Japanese cult TV show thread

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Post by grim_tales »

She looks cute and sweet :)
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Post by HungFist »

I made a mistake in the review. Corrected now. Izumi did not air the same time as Rebellion League. The weeks and times were correct (thurdsay evening 19:30), but the year was wrong (Rebellion 1986, Izumi 1987).
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Sukeban Deka III: Romance of the Ninja Girls (1986-1987)

After the iconic pop-culture fusion Sukeban Deka II: Legend of the Girl in the Iron Mask (1985-1986) Toei and Fuji TV faced an impossible challenge; how to equal the preceding series? During the show’s run Yoko Minamino had became one of the biggest idols of all time. Her shoes would not be filled easily by just anyone... except ninja. Yes, in Sukeban Deka III teenage ninja girls walk in school uniform and battle masked assasins on the streets of modern Tokyo.

Yui Kazama - played by the supercute Yui Asaka - is a hyper-energetic countryside girl know as the Great Sukeban of Kyushu (Asaka’s real real life home before she became an idol), raised by her ninja master uncle. She is sent to Tokyo to meet her sisters Yuka (Yuka Onishi) and Yuma (Yuma Nakamura) who are the leading sukebans in their school... and also members ninja family. The legends says that when time is ready it is the Kazama family that must defend Japan in an epic battle between good and evil. Lead by a mysterious Hannya-masked ninja, the three sisters begin their fight.

The first two Sukeban Deka shows concentrated on modern day pop-culture. The third series finds its inspiration in ninja legends. The currupt high school principals are gone, and now almost every villain dresses in black, arms with knives, and walks on rooftops. A special mention must be given to the kabuki-masked martial arts devil making his first appearance in episode 5. Although his face is not revealed in this episode, Toei fans should be quick to recognize him from voice as he is one of most famous Toei villains of the 1970s...

While the previous sukeban fighters were never quite up to the physical requirements of the role, Yui, Yuma and Yuka succeed rather well in their roles. Asaka’s yo-yo art is the most impressive seen in any of the three shows, and Nakamura’s way trapping enemies with knitting needles and wire is yet another original fighting method. But by far most impressive is Oshishi’s combination of metal crane shuriken and crane style kung fu that occasionally puts weaker martial arts movies into shame. As far as performances go Nakamura and Onishi both fare well but obviously pale in comparison to Sagara and Yoshizawa of the previous series. Asaka on the other hand is brilliant; very funny and endlessly charming, without trying to copy anything from her predecessors.

Asaka was the youngest of the three Sukeban Dekas. Unlike Saito and Minamino who were 18, Asaka was only 16 years old when the show started. This was also taken into consideration in the screenplay. When she introduced herself she said ”Kazama Yui, class B1”, rather than B2 like the other two sukeban dekas (Nanno actually proceeded to B3 during the second show’s course). Like her predecessors, she was given the code name Asamiya Saki, but she didn’t use it very often. A cover identity was not really needed against ninjas, and most of ger enemies knew her identity anyway.

Yui also performs on the series’ pitch perfect soundtrack together with Nakamura and Onishi. While perhaps not as big stars as the leads of the second show, Asaka, Nakamura and Onishi almost exceed the previous show with their brilliant pop songs. Former Onyanko Satomi Fukunaga – who plays a supporting role in the series – is also heard on the soundtrack. She is responsible for the first of the five theme songs. Ichiro Nitta also delivers his usual terrific score.

The only real weakness comes during the last 10 episodes. After bringing the epic story to mythical dimensions, the screenwriters are struck by an overly strong urge to re-imagine the Star Wars trilogy. This doesn’t feel a very natural move after so succcesfully building on Japanese pop culture legends and ninja mythology. This setback doesn’t wreck the show, but it does prevent if from becoming the very best Sukeban Deka show. Nevertheless, Sukeban Deka III is an unforgettable and completely unique piece of television history.

Toei has split split Sukeban Deka III over 9 dvds. Included are the 42 episodes (minus episode 31, which is found on the Sukeban Deka Compilation dvd) plus a 75 minute special episode that was originally broadcasted between episodes 21 and 22. This special episode is a side story featuring the characters from the series, plus guest star Kazue Ito as a female commando. She’s not as convincing as you might hope. The fore mentioned Toei villain also makes his second appearance in this episode.

