High-Kick Girl! (Review)

High-Kick Girl!

aka Hai kikku garu!

Directed by Fuyuhiko Nishi
Written by Yoshikatsu Kimura and Fuyuhiko Nishi

High-Kick Girl was one of four films that came out or were announced close together that featured new female fighting talent as the leads, the others being Coweb from Hong Kong, Fighter from Denmark (review forthcoming), and Chocolate from Thailand.

For what is undoubtedly a low-budget flick, it does mush of what it sets out to do. The main goal is to showcase the karate skills of the stars, with plenty of real karate action and moves. Forget your wire work and CGI. The amount of prep work required must have been enormous for such a low-budget affair. Rumors abound that stunt people had to go take MRIs for having so many kicks to the heads and were really upset that the fighting was all “real” and they didn’t do takes where punches and kicks were pulled.

One constant stylization that High-Kick Girl uses is the different angle slow-mo instant replay. Many of the more brutal hits are instantly replayed from an alternate angle slow enough for you to enjoy them. This happens often enough that it probably added 20 minutes to the length of the film

Many of the characters are given introductions with their names when they first appear on screen. One problem is the fact the intros are in Japanese with no subtitles. I can read some of the characters, so there will be a few actual names below, but some of them I didn’t catch.

Kei Tsuchiya (Rina Takeda) – A real-life blackbelt in karate who will kick you in the head just because she can. This girl kicks high, thus the title, Kick High Girl. Wait, that’s not the title!
Yoshiaki Matsumura (Tatsuya Naka) – Tatsuya Naka is a real life Karate champion, as in a former All Japan Karate champion who is now the Japan Karate Association lead instructor.
Kei’s buddy (???) – Kei’s buddy who documents her attempts to beat up everyone in the universe.
Ryuzoku (Sudo Masahiro) – Matsumura’s former associate with a grudge. Ryuzoku is part of a larger mob of goons who all hate Matsumura, and he gets to him by going through Kei and using her to track down his foe.
Genga (Amano Koji) – Leader of the gang (the Destroyers) with a grudge against Matsumura. What this grudge is, I don’t know thanks to the no subtitles, but my guess is Matsumura

We start out great with bodies flying into the street, because an enforcer dude is beating up a ton of guys up above in an office building. He eventually kicks the crap out of everyone there (except an old guy named Ryuzoku who arrives and just watches) and kicks out one of the goons who has landed in the street after he takes a girl hostage (also kicking out the hostage girl as well) Who is this enforcer dude? I don’t think he shows up again unless he is supposed to be one of the boss guys later.

High-Kick Girl! In Color!

It’s karate school time, Matsumura is teaching class. Meanwhile, Tsuchiya Kei is skipping class to go challenge a rival school in a battle of skills. Her buddy is there to video tape the whole thing. Kei beats the dojo master in one kick. Then Kei must beat up the entire school when they try to go after her friend who has recorded her besting their teacher. She kicks the crap out of them. If you like girls who do brutal kicks and have expert legwork, then you will love the High-Kick Girl. She lives up to her name, and the dojo she challenged is humiliated.

Sensei Matsumura is not pleased. He won’t give her a blackbelt despite her skills because she doesn’t know all of the stances. There are lots of scenes of karate training, honor, all that stuff. Karate training, train, train, train, train of fools! Train, train, brain, crane, drain, Lil Wayne, pain, mainframe, the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains.

The long, very exciting (not!) training scenes are interrupted when Kei gets a mysterious call from a dude wanting her to be an enforcer and earn some money. Kei is more interested because then she can kick up people with real skills. Testing time! The test is going into a building where there are some other bad people there and beating them all up.

Kei kicks out the lone guy easily, but there is a sukeban girl gang there and that fight lasts longer and it set to J-pop. My favorite part is how Kei disarms the nunchucks girl. After besting all of them, Kei heads outside and there is one more schoolgirl waiting. One that doesn’t go down immediately with one kick.

