Secret Undercover Agent: Wild Cats in Strip Royale (Review)

Secret Undercover Agent: Wild Cats in Strip Royale

aka Himitsu Sennyu Sosakan – Wild Cats in Strip Royale

Directed by Keiichi Kobayashi

Secret Undercover Agent Wildcats in Strip Royale continues the tradition of having weird microchips in fashion accessories that do amazing things started in the previous film. Wildcats in Strip Royale also continues the tradition of the film looking freaking gorgeous. The cinematographer should be doing mainstream work in Hollywood, not Japanese DTV exploitation trash. But Hollywood’s loss is our gain! In fact, a lot of directors in Japan get their start doing trashy exploitation work. That’s partially why a lot of the 1970s Sukeban films look so good, along with the hundreds of detective films and pinku films.

The biggest news of the sequel is that Haruna Yabuki left, and was replaced by Reon Kadena. As Reon Kadena has a much higher profile, this announcement caused a large amount of internet buzz that the first film just didn’t have. Although the internet buzz was pretty much “Hey, Reon Kadena is in a movie!” it was enough to raise the profile of the film far above the nothing the predecessor had.

Wildcats in Strip Royale does have a few other things going for it. It is obvious the actresses are having more fun in this one, Yuuri Morishita especially. Some of the costumes are pretty ridiculous and funner than in the original (the cats suits are actual cat suits!) and the plot is easier to follow without subtitles. Yes, that’s right, TarsTarkas.NET doesn’t need no stinking subtitles! I still don’t know the name of their agency or of some of the minor players, but such is life.

Quick lesson for everyone: In Japan, there are these supermodel girls called Idols. Some of them are just models, some do more than that such as singing and/or acting. The big Idols pull in a ton of cash, then marry some rich guy and retire. The lesser Idols do car shows and mall openings and marry midlevel accountants. Most of the bigger Idols have followings all over the web, and there are guys who just scan photobooks of models all day, or host websites that just catalog Idol pictures and news. Idols can specialize in certain genres, like the gravure Idols that star in the film, there are also AV Idols which is a nicer way of saying porn stars. This film will talk of Pure Idols, which is another term used but I don’t know exactly what it means. And let’s not forget the Idols who are thrown so whips can be received.

Honey (Reon Kadena) – Honey has changed! Is it no longer Haruna Yabuki and is now Reon Kadena. Also gone is a lot of the tough loner girl stuff Haruna Yabuki did, Reon’s take of Honey is snobbish at first, then she becomes totally into the Idol world. Honey is still down to business and will beat up guys all the time, so hooray for that! Check out the Reon Kadena Gallery
Bunny (Yuuri Morishita) – The simple and sweet agent with the big rack. Bunny now spends a lot of the film bending over while wearing a short skirt or dress. See Yuuri Morishita in Monster X Strikes Back and on her gallery page.
Capp (????) – We call this guy Capp because we aren’t sure of his character’s name. He is the agent in charge of this little spy ring.
Saki (Minami Otomo) – Reception girl for the spy agency, also specializes as a bartender when doing undercover work in big stings. Although she has more lines in this film, she still doesn’t seem to do much.
Nervous Guy (???) – The other male agent in the spy agency, Nervous Guy is sort of shy but doesn’t really do much except provide someone for Capp to talk to when the girls are undercover. Joins in on big stings like Saki does. I am not sure of his character’s name, either.
Shitagi (Fumie Nakajima) – The evil boss from the previous film shows up again. We also find out she is working for someone even more evil.
Kaori (???) – The new girl and Pure Idol who wants the Wildcats to investigate a series of Nude Pure Idol incidences. I will investigate that for free.

Continue reading

Secret Undercover Agent: Honey & Bunny (Review)

Secret Undercover Agent: Honey & Bunny

aka Himitsu Sennyuu Sousakan: Honey & Bunny

Directed by Keiichi Kobayashi
Written by Yoshiyuki Morita

From the land of Japan comes the first of the Secret Undercover Agent films, what is basically a showcase for two gravure idols. For those of you who don’t speak Japanophile, gravure idols are models that pose almost naked, but not quite naked. Thus we have no nudity and have to make due with implied nudity. Don’t blame me for the lack of naked chicks, this is purely a Japanese phenomenon. The two gravure idols are Haruna Yabuki and Yuuri Morishita.

The plot of this and the sequel is there is a secret organization whose name I haven’t ever figured out that does James Bond-type work in the fashion industry. So I am guessing Zoolander was also an inspiration. This allows for the girls to wear lots of skimpy outfits, while at the same time there being action and other things happening. What makes the Secret Undercover Agent movies stand out is they are beautifully shot. They seriously have some of the best cinematography I have ever seen in what is essentially an exploitation film. The film was written by Yoshiyuki Morita and directed by Keiichi Kobayashi, so they get the majority of the credit and blame.

The DVDs come lacking English subtitles, so there will be certain things we are guessing at. At TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! Another guess is at some of the character names, our rudimentary translation skills were put to the test and found lacking (partially because I didn’t want to devote three times the amount of time trying to find out a character’s name than I was spending writing the whole review!)

Now, we must try not to let exploitation films speak for a culture as a whole, though it does speak for a subculture of the main culture. Do you want Japan judging us based solely on The Hills Have Eyes 2? As far as exploitation flicks go this is pretty tame and would barely even qualify, if it wasn’t so blatant on showing off the gravure girls it could even pass itself off as a comedy.