The picture and audio quality are very good, far above the first series. Extras are the same as before; 8 page booklets with each dvd (featuring cast and crew interviews) and very brief character profiles. The last volume also includes a short and very cheesy English language trailer for the series. ”The most exciting story! Super Ninja Girls.” And as with the previous two shows, be sure to track down the first press of Volume 1 to ensure the collector’s box set.

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Post by HungFist »

Screencaps

The great (and goofy) sukeban of Kyushu
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Yui's uncle gives her a protective cloth to wear under her seifuku
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Yui rushes to meet Yuka and Yuma... who are a bit shocked...
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... because such countryside idiot of a sister won't do any good for their city sukeban reputation
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Sisters armed. Yuma onee-chan uses crochet needles. Yuka onee-chan uses metal cranes.
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They are a bit dangerous.
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Onyanko #11, Satomi Fukunaga. Her library is full of ninja books and weapons guides.
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The mysterious Hannya
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Last edited by HungFist on 28 May 2009, 01:11, edited 1 time in total.
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Screencaps 2

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Last edited by HungFist on 02 Dec 2009, 15:51, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by HungFist »

Did I mention Yui is the cutest Sukeban Deka?
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But don't make the grave mistake of thinking she's not dangerous
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Post by HungFist »

As mentioned in the review, there’s plenty of great music in the show. The following songs from the leading stars are featured.

Satomi Fukunaga
Heart no Ignition (ハートの Ignition) (closing theme for episodes 1-8 )

Yui Asaka
Star (closing theme for episodes 9-21)
Hitomi ni Storm (瞳に Storm) (closing theme for episodes 22-31)
Niji no Dreamer (虹のドリーマー) (closing theme for episodes 32-37)

Yuka Onishi
Shadow Hunter (シャドウ・ハンター)
Chance wa Ichido dake (チャンスは一度だけ)
Kanashimi no Shangrila (哀しみのシャングリラ)

Yuma Nakamura
Dilemma (ジレンマ)
Severe (シビアー)
Panic (パニック)

Yui, Yuka & Yuma
Remember

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Here is a guide to Sukeban Deka soundtrack releases.
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Post by HungFist »

As you might know, Japanese actresses are blog crazy. And Yuma's blog is a small goldmine. Here's some pictures from the blog (they are on the last few pages... sorry no direct links because the page numbers keep changing constantly as new posts are being made). (EDIT: she started a new blog just a few days ago. You can find the link on her website)

Yuma, Yui, Yuka (2004.07.02)
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Yui, Yuma, Yuka (2005.12.2)
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Yui, Yuka, Yuma, and Yuma’s baby (2007.05.31)
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Yuka also has a blog. I don't think Yui has a blog, but she does have a website.

Yui also gave birth to a baby girl back in 2007. She’s back in business now, though, with new single released earlier this month. In the early 2000s and late 1990s she was quite active in TV dramas, and also released a couple of singles. In the mid 90’s she has a few year break from acting and singing, during which is actually caused a small scandal when it was announced that she will appear in a photobook titled Fake Love, by Nobuyoshi Araki, a photographer known for his erotic photos. Yui actually didn’t do any nude photos, the book was released under her real name, Aki Kawasaki, but false rumors preceding the release, and the publicity it gained, caused her to stop using her artist name ”Yui Asaka” for a few years. This name was actually given to her by a girls comic book company that chose Yui (well, Aki) from 16 000 applicants to be the hero of their girls manga. This was in 1984, before Yui made her final break through with Sukeban Deka and then followed it with a number of successful albums such as Candid Girl (1998) and a hit film Yawara, a Fashionable Judo Girl (1989).

There you go, the world’s first mini-biography told in reverse order.

