Robo-Geisha (2009) Movie Review

“Machine Girl” director Iguchi Noboru returns with more unfettered craziness in the form of “Robo Geisha”, a film which has already become somewhat of a cult sensation after its jaw dropping trailer notched up an incredible number of internet views. Aiming to take the new wave of Japanese mayhem cinema to the next level, the film features special effects from “Tokyo Gore Police” and “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl” director Nishimura Yoshihiro. As if the presence of two such genre masterminds wasn’t enough, the film features gorgeous gravure idol Kiguchi Aya in the lead, with Hasebe Hitomi (“Battle Royale 2”) as her sister and chief rival. Fans can now judge for themselves whether the film lives up to the hype, as it arrives on region 2 Blu Ray and DVD vie Cine Asia, sadly only coming with a handful of trailers.

Kiguchi Aya stars as Yoshie, a shy young girl who spends her days trailing after and being bullied by her older sister Kikue, a successful Geisha trying to make her way to the top. Everything changes when the two are taken in by an evil steel baron called Hikaru Kageno (Saitoh Takumi) and made part of his army of mechanised Geisha assassins as part of an insane plan to take over the world. Yoshie flourishes in her new role, and finds herself outshining her sister for the first time, something Kikue doesn’t take too kindly to. Their rivalry reaches new and homicidal heights when Yoshie refuses to kill a group of elderly ex-employees, and decides to fight on the side of justice instead.

Needless to say, such a brief summary really doesn’t do justice to the insanity that is “Robo Geisha”, with Iguchi Noboru throwing in pretty much everything imaginable, including geishas, martial arts, giant robots, science fiction and of course, plenty of over the top splatter. In terms of storytelling, the film is a marked improvement over “Machine Girl”, which tended to drag outside of its action sequences, with the complex relationship and feuding between Yoshie and Kikue making for an engaging dynamic. Though it may sound strange to accuse a film like this of having an emotional grounding, both Kiguchi Aya and Hasebe Hitomi turn in creditable performances, and this helps considerably when it comes to holding the viewer’s interest, as does the more measured sense of pacing and plotting.

The good news is that despite the trailer having showcased a fair number of the film’s craziest moments, it still has plenty up its sleeve, and is pretty much a nonstop onslaught of inspired lunacy. Indeed, if anything moments from the trailer such as Yoshie sprouting tank treads, the ass katanas and the fried shrimp scene are even funnier and wilder when seen in context. Iguchi shows an incredible imagination, with too many money shots and visual gags to list here without spoiling the fun, though it’s safe to say that even those familiar with the form will find themselves amazed and delighted.

Also giving the film a real boost is the fact that its budget was obviously higher than many of its peers, giving Nishimura Yoshihiro more resources to splash out on special effects and bizarre sets. While some of the computer work is a bit basic, the film is visually impressive, with Nishimura and Iguchi combining their styles to make for a cinematic experience that is akin to watching a demented live action cartoon, incredibly colourful and overflowing with manic energy. The film has an emphasis on action and old school exploitation rather than gore, and is not particularly bloody by the standards of the genre. There are a few gruesome shots and perverse touches scattered throughout, but the film lacks any real dedicated nastiness or body horror despite its theme of surgical and mechanical enhancements, and most of the splatter comes in the form of bright red geysers of CGI blood.

This actually works in its favour, as “Robo Geisha” is very clearly a film which is not meant to be taken seriously, and which is played quite intentionally for fun and crazed, over the top creativity. In this it more than succeeds, taking the genre to new heights and showing yet again that Iguchi and Nishimura are indeed geniuses of the highest order. The film really needs to be seen to be believed, more than living up to the promise of the trailer, and is guaranteed blissful enjoyment both for fans and newcomers to the form.

Noboru Iguchi (director) / Noboru Iguchi (screenplay)
CAST: Naoto Takenaka … Kanai
Takumi Saitô … Hikaru Kageno
Suzuki Matsuo … Tetsuma Gotokuji
Aya Kiguchi … Yoshie Kasuga
Shôko Nakahara … Hideko
Kentarô Shimazu … Kogure
Hitomi Hasebe … Kikue Kasuga

Buy Robo-Geisha on DVD