set out to try and find their place in life.
From the opening scene, where Momoko gets plowed by a truck while cruising around on her scooter leading into a series of fast cutting flashbacks and historical bits and pieces, through to the ending of the movie, Kamikaze Girls is a really visually interesting piece of eye candy filled with some keen contrasts. Momoko and Ichiko both look totally out of place in the small, rural town where they meet and it's interesting to see them looking as they do, sporting very urban fashions, in what could easily be described as a slightly backwards community.
While the movie isn't heavy on either plot or character development, we get to know enough about the two girls that the movie works more often than not. Momoko in particular grows a bit during the events that unfold in the film and this is the strongest point of the movie – Fukada injects just enough cuteness into the role that it works really well, but is careful enough not to go so far as to make her character annoying (a mistake that would have been really easy to make). On the other hand, we have Tsuchiya as Ichiko, an unpredictable girl who might hug you and get your back in a stressful time or spit on you or head butt you just because she feels like it.
There's a randomness to the film that both helps it and hurts it at the same time. When the movie all of a sudden turns into a cartoon, it's a neat trick that gets the attention of your eyes, but also disrupts the flow of the storyline completely and it's actually a little bit jarring, no matter how fun the brief animated sequence might be. Moments like this, coupled with the editing, give Kamikaze Girls a very disjointed flow that, had it been a bit more fluid, would have made for a stronger movie.
That being said, there's still enough going on in here that is of worth to hold your attention and bring a genuine smile to your face. Momoko and Ichiko are quite likeable and it isn't hard to identify with the teenagers who don't necessarily fit in, as it's a universal theme that extends to all cultures.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pretty sharp and aside from some moderate line shimmering in a few scenes, Kamikaze Girls looks as good as you'd expect such a recent film to look. The colors look great, they're nice and bright and bold while the black levels stay strong and deep. There aren't any problems in terms of mpeg compression artifacts to complain about and only mild instances of edge enhancement are noticeable during playback. Print damage is a non-issue and aside from some spots where you might notice a natural looking amount of film grain, the image is crisp, clean, and clear.
The primary track on this release is a Japanese language DTS-ES 6.1 Surround Sound mix that makes excellent use of the rear channels and does a fine job all around with dialogue, music, and sound effects. Bass response is strong and lively while the performers come through with revealing clarity. Optional subtitles are available in both simplified and traditional Chinese, as well as in English. Aside from a few minor typos, the English subs are fine. An optional Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is also included, again, in Japanese.
Aside from menus and chapter selection, this release is completely barebones and contains no extra features whatsoever.
A visually impressive and genuinely funny, quirky foreign comedy gets a respectable but barebones release from Hong Kong's Widesight Entertainment. More extras are always nice, but the movie is completely charming and definitely worthwhile even without much in the way of supplements, making this release of Kamikaze Girls an easy recommendation.
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.