Here's a picture of Nanno stepping down from being a Sukeban Deka.
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And the same a year before, when it was Saito's time to make way for Nanno.
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For more great pictures check this great site. Also, I think it's time I give credit to Verne Innhel and his terrific idol site and Sukeban Deka guide.
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Sukeban Deka Compilation DVD

Sukeban Deka Compilation dvd, which preceded Toei’s actual Sukeban Deka dvd releases, features the three episodes that are missing from the other dvds. These are series 1 episode 26, series 2 episode 29, and series 3 episode 31. These are best bits compilations of earlier episodes, so you’re not missing any story if you skip these episodes. However, at 2800 yen it’s a good purchase for a fan. Not owing it would also leave a dvd size gap in the first series box set.

The first episode is the most valuable as it features some new footage. It takes place in Saki's school where she thinks she’s being tailed. Most of the running time consists of old clips from the series, but there's a great new scene of Saki with a cute puppy. So, this pretty much makes this dvd a must buy. Also, the ending plays a slightly longer version of Saito’s great theme song.

Episode 29 only features a few seconds of new footage. The ending credits are also different, and play on top of footage from the series. Episode 31 follows the same pattern, except that there is no new footage at all. Overall, I don’t think these episodes are as good as compilations as they could be.

Also included are the original previews for these episodes. Since the normal Sukeban Deka volumes skip these compilation episodes, Toei also removed the special episode previews from those dvds and replaced them with the preview of the next featured episode. Audio and video quality on this dvd is not as good as on the rest of the dvds.

S1 EP26
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S2 EP29
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S3 EP31

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Sukeban Deka: The Movie (1987)

It’s ironic that Sukeban Deka’s movie versions have been widely distributed in the west, while the TV shows - that are essential for understanding the films - have never been brought outside Asia. On the other hand, yo-yo armed schoolgirls that are never thoroughly introduced to the viewer, and references to events that are never explained, will probably offer an enjoyably confusing experience for first timers. This is how most Japanese cult movies are advertised in the western market anyway.

In certain ways Sukeban Deka: The Movie could indeed be a more rewarding experience for new viewers. Hitting the theaters a few months after the closing of the second series, the film brings together the old cast (Minamino, Yoshizawa and Sagara) and adds Yui Asaka from the third series. Unfortunately much of the potential is wasted. Minamino dominates the screen at the expense of other actors. The television show’s best character, sukeban Okyo, played by the wonderful Haruko Sagara, doesn’t get much room, and even her hair is wrong. The same applies for Yoshizawa, and one can only wonder what was the reason for including Asaka. Her character features a profile completely different from that of the Sukeban Deka II fighters, but this delicious opportunity for comparison is largely ignored.

Nevertheless, the film version is by no means a bad movie. It just doesn’t compare well against the television shows which count among the most iconic ever made. The film is more over-the-top and less effective. However, it is a good amount of fun and just seeing the familiar cast together again is wonderful. There’s also many fun references and jokes like the Sukeban Deka author Shinji Wada in a cameo role, and a new super yo-yo that is so powerful that Saki must use an armor to prevent it from crushing her own chest. Ichiro Nitta’s soundtrack is once again cool, and Minamino’s new theme song is great. Putting comparisons aside, Sukeban Deka is an enjoyable film on its own.

Media Blasters’s R1 dvd is a Toei port, although with a slightly lower bitrate (which does not cause any notable problems). Nice, although interlaced transfer. Extras include photo gallery, teaser and trailer, and most importantly, a great 42 minute making of documentary that Minamino fans are sure to enjoy.

Excellent opening with Saki after she has returned to normal life.
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She buys a yo-yo from Shinji Wada, the author of Sukeban Deka
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Helicopter attack
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As you can see, the film is a bit over the top...
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Remember these girls? Taiko and her gang from seaside town in Chiba (SD II, ep 19)
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Yui, Haruko, Yoko, Akie, and new addition Ayako Kobayashi
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Yoko's new armor
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Caps from the making of doc

Hideo Tanaka directing Nanno
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Haruko and Nanno with their eyes full of sand after explosion
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Nanno did almost all her stunts herself
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You think idols have it easy? Wrong! Girls freezing at the set and singing christmas songs. Why? Because it's bloody Christmas Eve!
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Nanno recording
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Post by HungFist »

I knew I forgot something; The Sukeban Deka Compilation DVD. Added it before the film reviews now.

