Bakuretsu mashin shôjo – bâsuto mashin gâru [Rise of the Machine Girls] (2019)

Bakuretsu mashin shôjo – bâsuto mashin gâru
Director: Yûki Kobayashi
Writer: Yûki Kobayashi, Jun Tsugita
Based on: characters created by Noboru Iguchi for The Machine Girl
Cast: Himena Tsukimiya, Kanon Hanakage, Tak Sakaguchi, Toshie Negishi, Rie Kitahara
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020

Content Note: sexism, ableism

Ami (Himena Tsukimiya) and her sister Yoshie (Kanon Hanakage) struggle to get along. They earn their living by performing acrobatics together, hoping to stave of having to sell more body parts to Dharma Corp. What Ami doesn’t know is that after hourse, Yoshie exchanges her prosthetic arm for a machine gun and fights for justice on the streets. When assassin Tetsuya (Tak Sakaguchi) comes to watch their show around the same time that Yoshie’s campaign starts to strike very close to the heart of Dharma Corp, things start to become dangerous for all of them.

Rise of the Machine Girls makes a very clear case for one thing: movies of its kind seem to have run their course. This particular subgenre (I will dub it “out of control Japanese movies” for now) is in dire need of fresh material. Or at least Rise of the Machine Girls is.

The film poster showing the main characters, all armed, in front of a bright pink background.

“Out of control Japanese movies” are a staple feature of the SLASH Filmfestival and as a festival regular, I’ve seen quite a few of them. And I have to admit that I’ve started to grow a bit tired of them – they rarely bring anything new to the table, instead they seem to amp up the sexism in their attempts to be funny. Rise of the Machine Girls is, unfortunately, no exception here.

Despite its short runtime, the film feels mostly stale. I think the main problem – apart from the sexism and ableism that was so out there that I could barely stand it – was that I just didn’t feel any connection with any of the characters here. Without that emotional charge, the film is just an amalgation of more or less random action scenes – that didn’t impress me all that much.

Ami (Himena Tsukimiya) aiming her machine gun arm.

The film does have some nice ideas. It actually had me laughing at the “sell your body parts” advertisement. And I did like the serious, albeit bleak core of the setting where things are so out of balance that the poor have to sell their body parts and/or their children just to survive.

But overall the film was mostly disconnected (from itself and from the audience) nonsense that came nowhere close to the leve of fun it obviously wanted to be – and that I hoped for.

Ami (Himena Tsukimiya) aiming her machine gun arm.

Summarizing: fell flat.

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