January 17, 2010

Robo-Geisha (Japan, 2009)

Noboru Iguchi knows how to hype movies. The Machine Girl (2008) was a cult classic before anyone had seen it. Iguchi’s latest, Robo-Geiha, received 700 000 trailer views in Youtube – an achievement that is now used in the film’s marketing campaign in Japan. As a director Iguchi has never convinced, but his wild imagination and real life persona – Iguchi attends the premieres of his movies wearing sumo wrestler’s loincloths – has won over the audience’s sympathies. Maybe next time Iguchi will manage to transform his madcap ideas into a fully functional movie, is everyone’s wish.

Hopes of cinematic improvement remain, as Robo-Geisha turns out a surprisingly lame effort. The director’s previous film, The Machine Girl, wasn’t the most solid effort either, but it entertained with its combination of school girls, machine guns, and gore. With the Robo-Geisha concept Iguchi is crewed from the start, as geisha do not fascinate, and there is little in terms of blood and gore. Despite some current misbelieves, Robo-Geisha is not a splatter film but a slightly dirty kids film. Just like the American’s have long had the tradition of producing movie into a certain, pre-decided category, the Japanese also know the theory maximizing the incomes with low rating. Robo-Geisha is decidedly pg-12, although it should be noted that in Japan this category does allow a few more comedic CG blood spurts than its American equivalent ever would.

However, as long as gore to family genre transition goes a new Takashi Miike Iguchi is not. While the quality has taken a dive, the box office success has also been modest and somewhat in line with the director’s previous features. This is true despite Iguchi getting major studios like Kadokawa and Pony Canyon to back him up. What does separate Robo-Geisha from the typical Iguchi / Nishimura (who once again made special effects for the film, and also makes a brief cameo) movies, is the glossier visual look (home video esque cheap digital video look has become history –for now at least) and massive CGI effects. What would a robot film be if it didn’t have mountain size mechanical villains putting cities into the ground.

The storyline follows two sisters kidnapped by a maniac that is attempting to produce an evil geisha army. The girls’ assets are improved with mechanical parts – such as machine guns coming out of every imaginable body part. This is a regular theme in Iguchi’s films. Sukeban Boy (2006) presented machine gun legs, The Machine Girl replaced a girl’s arm with a cannon, and Hajirai Machine Girl stuck one in Noriko Kiijima’s butt. A few thousand bullets are fired in Robo-Geisha, however, with a Strom Trooper (or should I say Bikini Trooper) accuracy. In other words, hits are a rare reward.

The younger sister’s (Aya Kikuchi) brave rebellion against evil, and the older sister’s (Hitomi Hasebe) arrogance towards what is good and noble, provides the film with some completely unneeded family drama. That’s not to say the comedy front is doing much better. Childish over-acting and face twisting rarely manage to fish laughs. The filmmakers’ live appearances – especially Asami sticking a dart into the director’s ass in the Sapporo premiere – are generally funnier than anything in Robo-Geisha. This makes one wonder if Iguchi might have a more promising career as a standup comedian. More convincing in live is also Tengu girl Cay Izumi (Tokyo Gore Police’s dog girl), a pole dancer by her main profession. In Robo-Geisha she’s allowed a brief 20 seconds on the pole. The film’s other Tengu is played by AV star Asami.

Robo-Geisha is not a complete failure. There are occasional, Nobel worthy laugh out loud moments, especially during the geisha martial arts training scenes. From the generally underwhelming cast stands out Naoto Takenaka’s vengeful father, who’s willing to go to war in wheelchair. It’s a shame half of the other performances fall to the negative side. Nevertheless, Robo-Geisha should find its international audience thanks to hype and effective marketing campaign. Those convinced of the film’s quality should avoid viewing the brilliantly spoiling trailer. Others may just do that, as it packs most of the highlights in three minutes, and forget about the main product.



  1. Looks Like Robocop ^_^

  2. I don’t recall swords coming out of Robocop’s ass, though…

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