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Sukeban Deka: Counter-Attack of the Kazama Sisters (1988)

The first Sukeban Deka movie, despite being solid entertainment, failed failed to live up to the TV shows. Now Hideo Tanaka, who had been helming the school girl fighters since season one, gives his second try at silver screen adaptation. The outcome is an unexpected success. Taking place after the end of the third season, the film takes a completely new direction and in this sense is a logical continuation to the franchise where the preceding TV shows were also all very distinctive. Traditional Sukeban Deka activity has been closed down and replaced with special forces lead by young politician whose goal is to fight crime at any cost and without mercy. Yui, at the request of the Sukeban Deka founder Kurayami, has joined the forces but cannot accept the merciless methods – and razor blade yo-yo’s – used by the new crime fighting unit. She soon finds herself in a situation where her former colleagues have become her enemies.

Counter-Attack of the Kazama Sisters is much darker than any of the preceding adventures – rather ironic considering Asaka is the most adorable of the three sukeban deka’s – being both violent and displaying a close future vision that even occasionally reminds of Paul Verhoeven’s scifi movies. Compared to the first film Kazama Sisters is better focused, less over-the-top and notaby punchier. Yui’s sisters Yuma and Yuka are not given too much screen time but this probably works to the benefit of the film. Hiroyuki Nagato’s extended role also comes as a positive surprise as this is one of the few times we get to see him outside of his office.

Media Blasters almost certainly again uses the Toei print. It looks otherwise excellent (interlaced, though) but features some bad compression problems in a couple of scenes (mainly scenes with flashing lights and water). Toei is usually very good with compression so I’d assume the Toei dvd fares better. Extras include trailer, stills and a great 45 min documentary called ”Yui’s Diary”. Fantastic stuff for Yui fans. Oh, and btw, Counter-Attack of the Kazama Sisters opened in Toei theaters as a double feature with Sanada / Yeoh’s Royal Warriors. How cool is that?

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Last edited by HungFist on 31 May 2009, 12:19, edited 1 time in total.
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Caps from Yui's Diary

Yui with glasses
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another megane cap
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Even performing with glasses on. I can die happy.
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Yui playing video games
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Nagato gives Yui... a bug... and she thinks it's cute
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Sukeban Deka: Code Name = Asamiya Saki (2006)

The original Sukeban Deka was made in a time when idols could act and sing. Kenta Fukasaku’s new film stars Aya Matsuura, who does act and sing - and has released a great foot massage video - but doesn’t convince as Asamiya Saki one bit. Rather, her performance is unintentionally funny and enjoyable. The same applies to some extent to director Fukasaku, who hasn’t improved since his earlier achievement Battle Royale 2. Fukasaku’s ’million cuts with slowmotion, flashbacks and a random black and white image’ –directing at times reaches some minor trash value, at others gives you a headache. The action scenes are mostly gci, falling far behind Yui Asaka’s genuine yo-yo art in excitement.

However, the new film is not entirely without merits. Against all odds the great Hiroyuki Nagato is not dead but back and looking exactly the same as he did 20 years ago. The original Sukeban Deka Yuki Saito also pays a brief visit at the end of the movie. Riki Takeuchi isn’t too bad either, although he’s helped by the fact that most actors surrounding him make even small acting talent shine. This refers to wooden man Shunsuke Kubozuka, zombie killer Tak Sakaguchi, and Hello! Project escapees Rika Ishikawa, Erika Miyoshi and Yui Okada, creating a poor man’s Onyanko upgrade. The soundtrack – with two songs from Matsuura and Miki Fujimoto – isn’t much to write home about but does feature one good tune that is played in the scene where Saki puts on her new new leather battle suit. An enjoyable scene, as out of place in the Sukeban Deka universe as it might be.

Magnolia's interlaced R1 doesn't look quite as good as you'd expect from a recent film. The disc also jammed on my Pioneer around 67 min. Extras consist of trailer and a 40 min making of documentary. Strangely, not is Magnolia only using the dumb title Yo-Yo Girl Cop, but they have completely abandoned the term "Sukeban Deka". In extras you get to read sentences like "Yo-Yo Girl Cop has been popular for over 20 years" when in fact this title didn't even exist before this new movie was made. Even Media Blasters used the title/term "Sukeban Deka" on their dvds which where released a year before this new film.

