Directed by: Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi
Written by: Jun Tsugita
Starring: Yumi Sugimoto, Naoto Takenaka, Tak Sakaguchi, Yuko Takayama
The delightfully insane Mutant Girls Squad is the latest frenetic experience in the Japanese splatter movement.
It brings together three of the most famous filmmakers in this inexplicable subgenre for the first time. Directors Noboru Iguchi (The Machine Girl), Yoshihiro Nishimura (Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl) and Tak Sakaguchi (Samurai Zombie) have created a very wet, very funny body horror tale that is being touted as a spoof of the X-Men films. While there are a few similarities to that comic book franchise, Mutant Girls Squad is a decidedly different monster.
Rin (Yumi Sugimoto) is a timid teenager who is savagely bullied at school. Upon her 16th birthday, she discovers that she’s the progeny of a half-human, half-mutant union. This would explain why her right hand can morph into a giant metal claw with impressive powers of destruction. Defense Minister Koshimizu (Naoto Takenaka) has outlawed the mutants (referred to as Hiruko) and has set up a military squad to destroy them. Rin’s mutant father tells her about an underground Hiruko alliance that has been formed to fight back.
After both of her parents are killed by Koshimizu’s soldiers, she joins the training camp for young Hirukos. Her fellow teenage warriors, all girls, each have different mutant “abilities” that will help aide in the good fight. These abilities are dangerous defense mechanisms that grow from various places on their bodies, and while some have more practical weapons such as swords that sprout from their arms, others are burdened with more bizarre mutations, including chainsaws that extrude from anuses and heads that grow tiny arms. Led by the mysterious Kisaragi (Tak Sakaguchi from Tokyo Gore Police), the Mutant Girls Squad engages in an all-out war with its merciless oppressors. Cue the fountains of blood.
The gonzo experience that is the Japanese splatter subgenre is difficult to describe to the uninitiated. A subversive mix of live-action anime and Troma-esque gallows humor, it emphasizes extreme violence and kinetic action setpieces over narrative cohesiveness. These films are very low-budget affairs that are shot on digital cameras yet belie their cost with superior production values.
The poetic perversity of the Japanese splatter film is best summed up in Mutant Girls Squad when Rin is visited by the floating apparition of her dead father. He appears to her in his final state, as a disembodied head on top of her birthday cake. Of course, this is just one moment in a film filled with exploding heads, flying limbs, Videodrome-like flesh weapons and, literally, fountains of blood.
The story is credited to Iguchi, with the screenwriting duties ultimately falling upon Jun Tsugita (whose more recent work includes the aggressively unappealingly titled Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead). Tsugita merely borrows a few themes from the X-Men series, making this more of a loose homage than a spoof. His script is more or less a series of violent setpieces loosely strung together, but his dialogue — even in translated form — is inspired camp.
Cinematographer Shu G. Momose uses vivid color and dynamic camera angles to his advantage. In addition to Mutant Girls Squad, he was also responsible for shooting the equally kinetic Helldriver, as well as Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. Momose is deft at capturing the stylized action choreography in fluid compositions; his keen eye helps make sense of the busy violence that is the hallmark of these productions.
While not as smart or subversive as Nishimura’s Vampire Girl, Mutant Girls Squad has enough of the essential splatter ingredients to keep things interesting. Many of the gore effects are practical, giving the film an appealing "old school" horror vibe. The cast is game, and all seem to hit the right notes of camp and high drama when required. Lead actress Sugimoto is especially good in a role that demands a myriad of heightened emotions and physical challenges.
This Blu-ray/DVD combo release from Well Go USA Entertainment highlights a beautiful high-definition transfer of the film. The extras include The Making of Mutant Girls Squad featurette; a fun spin-off short, Yoshie Zero; filmmaker interviews; and more.