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.
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).