Honey (Haruna Yabuki) – Shoe-throwing tough girl who spends most of the film not trying to care about anyone. I embarrassed by the smallness of her mammaries. Haruna Yabuki is a gravure model so there are a lot of pictures of her in skimpy clothes around the internet. She does not return for the sequel and the role of Honey is recast. But check out this gallery of images!
Bunny (Yuuri Morishita) – The newest agent, simple and sweet, also has a big rack. Said sweetness and big rackness makes Honey treat her with disdain at first. Yuuri Morishita can also be seen in Monster X Strikes Back.
Capp (???) – We call this guy Capp because we aren’t sure of his character’s name, though it might be Kamakita or Hanzai. He is the agent in charge of this little spy ring, and spends most of the film lusting after Honey.
Saki (Minami Otomo) – Reception girl for the spy agency, also specializes as a bartender when doing undercover work in big stings.
Nervous Guy (????) – The other male agent in the spy agency, Nervous Guy is sort of shy but doesn’t really do much except provide someone for Capp to talk to when the girls are undercover. Joins in on big stings like Saki does. I am not sure of his character’s name, but it might be Hacebe.
Shitagi (Fumie Nakajima) – The boss where Bunny interviewing for a job as a bondage gravure model and involved in some sort of illegal shenanigans. Is a fashion dictator, but manages to escape in the end. I am not sure what her name is, but she was involved in launching the Shitagi Collection so we are calling her Shitagi.

Continue reading

The Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (Review)

The Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit

aka Girara no gyakushû: Tôya-ko Samitto kikiippatsu aka Guilala’s Counterattack: Lake Toya Summit Crisis

Directed by Minoru Kawasaki

Minoru Kawasaki has been given the nickname of late as the “Ed Wood of Japan.” I think this nickname is misleading, because Minoru Kawasaki’s films aren’t bad, they are just really weird. The kind of weird that plays well to international cult audiences but if you try to describe them to your coworkers they just look at you weird and then avoid talking movies with you in future conversations. He first burst in the international scene with Calamari Wrestler in 2004, about a squid that showed up at wrestling matches. His other films include Executive Koala – about a koala executive who may have murdered his wife, Crab Goalkeeper – about a crab that is a goalkeeper on a soccer team, The World Sinks Except Japan – a parody of The Sinking of Japan film (this was also Kawasaki’s first film filled with political satire), Kabuto-O Beetle – another wrestling film with a giant beetle, The Rug Cop – a parody of 1970’s Japanese cop tv shows involving a living toupee, and the upcoming Neko Râmen Taishô – about a cat who runs a Ramen stand. This resume makes him the perfect person to helm the return film for the giant monster Guilala. (He actually did work with giant monsters on Ultraman Tiga.)

Guilala first appeared in 1967’s The X from Outer Space (aka Uchi Daikaiju Girara, literally Giant Space Monster Guilala.) This was the first daikaiju film from Shochiku. After Guilala was brought to Earth as a spore it grew into a giant monster and rampaged until it was coated with Guilalalium, which returned it into a spore and it was shot back into space. The goofy monster design is probably what the film is best remembered for. There have been rumors for years of Guilala returning, most noticeably the long-standing rumor that he would fight Gappa, another Japanese monster who was a one-shot deal from the Nikkatsu studios. And now Guilala reappears years later in The Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (as well as a promotional exercise video released around the time of the movie’s release in theaters in 2008 that I have been unable to track down!) After the film was released in Japan, Guilala showed up again in the US in a commercial for Ladders, some job website.

The Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit is not a daikaiju movie in so much as it is political satire set against the backdrop of a monster attack. The political caricatures are independent enough that you don’t need to know who they are to follow along, but if you are versed in foreign affairs than you get a whole new layer of jokes that others will miss.

The G8 Summit is a forum for governments of eight nations of the northern hemisphere. The leaders of the eight member nations each get represented here as exaggerated caricatures, though how exaggerated you are can vary. There is also a few changes from who actually attended the G8 Summitt due to political changes in power that happened after the script was already in production. The most noticeably is that Prime Minister Shinz? Abe hosts the summit here, while in reality the 2008 G8 Summit in Japan was actually hosted by former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who took over after Abe’s surprise resignation. The Russian president is also called Putin, though the Russian president at the time of the meeting was Dmitri Medvedev (and the actor resembles him more than Putin.) All other minor differences are listed below in the Social Studies 101 section. But first we need to introduce the non-political characters:

Sumire Sumidagawa (Natsuki Kato) – A reporter who stumbles across a village that worships the one thing that can save mankind from the evil Guilala.
Sanpei Toyama (Kazuki Kato) – A cameraman for Sumire who joins her in her discovery of Take-Majin and the prophecy.
Guilala (Hurricane Ryu) – Guilala returns 31 years after being sent back into space to strike again at mankind. The leaders of the free world are defeated by him one by one. But can a small village defeat Guilala?
Take-Majin (??? and Beat Takeshi (voice)) – Called The Legendary Savior. Fights Guilala after being awakened by the prayers of the Lake Toya villagers. 50 meters tall weighing 10,000 tons. Take-Majin is a takeoff of the Daimajin monster.

Continue reading