In the opening scene a tokumei keiji set to explode tries to warn people...
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... why she runs to one of busiest intersections in Tokyo remains a mystery.
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N.Y. State Prison, Cell B2, Asamiya Saki, also known as Hannibal Lecter.
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Saki running from school.
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Ayaya’s leg is prettier than her new yo-yo.
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Her voice is also funnier than the new cgi.
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Takeuchi’s teddybear charisma is one of the film's assets.
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Yuki Saito makes a brief visit.
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Hiroyuki Nagato only ages five days a year. He’s set to co-star in Sukeban Deka 2080.
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Aya's battle suit.
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Last edited by HungFist on 06 Jun 2009, 14:04, edited 1 time in total.
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<-- Continued from the previous page

Caps from the doc

Nagato
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Saito
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She looks a lot like she did in the Prison episode in the original series 21 years earlier
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Post by HungFist »

Ok, I think I've said everything I know about Sukeban Deka. If you want to know more, you have to ask someone who actually knows what he's talking about...

In order to forget Kenta "the creep" Fukasaku's new film, here are the original Sukeban Deka's.

Yuki Saito
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Yoko Minamino
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Yui Asaka
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Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform (Sailor fuku hangyaku domei) (1986-1987)

Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform was Nippon TV’s answer to Toei / Fuji TV’s hugely successful high school action series Sukeban Deka (1985-1987). It opened in late 1986, just before the second Sukeban Deka series ended. Yumi (Nobuko Sendo), Ruri (Risa Yamamoto) and Kei (Kyoko Goto) form a three girl rebellion league, backed up insider Miho (Miho Nakayma), in a fight against corrupt high school officials and teachers straight out of a Kinji Fukasaku yakuza film. Expect no peace when classes are led by Rikiya Yasuoka (the madman who tries to kill Sonny Chiba with a traffic sign in The Executioner)

Unlike Sukeban Deka, Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform doesn’t invest much into the storyline. There is a larger backstory that is introduced in the first few episodes, but in practice it is soon forgotten and the episodes are individual stories only very loosely related to any bigger scheme. The secrets revealed in the final episodes are also somewhat underwhelming. For this reason Rebellion League is rather superficial entertainment; the series is as good as the sum of its episodes, and episode quality is mostly defined by the amount of humour, original villains and inventive fight scenes.

It’s the fight scenes that are the show’s biggest asset. The action choreography, which is by Sonny Chiba’s Japan Action Club, is easily the best ever seen in a 1980’s idol product. It’s obvious from the beginning that these girls have taken a karate lesson or two before walking into the set, and they only improve as the show advances. Watching Sendo, Yamamoto and Goto doing Donnie Yen style split kicks, running on the opponents’ shoulders, or just delivering ordinary roundhouse kicks episode after episode often makes you forget that these girls – although naturally assisted by a skillful stunt team and editors – are indeed adorable idols. Slight stiffness in their performance doesn’t hurt the fun. JAC’s choreography gets most insane in episode 12 where the girls encounter an entire football team on battlefield.

Just like the Sukeban Deka girls, each of the heroines have their signature weapon. Yumi relies on boxing gloves, Ruri throws sharp pens, and Kei uses a combination of scarf and long yellow chain. When going into fight, the girls disguise themselves with outrageous hairstyles, make-up and white uniform. Especially Kei is an attention stealer on battlefield; the war painting on her face almost makes her look like a special forces commando on jungle mission.

Sendo and Yamamoto both contribute one song to the soundtrack. Rock band A-JARI perforns the theme song ’Shadow of Love’. A-JARI is also seen in front of the camera in one episode, and this is definitely a band cameo to remember, unlike their special episode in Toei’s Shoujo Commando Izumi one year later (another high school action series that A-JARI worked on). The songs are all good, however, the amount is quite small compared to some of Toei’s series. Rebellion League also lacks a memorable score by a composer such as Ichiro Nitta.

