I’ve recently discovered that I love the Japanese 1980s, and for completely different reasons than I love my own 1980s, which is based largely on nostalgia. From where I’m standing, on the outside looking in, the 1980s in Japan were the last days of innocence before the bubble burst and teenage girls began selling themselves to salary men for cell phones. Before the loss of childhood and Love & Pop (1998), before all of today’s weird, alienated murderers and shut-ins, there was the 1980s, a squeaky-clean time of flared hair and good intentions, earnestness and bubbliness.
The difference in idol presentation is telling. The video diary that accompanies the DVD for Sukeban Deka The Movie 2: Counter-Attack of the Kazama Sisters follows star Asaka Yui as she does her best on set, does her best in press conferences, and does her best in concert. The clothes are priceless but so is her attitude, all fresh-faced smiles and “gee whiz” pluck. I don’t for a minute believe that the idol industry in the ’80s was any less corrupt and soul-crushing than it is today, but what is different is that then people wanted to believe that it was somehow innocent. The projected image becomes reality, or at least the desired reality.
What better way to highlight that innocence than in contrast to fascist youth thugs? Yui (the character’s name is the same as its star), the third Sukeban Deka, or girl gang cop, has been recruited into a leather-headband-wearing government group of teens who dispense justice with spiked yo-yos and Aqua-Net’d bangs, shutting down discos like pre-college exam Nazis. Yui leaves the group in disgust, but is called back into action by her two sisters, Yuka and Yuma (the actresses who play them also having first names identical to their characters’) when the Sukeban Deka program director is kidnapped and a floppy disc containing the youth group’s nefarious plans is obtained.
Unlike the first Sukeban Deka movie, which often played like a toned-down 1970s exploitation film, this sequel is light all the way. With its “kids in trouble” side story and cheap lighting, it looks more like an American TV show like The A-Team (1983-1987) than a Toei movie. But hey, that was the 1980s for you. The Japanese film industry was in dire straights—not every film could be a Tanpopo (1985). That being said, Counter-Attack does have its moments. The series’ trend of making schoolgirl accessories into weapons continues with knitting needles and a boomerang metal origami crane. And Asaka Yui, it has to be said, is gosh darn cute.
Kenta Fukasaku recently added to the series with his Yo-Yo Girl Cop (2006), a terrible movie whose only saving grace is an overacting Takeuchi Riki.