Girl's Blood (Japan 2014)

Rating: ***
Alternate Title: Aka X Pink
Review Date: 9/5/16
Director: Koichi Sakamoto
Cast: Yuria Haga, Ayame Misaki

Director Koichi Sakamoto is one of my favorite Japanese action directors, but he seems to be delving into softcore erotica as of late. Without the benefit of subtitles I'm obviously missing a lot of subtext, but sex and violence don't require much translation. The story revolves around a group of young misfit girls who belong to a fighting group called "Girl's Blood." They all seem to come from broken homes, and beating each other up while wearing sexy cosplay outfits brings some sort of meaning to their joyless lives. The main character is Satsuki (Yuria Haga), an angst-ridden girl who goes through the entire film with a bad attitude and a disdainful scowl on her face. She is easily the best fighter in the group and her fights tend to be the main attraction. She's also a bit of a tomboy and her sexual orientation is unclear, even to herself. Things change when a vicious fighter named Chinatsu joins the group, and she manages to seduce Satsuki after defeating her in the ring. At the same time, another romance is blooming between an S&M dominatrix named Miko (Ayame Misaki) and a timid schoolgirl named Mayu, who has no fighting skills at all. After some shockingly graphic lesbian sex that goes on WAY too long, we find out that Chinatsu is actually a married woman who is trying to escape from her abusive husband, who happens to be a ruthless crime boss and a brutal karate expert. He forcefully kidnaps Chinatsu and has his gang beat up the other girls. Somehow, the Girl's Blood manager comes across some blackmail material, and sets up a fight between his girls and the bad guy's girls, with Chinatsu being the prize. I think. This naturally boils down to Satsuki and Chinatsu pulverizing each other in the ring until only one of them is left standing. And then they kiss and make up. The very last scene is a touching moment that sees Satsuki returning to her family's home, holding hands with Chinatsu and asking her mother for acceptance and/or forgiveness.

It's not a bad film, but the exploitation angle comes across as a bit gratuitous at times. (slow motion mud wrestling immediately comes to mind) The fighting scenes are mostly entertaining and several of the girls are quite good, but the camera work tends to be jerky and claustrophobic, which obscures a lot of the action. The love scenes are tastefully done, although they seem overly long and the actresses appear visibly uncomfortable. There's also a very nasty rape scene that's difficult to watch. Yuria Haga is wonderful throughout. She's a pretty actress with a fierce personality and gorgeous hair, and she's also a very capable stunt performer. Her fight scenes are fast, fluid, and hard hitting, although closer inspection reveals a well-placed stunt double for some of the more challenging scenes. Of all the girls, she's the only one who gets fully nude for her love scenes, which are surprisingly explicit. One has to wonder what her motivation was in taking on such a potentially scandalous role. Ayame Misaki is immensely charming, and her radiant presence nearly steals the show. She's arguably the most expressive actress in the group, and she's a very good stunt performer as well. While I had no idea what was going on most of the time, the emotional cues were readily apparent and the girls did an excellent job of expressing their feelings and inner turmoil. The underlying theme for all of the characters seemed to involve questions of sexual identity coupled with female bonding through physical violence. It was neither what I was expecting nor what I wanted to see, but I found it interesting and engaging nonetheless. Now I just need to track down a subtitled version...