It is a Japanese tradition, we are told at the top of the deliriously named "Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl", for girls to give boys chocolate on Valentine's Day as a means to confess their love.
Lest anyone think this means we're headed for a soft and calming romantic story, full of the summery flowers and candy love hearts that constitute the film's opening images, VGvFG (as it shall be known from here on in) immediately launches straight into the first of what will prove to be many deranged, cartoonishly orchestrated set-pieces: an irreverent extravaganza of zesty, Manga-style comic book violence that begins with a sonorous, pseudo Spaghetti Western intro, and then gives way to some maniacally chirpy J-pop backing music as we watch our heroic protagonists - an impossibly handsome uniformed high-school boy and his pretty, eye-patch-wearing, cape-clad younger girlfriend - do battle with a trio of robotic zombie-like girl-monsters kited out in in lacy Victorian 'Bo Peep' frills and tooled-up via a lethal combination of pick axe, scythe and sword blade! The pretty girl soon discards her eye-patch ... and unleashes some lethal-looking weapons of her own: her vampire fangs (we're guessing she's the vampire girl of the title, then?). And, as bright-red digitally rendered blood speckles the air, she proceeds to bite the very skin off of her doll-like foes' disfigured faces, deftly unravelling the flesh from their skulls ( which revolve comically on their necks as though a garish set of spinning tops made of bone) like it was made of strips of bandage, and stacking the goggle-eyed skulls in a neat pile at her feet.
So begins Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu's riotously entertaining (and completely stark staring mad) co-directed live-action Manga: an outlandish comic-horror action-cum-gore fest which, in the course of its feverish quest to take absolutely nothing at all seriously, combines insanely inventive cartoon gore, a series of crazy, over-the-top characters and an unbelievably insensitive 'satirical' element that takes offensiveness to new and previously uncharted levels, whereupon it almost becomes a new kind of art form in itself!
Lets look at that aspect of the film first. Take the first sequence after the above mentioned opening segment: a rowdy bunch of students from the Tokyo high-school in which our story is to take place, are seen not paying very much attention in class as their teacher confiscates chocolate intended for Valentine's Day, and we notice that they are split into several very distinctive-looking sub-groupings. One bunch of girls is wearing flouncy Victorian-style garb (rather like that of the zombies we saw at the beginning), a style known as Gothic Lolita - the fashion subculture in which young Japanese women attempt to look cutesy by dressing up in an exaggerated version of a Victorian or Rococo style of clothing. Fair enough, but the other noticeable grouping is the Ganguro - meaning Black faced Girls - crowd.
The way the film deals with this '90's trend among young rebellious Japanese girls for extreme, deep tanning and orange-silver hair dye is possibly quite controversial. It's portrayed as an expression of a wish to reject Japanese ethnicity and as a fetishisation of African American culture. The film cruelly satirises the trend in these terms by depicting many of the girls dressed in grotesquely exaggerated African makeup that features everything from African lip-plates, bones through noses and massive afro hairdos! The leader of the group goes so far as to wear prosthetic makeup to school in order to give herself stereotypical African American features. Needless to say she looks like a ridiculous racial parody of a black person, with the offensive makeup augmented by her insistence on only drinking black coffee. Later in the film, she and her gang are seen acting out their own Olympic track events and chanting Barack Obama's election catchphrase -'yes we can!' - over and over as part of a primitive African tribal dance. Oh dear!
If this wasn't dodgy enough, the film also makes light of the self-harm 'craze' among Japanese girls, with a bizarre wrist-cutting club made up of a tribe of pale, jaundiced-looking emo girls who particularly covert spinach for its iron giving properties (they're all anaemic from their incessant bloodletting) and who meet up for special wrist exercises in preparation for an upcoming Wrist Slashing Rally (the poster for the event depicts a beaming young girl proudly holding up her horribly scarred forearm) in which they compete against each other in front of a hall full of other cheering high-school kids. Naturally, the film's excessive gore-drenched mis en scene leads inevitably to a sequence where, hunched over their basins, frantically slashing away at themselves with box cutters in front of an excitable crowd, one of the girls slices right through her arm and is left with the limb dangling while geysers of blood (the film's main trademark) spew forth.
This is but the background to the film's main story though, although it all has relevance (sort of) in the end, as we shall see. Among the bickering subcultures there is a young, good-looking student called Mizushima (Takumi Saito) who is the apple of young Lolita clan leader Keiko's (Eri Otoguro) heavily made-up eye. She happens to be the daughter of the vice-principle who is the school science teacher to boot, and it is consequently very difficult to say no to the spoiled brat - though Mizushima is less than enthusiastic about their forced union.