Now we’re talking! Kei is even knocked down, and we finally see her smile instead of looking bored in the fight. We have a longer fight as the two girls pound into each other, but Kei eventually wins because she is the title character. Kei is approached by Ryuzoku, the old guy in the cap who was watching the pre-credits fight. Ryuzoku has beat up her friend, and then punches her out in one blow when she becomes enraged over her buddy getting beaten. Ryuzoku then gives the beaten up kid a stack of money for the doctor and walks away after giving Kei the offer.

More training scenes at the dojo, except not, at Matsumura isn’t there and class is being led by an assistant. Two visitors stop by to observe the class, but they are really rival students who beat up everyone there.

Is this common in Japan? Do people just wander into rival martial arts schools and try to beat everyone up? Your karate might be good, but it is no match for my lawyer fu!

Those two students were looking for Sensei Matsumura, so they take the assistant guy instead. Matsumura himself is currently practicing at a waterfall, and Kei goes all the way there, followed by two goons. I think she was told to give Matsumura a message, but the second they spot him they punch out Kei and grab her, then attack Matsumura.

Matsumura beats the river dude and heads to fight others at a building. The next two opponents are a geisha girl named Hien and a guy with a bow staff hiding behind her. Matsumura beats them, and then beats the next dude, who is unmemorable. Finally, he enters a room with like 50 dudes in it, including captured Kei and Assistant, and goon leaders Ryuzoku and boss of the whole organization Genga. They want revenge or something. For what? Does it matter?

Sensei tries bowing or whatever to appease the goons, but they aren’t appeased or anything. Then a girl in a sports bra and booty shorts runs in to start beating Sensei around – Shyorei is her name. Another girl with a pole also attacks. Sensei Matsumura takes it at first, but then starts fighting back when Kei gets up. After a bit of talking Matsumura soon takes out the two girls attacking him.

Now some guys start attacking Kei and the captured assistant. Assistant is useless, but Kei fights someone I can only describe as crazy laughing shirtless guy! Kei is getting beat up in slow mo by him, but she remembers some training and thus bests his crazy laughing shirtless butt.

Matsumura beats up a bunch of the goons in a row and makes it to Ryuzoku. Kei watches how effortlessly Matsumura flies through the opponents. He is like a hot knife through butter. The enemies are destroyed at light speed. Warp speed. Ludicrous Speed.

Finally, only the goateed boss Genga is left to fight. Genga tries to pull a gun, but sensei’s karate is faster and he kicks him unconscious first. This isn’t High Gun Girl! Genga gets back up and draws the gun again, so Kei kicks him back down saving Mastumura.

At the end of the flick, we are back in the dojo, and Matsumura gives Kei a complement and she smiles. I guess she’ll finally get her blackbelt.

The end!

Now let’s run the blooper/demo reel during the credits. Check out how damaged those limbs look…

I was well pleased. The fight scenes were great and was not filled with wirework making things looking ridiculous. Overall, the realism makes the film enjoyable, and the non-stop action keeps you from getting bored. The lack of gore and nasty elements mean the whole family can enjoy the adventures of the girl who kicks high. Then you kid will break a vase while practicing kicking, but a small price to pay! Unless said vase was an urn with grandma in it…then it’s spanking time!

Biggest complaint is that the film is about High-Kick Girl, but the last half of the film is almost exclusively a showcase for Taka Tatsuya. Taka Tatsuya is awesome, but I want to see more Rina Takeda! I will factor a guess that the reason they got so many real martial artists and good choreography was done so that Taka Tatsuya would get a bigger role, or they were concerned with Rina Takeda not being able to hold the entire film with all the action in her first go round. That’s fine. Hopefully, Rina Takeda will be back soon and be back often, kicking all the while.

Oh, and Boot to the Head and all that jazz.

Rated 9/10 (Koi, boat, kicker, kickee, Fight Girl, challenger, a rare smile, fellow challenger, this is what happens when you’re this good!)

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