Archive for the ‘Television’ Category


Recently seen TV shows #4

May 1, 2009

Shoujo Commando Izumi (Japan, 1987-1988) – 3,5/5

Originally planned as Sukeban Deka IV but then departing into a series of its own, how could Toei and Fuji TV outdo their previous achievements and overcome the challenges set by their competitors, such as Nippon TV’s Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform? By raising the caliber, and arming the seifuku warrior Izumi (Izumi Igarashi) with bazooka. Although it must be noted that, to the disappointment of many, the light anti-armor weapon is only used in a couple of episodes, with Izumi’s bracelet and inhuman powers given to her by a mysterious organization that kidnapped her two years ago being her primary weapon.

The series has a dynamite start with more pyrotechnics applied to the first few episodes than most Toei action films of the time. Igarashi also delights with both her singing skills and her willingness to do far more of her own stunts and fighting than you’d expect from an idol. However, one should prepare for the show losing some of its kick after the amazing opening episodes and following rather familiar patterns at the expense of commando action. Overuse of slow motion also hurts the action.

The supporting cast features most notably Takeo Chii, whose clumsy policeman character is quite far cry from his stand out role in Yukihiro Sawada’s nihilistic cop thriller Retreat Through the Wet Wasteland (1973). After working in action and yakuza films throughout the 70’s Chii moved mostly to television. Yumi Tsuchida and Masami Katsuragawa play Izumi’s shoujo sidekicks, without memorable results. The short lived rock band A-Jari, who is responsible for most of the soundtrack, also makes an appearance in one episode. Interestingly their song Fight for Love is also heard in the show, despite it actually being the theme song of the fore mentioned Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform.

Considering its sky high potential and especially the jaw droppingly great opening episodes Shoujo Commando Izumi turns out slightly under performing entertainment in the long run. However, none of the 15 episodes are bad – except maybe one story that gives too much room for the 80’s women’s fashion – and the ending is almost as good as the show deserves. Obviously, even with its flaws Izumi’s commando adventures are a must for fans of Toei’s 80’s high school action.


Recently seen TV shows #2

February 20, 2009

Sukeban Deka II – Legend of the Girl in the Iron Mask (Japan, 1985-1986) – 4,5/5

Seifuku dressed Yukari Oshima’s nunchuku mayhem. Saki vs ruthless girls’ kung fu club. Evil martial arts masters (specialties include the three section staff) released from prison at noon in a western esque story setting. Simply put, Sukeban Deka II has the best start in the history of television. Although it can’t quite retain that quality throughout its 42 episodes – there’s a couple of filler storylines in the middle – it is one hell of an addictive series that among all other movie and pop culture references even manages to re-tell the story of Casablanca (1942).

The second series stars Yoko Minamino as an orphan girl who was forced to grow up wearing a mysterious iron mask. Now she’s released from the mask and given the code name Saki Asamiya. Trying to solve the secrets of her past and fight the evil Seirokai she must face mercenaries, evil monks and school girl vampires in episodes that mix elements from Yojimbo, The Terminator and Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion into an original storyline of epic proportions.

Backing Saki up are a well behaving sukeban Okyo (excellent Haruko Sagara), who uses marbles as weapons, and Yukino, who turns tea ceremonies into deadly martial arts, played by Onyanko Club member Akie Yoshizawa who also brought the onyankos with her into two episodes. Each of the three leads have also contributed excellent songs to the series, backing up Ichiro Nitta’s already terrific soundtrack. While not quite as good as the masterful original series, Sukeban Deka II still counts as one the most iconic television shows ever made.


Recently seen TV shows #1

January 2, 2009

Sukeban Deka – Season 1 (Japan, 1985) – 4,5/5

A delinquent girl detective (Yuki Saito) infiltrates corrupt high schools and fights crime with a steel breaking yo-yo. It’s obvious from the first episode why Sukeban Deka is the biggest Japanese cult TV show of the 80’s. The silly premise is played with rather straight face, only adding a kick ass soundtrack, cute lead, and an infinite amount of style. Quite possibly the coolest thing television has ever produced.