Sukeban BoyReviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 09/04/08 00:31:01
(Worth A Look)
Ah, the Japanese. So stately, so repressed, so secretly perverse. The same country that gave us Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi has also given us Miike, Tsukamoto, and now Noboru Iguchi, who gained internet notoriety earlier this year with the ferociously over-the-top "The Machine Girl." Prior to that, though, Iguchi squeezed out the amiable turd known as "Sukeban Boy."This is the sort of movie in which two schoolgirls, one of whom is actually a boy (yeah, more on that in a bit), have the following exchange: "Do you really love me?" "Yes, I do. But I can only express my love through fighting you. Now we can fight naked, fair and square." Sukeban Boy, based on a Go Nagai manga (which also inspired some anime), looks to these eyes like either a prankish piss-take on the Japanese "pinky violence" subgenre or a no-budget example of it — I don't really feel qualified to make the call. It luxuriates in the spectacle of breasts, especially breasts with deadly force; and if you've seen The Machine Girl, you know a phrase like "breasts with deadly force" makes a dizzy sort of sense in the context of Noboru Iguchi.
Porn starlet (and Iguchi regular) Asami is the girlish boy Suke Banj (or Sukeban), who beats himself up trying to render his features more masculine. He gets in trouble at school all the time, so his twisted father (who has some sort of polymorphous-perverse incestuous fixation on him) makes him dress like a girl and go to an all-girls school. There Sukeban must confront various girl gangs as well as a budding lesbian schoolgirl (Emiru Momose) who's never met a girl quite like Sukeban before. There's enough genderfuck here for five movies, and Iguchi ups the ante with various bodily mutations — breasts or leg stumps that fire bullets, syringes full of potent fluid that can make boys grow breasts and girls grow dicks, and so forth. In the universe of Sukeban Boy, sexual and gender identity is cartoonishly fluid; it's all part of the movie's anything-for-a-gag spirit.
Just north of an hour long, the movie doesn't risk overstaying its slapdash welcome, as The Machine Girl almost did through the sheer repetition of its arterial showers. Sukeban Boy isn't nearly as violent, and it has the amateur-hour feel of a fan film, but Iguchi — who has a background in porn as well as horror — clearly has an appetite for excess, and such touches as two topless schoolgirls getting into a slap-fight with their breasts or our hero(ine) triumphing over an adversary with a well-timed fart indicate a director who's going to have fun if it kills us. To hell with dignity and honor; to Iguchi, the human vessel itself is a toy, a joke, a launching pad for gore or embarrassment (there's a seemingly endless sequence with several schoolgirls in various degrees of undress squealing "I'm so humiliated! I'm dying of shame! Don't look at me!").As if we could look away. On one level, Iguchi is simply the latest schlock director to discover that sex and violence make a pretty damn lucrative combo platter. Underneath it, though, is something weirder and perhaps deeper that I can't quite pin down yet (I'd love to see some of his other efforts). That Iguchi employs Tsukamoto-style body-mod consciousness for sophomoric laughs doesn't invalidate what he's doing; it just makes it that much more subversive.
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