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Kamikaze Girls

A Somewhat Dynamic Duo…

Few friendships seem more unlikely than that of Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya) and Momoko (Kyoko Fukada). The latter seems fixated with 18th century France and her wardrobe often resembles a Lolita-esque Little Bo Peep. In stark contrast, Ichigo is a crass, Joan Jett wannabe who rides a suped up moped. However, it is their shared status as outsiders that acts as the adhesive for this unlikely union.

Tetsuya Nakashima's Kamikaze Girls follows the wacky adventures of Ichigo and Momoko. A hit in Japan, the movie won numerous awards. In a culture that so frequently promotes adherence to norms and the virtue associated with blending in, it's easy to see why a film like Kamikaze Girls would resonate with audiences. Ichigo and Momoko are certainly not sheep, openly expressing their individuality.

Nakashima infuses the visuals of Kamikaze Girls with a similarly distinctive style. Word balloons pop up periodically reflecting the whimsical inner monologues of various characters. Stylized animations are interjected throughout the film underscoring the comic book flavor to the film. Nakashima's techniques bear more than a passing resemblance to the work of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. What violence does exist in the film is so stylized; it's hard to take seriously.

Kamikaze Girls is a wonderful dose of eye candy, but there isn't much else to it. Nakashima's dazzling visual style wears thin as the narrative effectively goes nowhere. While both Ichigo and Momoko are outsiders, it becomes unclear what either of them really wants out of life or their friendship. Without clear motives, the story careens from one seemingly disjointed event to another.

Fortunately, the lack of a clear narrative thread is somewhat offset by the solid performances of Kyoko Fukada and Anna Tsuchiya. Fukada plays the wide-eyed, daydreaming Momoko. Envisioning herself displaced in time, Fukada brings a convincing naiveté and innocence to her performance. Conversely, Tsuchiya brings a curt and sneering energy to her humorous performance as Ichigo. Clearly a fan of Joan Jett and Billy Idol, Tsuchiya seems to be channeling both at various times during the film.

Despite the entertaining visual style and well-executed performances of Tsuchiya and Fukada, Nakashima fails to elevate Kamikaze Girls beyond mediocre by not complementing the aforementioned with a clear and compelling narrative. While Kamikaze Girls doesn't make you want to sacrifice yourself, it could have been better.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars