Tuesday, October 26, 2010

VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL (2009)

EPIC WIN. Either I am becoming an old softy or the makers of wacky Japanese gore exercises are getting quite good at their endeavors. Whereas THE MACHINE GIRL was a dire drag, as scintillating as a simple machine like a lever or pulley, VAMPIRE GIRL is a full-on, ripping, smoke-gushing killdozer of a smile-bringing machine.
Leave it to the Japanese to adopt material that TWILIGHT left broken in a gutter, tweak the gender roles, mix in some eleventy million gallons of blood, and then crib a smidge of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and make a masterwork. Transfer student Monami gives a chocolate to longhair broody boy Jyugon, but with a surprise at the center! Turns out that Monami is a vampire. Which would be striking in itself, but it also turns out that the nebbish physics teacher is really the mad-scientist heir of Dr. Frankenstein, bent on reanimating dead bodies parts. Vampire blood makes a great lubricant of life. And we now have a movie!
The subplots are a main course in themselves. If you know something of Japanese (sub)cultures, you will have a day in the field with this one. Ganguro girls show up, sure to be mistaken as blackfaced minstrels by Western viewers, especially after the virulent racism on display (one of them carries a spear and they shout, "Yes we can!" while banging on bongos). Racism doesn't start or stop with that scene, of course, as proven by the Chinese teacher with the Fu Manchu mustache and iron lungs from breathing Chinese air pollution (he also devotes an entire class to THE GRUDGE; I have repeat-viewed this scene like ten times; "don't interrupt the lesson or you'll be cursed..."). There are also Lolitas and (cringingly, hilariously) a society of depresso-girls practicing wrist-slashing, leading up to a wrist-cutting competition between schools(!).
Amazingly, in spite of all this madness, VAMPIRE GIRL has compelling characters and is basically a love story at bottom, albeit with the traditional roles reversed (which is pretty striking, given traditional Japanese culture). To be honest, I'd started to think that vampires had been debased beyond all help, but if more depictions like this show up, we might be entering a golden age of golden vampires. TEAM MONAMI!

#27 of 31.

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