Karate Girl (2011) Recap

karategirltitleIt is amazing the kinds of things one can discover on the Recommended Videos section of YouTube. For every Let’s Play episode, pop song parody, or pointless list fulfilling a very specific niche, there are genuine gems you would have never discovered in a million years otherwise. For me, one day I was busy scrolling through (which means that I was probably supposed to be doing homework) when suddenly:

Holy shit! I knew the second it was over that I had to watch the whole movie, because miracles like this are destined to be blogged about by losers on the internet.

So, here we have Karate Girl, not to be confused with the 1973 Turkish film  containing the supposed “worst death scene ever”. The film was directed by Kimura Yoshikatsu, whose only other movie directing credit listed on IMDB is Hige Clothing, apparently a romantic drama, meaning I don’t particularly care. The film’s writer was Nishi Fuyuhiko, who also worked previously worked with the lead actress, Rina Takeda, on High Kick Girl, which I must also view one day. Speaking of Rina Takeda, aside from the two aforementioned films, she’s also been in The Kunoichi: Ninja GirlDead SushiGothic Lolita Battle Bear, and Danger Dolls, as well as the comedy TV series The Ancient Dogoo Girl. I think I just became a Rina Takeda fan just from reading those titles. Oh, and she was in the live action film adaptation of Attack on Titan, too, but who cares about that?

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We’ll fix it in post!

The movie opens with a narration that definitely sounds like it belongs in a Toku show. Basically the gist of it is that there’s this guy named Shuziro Kurenai who teaches people martial arts. The actual first scene is a duel between Kurenai’s son, Tatsuya, and Tagawayu, who wants to “destroy karate”, which can apparently be done if the reigning master is destroyed. After all, it’s not like the these fighting techniques were taught to students who would probably have more incentive to use them after their teacher is killed!

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Little did they know that they had captured the Wonder Twins.

Either way, Tatsuya’s two daughters are taken hostage, but not before having them witness what is probably the most convincing fight scene in this movie (not that the bar is set high). Of course, Tatsuya’s actor, Tatsuya Naka, was also in the 2007 movie Black Belt, which is known for taking a more realistic approach towards martial arts. And he was in High Kick Girl, too, which I assume is a little less realistic. But in the end, Tagawayu’s gang’s tactic of attacking one at a time finally pays off when one guy kills Tatsuya with a sword. Probably should have started with that guy, then your medical bills would have been halved.

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And your dental expenses seem a tad excessive, too.

For some reason, I guess because little girls are kinda heavy, only one of the daughters is finally taken, Natsuki. The other one is Ayaka, who will grow up to become Rina Takeda. According to the narrator, Tagawayu then “destroyed all the dojo” (did I mention that the subtitle I’m viewing are of top-notch quality?), which means that absolutely nothing happened to it, because the set where the location where this was filmed looks exactly the same as before. I guess Toei couldn’t afford permission to actually damage the place? Actually, I think the floor is shinier, so maybe Tagamayu’s real motives stem from an extreme case of germophobia.

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Then he proceeded to wash his mouth with LOTS of soap.

Finally, Tatsuya uses his last bit of strength to revive the unconscious Ayaka by hitting her in the spine at a specific location. See, karate does have a practical use, in chiropractic medicine! Oh wait…

Cut to years later, and now Ayaka works at a movie theater. One day one the job, two random thieves steal a woman’s purse. Ayaka, of course, steps in to take them down with her secret martial arts techniques, leaving a crowd of people stunned. I love the old guy who casually says, “That’s karate.” The crowd disperses to watch a movie, but I don’t think anyone will really care about that when they just witnessed karate being used to subdue troublemakers in real time.

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She’s literally just holding your wrist, dude.

After an absolutely electrifying conversation with her friend about how karate should be used to protect yourself, Ayaka receives a call from her current teacher, Sasaki, who insists that karate shouldn’t be used in public. Unless it’s in self-defense. So, you know, if you see robbery or other crimes being committed, don’t intervene even if it’s entirely within your ability to do so. The press will hound you nonstop, and that would be most annoying.

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Fist of Mild Annoyance!

After some more boring dialogue, the scene cuts to the underground base of who I will now refer to as the Bad Guys (because that’s really all you need to remember). The cameraman takes his sweet ass time to get there, too, because it’s important to show off how bland the hallways are outside of the makeshift dojo. Wheelchair-bound Leader is here, being introduced to the top fighters that Toei could afford.

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By Newton’s Third Law alone, these bags hit the attacker with more force than humans in this movie.

This leads to a demonstration in which the fighter from America, Keith, floors all the poor Japanese mooks. Just like Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon, down to the deliciously wooden performance from Richard William Heselton. As Natsuki trains by herself, Wheelchair Boss tells his henchman to “take care of things”, whatever that means.

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Lady sit on the toilet!

