While directors like Nishimura and Iguchi have been making quite a name with their J-splatter fantasies, the hype got a hold on the genre rather quickly, resulting in a lot of sub-par films to fill in the gaps. So Nishimura and Iguchi got together, invited Tak Sakaguchi to join the party and hit back with a film that doesn't exactly innovate but takes the existing elements to their extremes. The result is Mutant Girls Squad [Sento Shojo: Chi no Tekkamen Densetsu].
Films like Samurai Princess, Sakaguchi's Samurai Zombie and even Iguchi's own Robo-Geisha were giving the genre a bad name, which is a shame because there is still plenty of fun to be harvested in this niche before it will inevitably collapse on itself. And that's exactly why I'm so pleased Mutant Girls Squad. True, it's a pure crowd pleaser that introduces very little we haven't seen yet, but the execution is near flawless and the fun-factor is astronomical.
Even though the film is split into three sections (each director helming one part), it never feels like the work of multiple directors. If you scrutinize each part I'm sure you'll find subtle stylistic differences, but after having watched the whole film there was no way to pin a director to a specific episode. If you were fearing an anthology project with a continuous storyline, there's really no need to worry.
The story is pretty predictable but works as a good setup for gore, mutations and flashes of world domination. On her 16th birthday a young school girl finds out she isn't quite like the rest of her classmates. That same day her family is brutally murdered, and she joins a clan of like-minded mutants who are declaring war on mankind.
Visually the film beats all its predecessors hands down. Nishimura and co have kept true to their low-budget roots (lots of rubber, fake CG and less than realistic blood fountains) but it's obvious they put a lot more work in the look of the film. Sakaguchi even attempted an actual long take which turned out to be surprisingly impressive. Who would've guessed. Some handy cam shots could do with some extra work, but overall this is far better than I would've expected from these guys.
The soundtrack is less interesting. Even though it is quite loud and present it doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. It's just background music to fill in the voids where there is little to no dialogue. While not really a loss I'm sure some extra fun could be garnered with a better soundtrack in place.
As for the acting, most actors are B-grade material that would be totally lost in any kind of serious film, but they manage pretty well within the confines of their over-the-top characters. Tak Sakaguchi himself has one of the best performances, but it's Naoto Takenaka's appearance that had me completely baffled. A rare talent that handles complete nonsense with the same ease as complex drama. He's without a doubt one of Japan's most under-appreciated actors alive.
If you didn't like Nishimura or Iguchi's earlier films chances are you won't find much here. The production values have gone up, but it's essentially just another collection of freakishly weird fantasy mutations splashed in blood, guts and gore. If you can appreciate this kind of humor it's definitely one of the best films out there (I'd say right up there with Jackson's Braindead), if not it must be true torture to sit through.
So if you still haven't seen enough body mutations, strange nose guns and creative ways to slice people in half (or more parts), this is a film that simply cannot be missed. As an added bonus, there are even some mind-bogglingly funny one-liners to steal here. It's hard to pick a favorite one, but "My wife is a baguette" must surely rank among the best one-liners ever.
Mutant Girls Squad is a film made for a rather specific audience. It's hard to pull in new viewers because gore hounds and splatter fans are already well aware of Nishimura's crew, others might find it a little hard to appreciate the creativity through the continuous blood fountains and low-budget approach. It's a film that deserves an international audience though, and fans simply cannot miss it. My favorite one so far.