New in class, though, is petit and extra pretty transfer student, Monami (Yukie Kawamura); demure and pleasing on the eye, she is also a vampire, but is nevertheless practically invisible to the high-school's throng of outlandish and showy groupings. There is more to the young lady than meets the eye though, and Keiko's possessive attitude towards Mizushima doesn't deter Monami from presenting the boy with a chocolate gift - which turns out to be spiked with a drop of vampire blood! This soon seems to do the trick and Mizushima becomes rather enamoured of the little vampire girl, much to Keiko's chagrin. A jealous rooftop spat between the two girls sends the unfortunate Keiko plunging to her gruesome death on the concrete below, and that would almost certainly be that if it weren't for Keiko's geeky science teacher dad persona being, in fact, merely a cover for his deranged re-animation experiments on dead students!
Deep in the basement of the school, daddy likes to dress up in scary kabuki costume, whereupon he conducts experiments in a secret neon-lit lab with the aid of an oversexed school nurse assistant. Most of the time, this activity mainly consists of dancing around the vaults while ridiculous quirky J-pop plays - to which he manically air guitars using the extracted spinal cords of his test subjects. When Keiko's crushed corpse turns up on his lab table though, her dad has a rather unusual reaction: "This is great!" he exclaims delightedly, "I can chop up her body! Every father with a daughter dreams of this!"
Having obtained a drop of Monami's vampire blood, he discovers it has a life of its own, and can give lifelike properties to anything it encounters (including inanimate objects!), thus Keiko's mad dad has the nurse embark on a high-school slaughter spree, obtaining the African-like legs of the Ganguro leader, the extra tough arms of the chief wrist-slasher and the lungs of the resident chain-smoking Chinese teacher (a cameo by Ju-on director Takashi Shimizu, who, in a particularly funny moment, gives a bored class of students a long and laborious lecture on the Ju-on franchise and it's American variant series of "Grudge" films!). After stitching this lot together and bunging it all haphazardly onto his dead daughter's decomposing corpse, he administers a dose of vampire blood and - hey presto! Frankenstein Girl is born!
Special effects artist-turned director Yoshihiro Nishimura was inspired when growing up by a combination of Salvador Dali's distorted surrealist paintings and lurid Horror Manga magazines, and boy does it show! Eyeballs are inserted into nipples, a dismembered arm becomes the rota-blade for a helicopter helmet and human viscera is molded into all sorts of outlandish mis-shapes in the crazy doctor's basement lab. But it's all elaborated in a gaudy, neon-lit comic-book style; the acting as stylised and mannered as the outlandish gore. Monami's vampire attacks are staged with a gleeful ferocity that is in marked contrast to her submissive, sweet, schoolgirl persona: the screen becomes literally flooded with a cascading shower of sparkling, luminously lit blood, Monami in slow motion, basking and swooning in its heady miasmatic glory while a cheesy pop tune plays along on the soundtrack. Monami's head will suddenly change at the moment of her attack, from that of a pretty young girl to a hideous gaping shark-like maw, containing multiple rows of serrated teeth and filling her whole head. "Audition" actress Eihi Shiina turns up at one point, playing Monami's mother in a flashback featuring the work of acclaimed fight choreographer Tak Sakaguchi. Co-director Tomomatsu must have had just as much influence on the whole mad spectacle, his work in the pink genre and in works such as "Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies" probably guarantees that much. The whole last act of the movie is taken up with an increasingly deranged smack down between the two titular girls, as well as Monami's helpmate, a hunchbacked janitor in a tracksuit she's had installed in the school earlier, who squares off against the sexy mad nurse (herself re-animated after suffering a similar fate to Keiko). Naoyuki Tomomatsu used to work as an assistant for Manga artist Shungiku Uchida, upon whose work "VGvFG" is based, and he's also produced the screenplay for this unbelievable extravaganza of oddball perversity.
The UK DVD from 4Digital Asia offers a pleasing anamorphic transfer of this DV-shot feature, while the only extra (at least on my screener copy) is a bubbly Japanese trailer. Some viewers have criticised the so-called 'cheap' look rendered by the original DV cameras, but to my eye, the hard video style and the crude digital animation that augments Nishimura's twisted special effects only enhance the zany, deranged live-action Manga vibe the two directors are evidently going for.
This is an all-out tour de force of exotic cartoon weirdness, as enjoyable as it is off the wall. You'll be hard pressed to watch without your jaw scrapping the floor!