There is some bullshit talk among the henchman about how Kurenai was considered a god of karate, and now they want to be better at karate than him or something. I’m sure they have actual crimes to do but Kurenai forbid that someone be better than them at a recreational activity that probably costs them more than guns anyway. You want to keep your expensive-looking teeth, don’t you?

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Sorry, can’t convey that through my hair.

A random henchman claims that Keith, the token white guy, has no right to preach about karate, to which Wheelchair Man responds by punching him to death with his gloved hand. For the record, this is all Wheelchair Man does for the rest of the movie. He never actually fights the main characters. See wasted potential, page 355.

After a pointless flashback to Kurenai’s death, Wheelchair Man is finally informed of the incident at the beginning of the movie in which Ayaka incarcerated the thugs with karate. Since Kurenai had a daughter named Ayaka, there is a 0.17% increased chance that this random girl named Ayaka who happens to know karate is the daughter of Wheelchair Man’s most hated enemy. After all, it’s not like women casually practice martial arts, right?

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OH COME ON!!! You literally grabbed her leg! You have complete control here!

So the plot has finally been set in motion, because Ayaka used karate on duty. See, this is why martial artists try to avoid active combat. Because there’s a chance that evil organizations want to kill them for no reason, and using them will make them be out for blood!

The next day, Ayaka and her friend are out going to visit the karate school where Ayaka frequents. Their conversations are as electrifying as usual. As is the speech that Ayaka gives at the karate dojo, which just goes on, and on, and on… Eventually, Ayaka says that she was taught that karate should exclusively be used for oneself. I imagine it’s because I’m viewing crappy subs, because that language implies that Ayaka should have been the one stealing the purse at the beginning of the movie.

Naturally, this is another movie that is under the delusion that women do not practice martial arts, so the all-male extras are doubtful of Ayaka’s abilities. Fortunately shw manages to impress the guys with a high-kick demonstration, but then the real trouble arrives in the form of Ayaka’s sister, Natsuki, who proceeds to kick the asses of everyone in the studio, which comprises the first minute or so of the YouTube clip above.

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Root canals: more painful than the karate in this movie.

Gotta love the incredibly generic pseudo-rock playing during all this. Soon afterward, of course Ayaka offers herself as tribute, but not before she, her sister, and nameless-henchman-in-muscle-shirt #457 engage in a three way brawl. Muscle Shirt Guy is quickly knocked down, and the sisters engage in a staring contest. I’m a big proponent of the “show don’t tell” principle in movies, but I think you actually need something to show first. Oh, and while this happened, all the knocked out extras from the dojo just got up and left. And after such a productive training day, too.

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I’m gonna hold this up until you bump it.

News of this altercation somehow makes its way to Wheelchair Man, who has an exquisite plan of gathering another bunch of extras and bringing Ayaka to the base so that those extras can stand around and wait to be demolished.

Ayaka has another riveting conversation with her friend about how mysterious it is that people know what her true name is, because apparently the people who killed your father and left would just forget about you years later. Hey, it happens. Her friend actually suggests contacting people to help Ayaka, but she says she doesn’t need it. Hey, here’s an idea. CALL THE COPS! They should have guns, and karate is well-known for not being especially effective at detaining those.

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That’s gonna be harder to bump.

Meanwhile, Muscle Shirt Guy gets punished for his failures by getting his ass kicked by Keith, the token huge white guy. He tries to do the same to Natsuki, but due to her ties with Ayaka, this action is prevented. The scene ends with another shot that refuses to cut of Natsuki staring, which I guess is supposed to convey something, but I cannot for the life of me imagine what that is.

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EA? No wonder these guys are evil, they killed Ultima!

Because of the situation Ayaka finds herself in, she starts practicing again, out in a secluded area where absolutely no one could see her (because Toei let tourists know ahead of time that they were filming there). Finally, Natsuki teleports in to confront Ayaka. I can’t really think of any other means of transportation that would get her in the scene as quickly or as silently.

After a brief and really lame battle, Ayaka realizes that Natsuki is her sister through recognition of basic Kurenai technique poses. Natsuki is confused or something, and declares that the two girls will meet again.

As usual, the villains are in their hideout, talking about how Whhelchair Man wants nothing more than Shuziro Kurenai’s belt, because… Well, anyway, he has a plan of some sort, but it is certainly not one that any rational human being should concern themselves with.

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This doesn’t spell good things for opening weekend.

Ayaka and Natsuki both reminisce about when their father was alive and training them in Kurenai technique. After some more brooding and wandering, Natsuki goes back to the secret evil lair, where she is forced to fight a guy twice her size as punishment for not destroying Ayaka. Fortunately, the guy’s a big softie, and just stands there and lets Natsuki kick his ass. This is the next fight scene from the video, by the way, about two minutes of footage.

