‘Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl’: When A Guy Really Isn’t That Into You, But It Doesn’t Matter As Long As You Get What You Want!

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Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu’s 2009 action shock film Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl was simultaneously a familiar fun-to-watch genre piece and an uncomfortable display of race and gender biases.

With regard to the genre aspects, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl revolves around a rivalry between two high school girls over a boy they both desire. One girl, unbeknownst to her classmates, is a vampire. The other girl, leader of a Black Lolita gang, is the daughter of the vice principal and science teacher, who’s conducting bizarre experiments after school, in which he, “Kenji Furano” (Kanji Tsuda) and the sexy “Nurse Midori” (Sayaka Kametani) are trying to reanimate corpses à la Victor Frankenstein. The boy caught in the middle is just an ordinary student, the reluctant boyfriend of “Keiko” (Eri Otoguro), on the one hand, and the object of “Monami’s” (Yukie Kawamura) desire on the other. After accepting Monami’s Valentine’s Day offer of a small chocolate containing her blood, “Mizushima” (Takumi Saito) becomes a “half-vampire,” which Keiko finds out about when she catches the two about to kiss. The ensuing laboratory experiments, the vampire attacks, and the battle between Monami and Keiko, aka Vampire Girl and Frankenstein Girl, are enacted with the kind of transformative, mutant, gory, over-the-top sense of humor that one expects in a film like this, which is a genre that includes Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl, and The Mutant Girl Squad.

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As for what made me feel uncomfortable, it had to do with how two of the high school cliques were portrayed. The most problematical of the two was a group of Super Tanned Girls, which were nothing more than racist stereotypes caricaturing Black people. “Afro Rika” (Namie Terada) is the leader of the quartet, who ostensibly idealizes being Black to the point of fanaticism. Yet, who’s appropriation of black culture, complete with wearing black face, is the epitome of ignorance. The second of the two groups in question was a wrist-cutting club that was training for the Wrist Cutting Rally. Led by an anemic captain (Maki Mizui), the club turns damaged, suicidal girls into dubious satire.

In the end, despite my reservations about some of the supporting characters—who are fortunately peripheral to the story—there’s enough leftover that I enjoyed about this film to recommend it as a minor contribution to its genre. As such, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is about as bereft of any message as a movie can get while managing to entertain. Then, again, shock cinema really only has one purpose, which is to shock its viewer. If you want a gruesome story with a deeper meaning, then you would be wise to turn to anyone of a number of films directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa or Hideo Nakata. Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, to the contrary, like its peers, is a wild romp in the absurd. No message, no subtext. Just gory action and likable characters. Speaking of which, look out for cameos by Ju-On director Takashi Shimizu and Eihi Shiina, who many will recognize from Takashi Miike’s Audition (1999).

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All You Need Is Sin: Sion Sono’s ‘Love Exposure’

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Sion Sono’s 2009 film Love Exposure is about sin and redemption, the inherent absurdity of organized religion, and an accidental transgender romance. “Honda Yu” (Mitsushima Hikari) makes his devoutly Catholic mother (Nakamura Mami) a promise not long before she dies that he’ll find a girl like “Maria,” which is represented by a small statue of Mary, Mother of Christ. When Yu’s father “Honda Tetsu” (Watabe Atsuro)—who in the aftermath of his wife’s demise decided to become a priest—takes a turn for the worst by getting involved with a rather unstable floosy named “Kaori” (Watanabe Makiko) the consequences for Yu set him on a path to encounter his destiny. More specifically, Yu’s father becomes obsessed with hearing Yu confess his sins, which compels the otherwise well-behaving boy to embark on a life of sinning.

With this in mind, Yu encounters three near-do-wells engaged in their own night of petty crimes, like busting open a vending machine. When Yu learns that he and his new friends go to the same high school, his new friends initiate him into their gang. More importantly, when the gang realizes Yu’s preoccupation with sinning, including the fact that his father is a priest, the gang leader decides to introduce him to “Master Lloyd” (Oguchi Hiroshi) who teaches him the stealthy art of up-skirt photography. It’s not long before Yu gets noticed for his exceptional skill. Among his admirers, if you will, is “Koike” (Ando Sakura) founder of the Zero Church, a nefarious organization that’s more about money and power than religion.

All the while, Yu is slowly but inevitably headed toward a “miracle,” which of course turns out to be his “Maria.” When Yoko has an argument with Kaori, Yoko jumps out of Kaori’s car and heads off away from Kaori’s plan to introduce her to her new boyfriend. Meanwhile, Yu has just lost a bet and has to dress in drag and head out into public wearing a floppy hat, wig, and big sunglasses. When Yoko is confronted by a gang of guys who clearly have a grudge with her, Yu and his three friends see what’s happening from a distance. However, even though it’s not his fight, Yu rushes in to help the clearly out-numbered high school girl.

In the raucous mayhem that ensues, Yu and Yoko begin to wonder who the other is. Yu is captivated with Yoko when she prays to Jesus before thrashing her assailants, while Yoko is smitten with this mysterious woman in black who came from out of nowhere to help her. At the end of the fight, Yoko thanks her protector who introduces himself as “Sasori,” or “Miss Scorpion.” Because he’s undoubtedly attracted to Yoko, Yu, as Miss Scorpion, kisses the object of his desire, leaving them both in a swirl of passion and confusion. Aware of what’s just happened, Koike hatches a plan to manipulate Yu, his parents, and the father’s congregation.

In the end, I thought the story was entertaining, replete with many insightful yet hilarious comments about sex and religion, not to mention likeable characters. I did think the script could have edited. There really wasn’t any reason for this movie to be four hours long (cut down from six). As it is, Love Exposure, which is divided into chapters, is like a live action version of a manga. In which case, instead of being a way too long movie, the story might have been better served as a television serial. With respect to Sono’s impressive body of work, Love Exposure adds to the director’s unique perspective on Japanese society, which ranges from the horrors of Noriko’s Dinner Table (2005) to the disturbing myth of suicide in Suicide Club (2001), not to mention a fascination with peculiar family dynamics, such as Cold Fish (2010).