Friday, December 25, 2009

Mamoru Oshii's 'Assault Girls'

So, I can breathe a little easier as 2009 begins wrapping itself up in neat little patterns. For one thing I finally got to see Asaruto Gâruzu after waiting a few months then missing the Tokyo media screening several weeks back 'cos I had to work my actual day job (doh!). So it kind of rocks that, for Christmas today, I received the DVD-R in the mail and just finished viewing the movie a few minutes back.

I guess I already knew some of what to expect.

If you hadn't twigged already in the course of this rambling blog (if anyone indeed bothers to read it), I'm a huge Mamoru Oshii fan, from right back when I first glimpsed Kōkaku Kidōtai (Ghost in the Shell, 1995) in an obscure Chinatown cinema in Melbourne over a decade ago; I've since watched a couple of fistfuls of his other flicks and have had the opportunity to do two interviews with the man since 2004.

I'm also a bit of an admirer of the four actors here, namely the female leads - Meisa Kuroki (Crow's Zero), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, and the upcoming film version of Haruka Murakami's Norwegian Wood), and Hinako Saeki (Tachiguishi-Retsuden) - and especially the only male actor, Yoshikatsu Fujiki.

He's been a recurring element in some of Oshii's movies, much like the director's own Basset hound (who unfortunately doesn't appear here).

Fujiki featured in Oshii's early live-action Kerberos saga movie Stray Dog (1991) and was the seiyu (voice actor) who played Kazuki Fuse in the Oshii-written anime Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1998).

On top of this background fodder, I also was asked by Francesco Prandoni from Production I.G (god knows why, but I was incredibly chuffed!) to work with him on the English translation rewrite of the lengthy five minute lead-in narration intro to Assault Girls - so I'd been privy to the fact that this was, in some respects, a sequel to Avalon, one of my favourite Oshii movies.

What's the rushed verdict?

Moments both sublime and hilarious; other poignant and, on the flip-side, a little awkward. Funnily enough I'm not sure I was so enamoured with the intro narration I helped negotiate, but once the action kicked into gear (and especially in the moments that the actors used their native Japanese), it kicked serious arse.

Over all I believe I loved the experience Oshii conjured up here, but as I said I just finished watching and I'm probably biased. Give me time to stew on it - and definitely investigate this baby yourself in 2010, if you haven't already.

Hats off to all concerned for something completely different.

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