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No wonder he never made it in Mentos commercials.

After this altercation, Wheelchair Man finally reveals to Natsuki that Ayaka is her sister, and that she is indeed a Kurenai. Wheelchair Man takes pride that he “has set everything up”, but I’m not sure what he means. I guess his plan was to get the two sisters to hate and fight each other to make his quest for the belt easier, but didn’t this kinda just completely fail? And again, YOUR PLAN IS TO STEAL THAT BELONGED TO A DEAD PERSON! What complex planning is even required beyond send a big tough-looking guy after it?

Ayaka receives a video message on her phone, a classic blackmail thing in which Natsuki is used as bait for Shuziro’s belt. So Ayaka basically just casually walks up to the evil lair (in her school outfit, too, because if Toei knows anything, it’s that girls in sailor uniforms are the most powerful beings in the universe). No investigation or anything. I guess she just knew where it was. Maybe she can “sense” her sister or something, but it’s never explained either way. Also gotta love the epic music that plays as Ayaka walks up to a bland white building, something which fails to take my mind off the fact that there is a camera shooting this and a production crew behind frantically running to do their jobs.

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Well who WOULDN’T want a belt that provides this much convenience?

So Ayaka finally walks in to the doors, which became slightly open between shots for some reason. Also gotta love how it closes automatically when she enters, almost like there’s a guy at the other end opening and closing it or something. I guess it looks kinda intimidating from an outside perspective, but whoever’s in there needs a real job.

Ayaka agrees to the trade pretty quickly. I mean, it’s not like the movie has established a sense of urgency to Shuziro’s belt that would make this trade seem like an actual dilemma. Of course, even though there is still nothing to suggest the belt’s actual importance, Ayaka and Natsuki are still attacked by hordes of extras (“attack” here utilized in a far more stationary sense than usual). Son of a bitch, she’s willing to part with the stupid belt that has no actual functional importance! Why keep piling your medical bills even higher! But then I guess we wouldn’t get cheesy YouTube videos like the one above.

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Now get me the new Splash Star Figuarts before I throw a tantrum!

Now we’re about 8 minutes in to the video. And so far I’ve learned that if I ever get attacked in the street, people will helpfully shout really loudly whenever they are about to attack me. The rest of the video is the scene in which Ayaka goes out to confront Keith, who she finds is not going down without a fight (meaning  he can actually take a light blow to the head without suffering a concussion). Also, her blocking won’t work this time, because Keith can actually hit things, too.

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Well, I suppose it could be used to strangle people more easily.

Natsuki jumps in to save Ayaka, and the two resolve to take down Keith and Wheelchair Man together. As usual they wait an eternity in between lines to declare this, because what even is timing? Apparently Wheelchair Man “lied” about something, according to Keith, but whatever it is, I completely lost track of it. Either way, the last fight scene in the video with Keith occurs, culminating in the double kick to the neck that made me seek this movie out in the first place.

After all is said and done, Wheelchair Man’s attempt to play the “long lost uncle” card predictably fails, and Ayaka finally kills him, and all the inner turmoil and conflict that has been eating away at her for all these years has finally dissipated. Left without a true purpose any longer, Ayaka takes her sister and moves to the beach where Toei shoots everything, and the two lived as hermits, doing nothing but training in Kurenai technique, finding out too late that their lives are considerably emptier than before.

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Before Warner Bros. Animation made it cool.

So that was Karate Girl, and it was basically that shitty movie I made in high school extended into a feature-length film. Not that that’s necessarily a completely bad thing. This just makes the whole thing feel kind of accessible in this age where anyone can readily buy a video camera and shoot.

The plot is as basic as it comes, and isn’t even a real plot. I mean, most plots have this thing called “conflict”, in which both a protagonist and antagonist want something that puts them in opposition to each other. Both Ayaka and Wheelchair Man want Shuziro’s belt, but because it’s never established anywhere what makes the belt special other than it belonged to a guy who was good at karate, there’s no actual reason to be invested in this story.

The movie tries to shake things up with the addition of a twin sister to give our hero some emotional baggage, but Natsuki really feels more like an afterthought than anything. And she doesn’t connect to the designated MacGuffin, either, so she really is just there to pad time.

And the fighting. Oh, the fighting. Now, I would never in any way, shape, or form deny that the people in this movie are athletically gifted or talented. But they really are more movie showmen than fighters, and it shows. The movie ended with behind the scenes footage of the fights, and the real fights didn’t seem that much more intense, because they really felt staged and planned, like a dance, except using a style that involves a lot of falling down.

So overall, Karate Girl is a mess, and it seems to have been made solely so that the fightss could get hits on YouTube. And that’s the way I most recommend viewing. It’s not a terrible movie to seek out if you like cheesy movies that take themselves too seriously, but why get that in an hour and a half when you can get it in 12 minutes?

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