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Yo-Yo Girl Cop

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 07/21/07 18:27:51

"When Schoolgirls Attack!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

The movie is called “Yo-Yo Girl Cop,” and it tells the story of a juvenile delinquent who’s hired by a secret branch of the government, for whom she goes undercover to uncover a terrorist plot. When not kicking and punching the bad guys, she knocks them out with her yo-yo. So, yeah, this movie is all sorts of awesome.

It’s the latest adaptation of the popular manga series “Sukeban Deka,” which told the adventures of Asamiya Saki, yo-yo wielding special agent school girl. Previously seen on TV, movies, and a popular OVA series, the franchise had been dormant since the early 1990s. “Yo-Yo Girl Cop” (the original Japanese title is “Sukeban Deka: Code Name Asamiya Saki”) revives the series with a kick: Asamiya Saki is a fake name handed down to a long line of badass teen girls, all of whom have been recruited “La Femme Nikita” style.

For this film, our Saki, played by pop singer Aya Matsuura, is the daughter of a former agent - the first “sukeban deka.” The daughter’s been arrested in New York, and gruff cop Kazutoshi Kira (Riki Takeuchi) offers a deal: return to Japan and help solve a high school mystery, and the mother, who’s been arrested on trumped-up charges, will be set free.

The case? An underground website called “Enola Gay” has been teaching teens how to build bombs and commit suicide. Recently, a countdown appeared on the site - but a countdown to what? All clues lead to a single high school, and the newly-named Saki has just three days to do the Jumpstreet thing, solve the mystery, and save the day.

What follows is a zany mix of tongue-in-cheek action and teen melodrama. The combination makes for some schizophrenic viewing, as one minute we’re exploring the dark corners of teen suicide, the next we’re watching our heroine zip herself up in a catsuit to bust some chops against a leather-clad vixen. Which admittedly undermines the movie’s intended serious side (playing in a way like a modern day “Pump Up the Volume,” the film exposes a broken system in which teachers turn a blind eye toward the violence within the school; bullying and suicide are treated at times with an intense sincerity), as it’s tough to take the movie’s solemn messages to heart when the movie itself would rather be piling on the admittedly goofy action sequences.

And yet the drama still connects in an action-movie-shallowness kind of way, while the cast (which also includes another pop star, Rika Ishikawa of Morning Musume and v-u-den, as the bitchy villain) balances the film’s somber themes and snappy attitudes fairly well. Of course, the whole thing works best when playing out as something of a live-action cartoon, with director Kenta Fukasaku (“Battle Royale II”) delivering some gloriously insane fight sequences. The story, which grows increasingly convoluted as we approach the finale, never gets away from him; despite the movie’s many insane twists and grand mood swings, Fukasaku maintains a tight focus on the proceedings.

So while “Yo-Yo Girl Cop” strains the limits of logic and sanity, it does so with an impish grin. After all, what’s not to love about catfights, teenage secret agents, and slo-mo yo-yo action?

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