Sendo, Yamamoto, and Goto are all good in their roles, but not unforgettable. Miho Nakayama, often marketed as the star of the series, is actually a supporting player and doesn’t even appear in every episode. She only becomes equal to the other three leads in the last three episodes. Nevertheless, she’s the first billed star in the opening credits till episode 4, after which she starts taking turns with the real star, Sendo. Nakayma’s selection of weapon is explosive roses. Although she was a successful pop star, most western fans probably know her best from Shunji Iwai’s Love Letter (1995) in which she played the leading role.

Despite its shortcoming in terms of story and characters – as well as a couple of lesser episodes - Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform is great, occasionally jaw droppingly cool high school action fun. What it loses in depth, it takes back with crazy opponents, ( blind caucasian teacher with a huge afro), solid cast and visiting stars that include Kinya Aikawa, Shinzo Hotta, Noriko Hayami and Jun Izumi, and first grade action scenes. Not a Sukeban Deka beater, but a great challenger.

Geneon has released Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform (23 episodes) on dvd in a 6 disc box set. Each dvd comes in a normal amaray case. The artwork is nowhere near as stylish as on Toei’s dvds. The transfers are remastered, but interlaced and a bit ”blocky”. On smaller screens the it should look quite alright. No problems with the audio. Extras feature a couple of minutes of TV-spots, and a nice 20 page booklet with character, cast and episode guides. The first pressing also came with a bandana, but I missed that.

Box set
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DVD 1
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Booklet
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Nobuko and Miho.
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Risa tends to be a bit jumpy around strangers. Kyoko is more friendly.
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The boys in the school ain't so friendly.
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Rikiya Yasuoka. You've seen him in Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter.
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Kazuki Minabuchi, the only nice guy in the entire school.
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Risa undercover
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Nobuko getting ready to...
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... kick someone in the face
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Last edited by HungFist on 05 Aug 2009, 15:34, edited 1 time in total.
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Rebellion league in battle mode
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Nobuko & iron fists
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Risa & sharp pens
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And my favourite, Kyoko & scarf and chain
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Whoever said ice hockey was a violent game was absolutely right.
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All caucasian teachers look like this. Right? Right?
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Bunta Sugawara's fellow trucker Kinya Aikawa as Nobuko's uncle.
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Noriko Hayami. She played Nami in Somai's Love Hotel.
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A-JARI appears in episode 15.
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Fanservice: Risa with bunny ears. Another ep includes Kyoko panty shot. No, I’m not gonna post a screenshot. Buy the damn dvds.
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The referee was taken out and the red team started playing dirty.
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If you want to read more about the show (in Japanese) you only need one source; this Yamamoto Risa fansite is amazing:
http://yamamotorisa.web.fc2.com/

They have a terrific sub section for Sailor fuku hangyaku domei:
http://yamamotorisa.web.fc2.com/hangyakudoumei.html

While Geneon’s DVD artwork could’ve been better, this old soundtrack release is beautiful.

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Just when I thought I was out... it pulls me back in.

Asaka Yui performing Niji no Dreamer from Sukeban Deka III soundtrack:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yr0o28J4a0

And maybe I should work a little harder to help Geneon sell Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform. Enjoy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qecmY6F09s
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HungFist
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Posts: 11317
Joined: 14 Dec 2005, 15:50
Location: Japan
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Post by HungFist »

HungFist wrote:Just when I thought I was out... it pulls me back in.
I don't think I'll ever get over Sukeban Deka. Especially the third series...

Yui, Yuka, Yuma live:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WJ0gaCugb4

I so wish some of these concerts would be released in dvd. I would buy every disc twice.
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HungFist
Bruce Lee's Fist
Posts: 11317
Joined: 14 Dec 2005, 15:50
Location: Japan
Contact:

Re:

Post by HungFist »

HungFist wrote:Even performing with glasses on. I can die happy.
Image
My prayers have been answered. Not only is Warner releasing a bucketload of Asaka Yui CD's, they are coming up with 3 music DVDs. They are: Only Yui (1987), Candid Girl - Yui Asaka In Australia (1988), and Rock'n'Roll Circus '89 Yui Asaka Sparkling Live. See listing at CDJapan:
http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/list_from_code ... key=229498
(you can see more detailed info in Japanese on the Japanese website - see the link on the bottom of the cdjapan page)

The release date is 23.6.2010.
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