Part of the joy of being a fan is finding odd and obscure gems that you end up falling in love with. For every Batman, there is The Phantom. For every Hunger Games, there is The Running Man. Here at Fandom, we like to go hunting for some offbeat and off-the-wall films and television shows that might just become your own secret treasures. Strap yourself in and expect the unexpected, because this week’s Weird Watch is Kamikaze Girls! (Last time: Battle Royale)
There’s something about oddball pairings that spans across cultures. There’s Bert and Ernie, Laurel and Hardy, Youmu and Yumeko. Kamikaze Girls is the story of one such odd couple, Momoko and Ichigo. The girls are polar opposites, but they are forced into a kind of friendship due to living out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a tale of girl power and female friendships with a very Japanese twist. Based on a Japanese light novel, the film is as bizarre as it is sweet. The overall message is that any weirdo can find their place in the world, as long as they have a good friend by their side.
The Biker and the Lolita
The kamikaze girls referred to in the film’s title are Momoko, who is in love with Rococo-era France and lolita clothing, and Ichigo, a female biker who has never been in love. Momoko’s father, a small-time gangster who sells knockoffs of name-brand clothes, forces the family to move to his mother’s house in a rural town after he finds himself in trouble with Universal Studios, Versace, and the yakuza. In order to travel to Tokyo to buy her lolita outfits, Momoko begins selling her father’s knockoffs. In the process, she meets Ichigo, who answers an advertisement to help sell the cheap clothes.
Ichigo, despite being a Yanki punk who likes to look tough, ends up needing Momoko’s help. The leader of her all-girl biker gang is leaving. As tribute, Ichigo wants to have her jacket embroidered, and she thinks Momoko can help her find the legendary embroiderer, Emma.
They never find Emma, but Momoko offers to do the embroidery herself. The two develop a unique friendship, as each has something to teach the other. Momoko is soft and sweet, unconcerned with the fact that the rest of the town thinks she’s nuts for wearing 17th-century French fashions. Ichigo cares way too much about what people think of her while pretending not to. She’s tough as nails and street-smart. The two complement one another, even while being polar opposites.
Part of what makes Kamikaze Girls so fun is its willingness to be weird. There are sequences that boggle the mind and characters that look like they were ripped directly from an anime. In the film’s final showdown between Momoko and Ichigo’s biker gang, she uses her scooter as a weapon and literally throws it at her foes.
There is an interesting subversion of character tropes as well. Ichigo is surprisingly soft beneath her tough exterior, while Momoko is capable of being one feisty chick. By fully developing these two characters, the film manages to have surprising depth despite its fluffy story.
The film’s cartoonish style works well and is masterfully crafted. From Ichigo’s ridiculous motorcycle to Ryuji’s foot-long pompadour, the cartoony elements are done well enough to fit into the live-action sets. The film is tonally and visually similar to the anime FLCL.
One of the most anime-like elements is the film’s cast of characters. In addition to Ichigo and Momoko, there are several characters who fit outside the boundaries of society. Momoko’s grandmother wears an eye patch with sequins glued on. She lost her eye in a fight, but now she is a sweet woman who asks Momoko for money to buy chocolate milk. Ichigo’s boyfriend (of sorts) is the Unicorn Ryuji, whose hair defies the laws of physics. The leader of Ichigo’s biker gang is an anarchist who follows the ideals of a mythical biker woman named Himiko. Her story is told in cartoon form, of course, with animation similar to The Powerpuff Girls.
Kamikaze Girls is much like its protagonists: sweet and spicy. While being completely saccharine, the movie has a punk rock edge that keeps it from feeling too sweet. There’s never a moment where the film feels too cornball for its own good. Instead, the message of friendship is twisted into an “us against the world” kind of theme. Momoko and Ichigo are outsiders, but they’re fine with that if they can be outsiders together. It’s a film about individuality, and can be summed up rather succinctly in one line from Momoko.
Read more in our regular Weird Watch series here.