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Sukeban Deka The Movie (Tanaka Hideo 1987)


Sukenban Deka
[Girl Boss Detective]

Genre: Yo-Yo Wielding High School Girl Saves the World (Again)

review in one breath

When a political revolutionary takes over a remote school in order to convert its students into terrorists, young Saki dusts off her killer yo-yo, enlists the help of long-time friends, and promptly proceeds to bring the school and its revolutionary leader to their knees. This film is based on the Japanese TV series and casts the same familiar personalities.


Contrary to what NetFlix and IMDb would have you believe, this is a live-action film and NOT an animation.

This is the first of three live-action Sukeban Deka films and comes between the second and final season of a similar live-action TV series by the same title. These six were later followed by two animated films.

This entire Sukeban Deka series is based on the manga by Shinji Wada and involves a "delinquent" ("sukeban") high school girl whose prowess for fighting is put to use by a governmental agency. This Sukeban is granted a badge and the official title of "Detective" ("deka") and is issued a special deadly weapon... a steel plated yo-yo which she whips and snaps in head-crushing manner. (!)

The phrase/title "Sukeban Deka" refers to an office or position rather than a single individual, and thus in each of the three TV seasons, a different young girl plays the role, each referring to herself and the others "Number 2" or "Number 3", etc. The current film, which fell between seasons two and three of the TV series, tells in dramatic (!?) detail how "Number 2" retires and "Number 3" steps up to the plate. This then serves as an introduction to the new Sukeban whom avid fans will then follow through the upcoming TV season.

While the manga and anime versions may appeal to a slightly wider audience through the depiction of such things as nudity and actual violence, the entire live-action series, whether TV or film, seems aimed squarely at junior and senior high girls. For example, in the current film, our "delinquent girl boss" fills her off hours wearing frilly aprons making home-made curry rice, while the only action the lead male character encounters is at the wrong end of a lobotomy.

With the recent release of several tough girl films including the Pinky Violence Collection, some titles of which also employ the term "sukeban", I was expecting something a little (okay, FAR) more substantial and entertaining. But this is truly made-for-TV fare, akin to watching an episode of The A-Team acted out by quaffed high school girls. (!!!)

The truth of the matter is that this "film" has the sheer look and feel of a 90 minute B-grade television show which hired Z-grade actors. I would dare venture to say that in the larger scope of things, this can only be truly enjoyed by either fans of the original manga or the prior season (#2) of the television series. Many of the characters and plot elements assume you are familiar with season 2 of the TV series, and particularly the season's finale, which I AM NOT. It also assumes that audiences are wholly sympathetic toward these characters ( which I AM NOT) and thus attempts to depict them in ridiculously heroic scenes. Thus for those (such as myself) unfamiliar with this series and not particularly interested in learning anymore than we have to, you will either be kicking yourself for renting this (or god-forbid buying it!) or will be guffawing out-loud over this film's hilarity and absurdity. (Yes, that yo-yo really did blow-up the helicopter in mid-flight!! Shhhhwwwiiiinnngggg... KAPOWW!!)


When a political revolutionary takes over a remote school in order to convert its students into terrorists, young Saki dusts off her killer yo-yo, enlists the help of long-time friends, and promptly proceeds to bring the school and its revolutionary leader to their knees.

Their detailed plan involves home-made curry, crayon drawings, pink shiny jumpsuits and a strict timelime which allows them only a narrow window of time wherein they must (a) cut the power to the school, (b) herd all the students out of their prison cells, into the yard, and over the disabed electric fence, (c) all before the backup generators come online and re-power the facility (and the electric fence). The time they allot themselves? One minute. (!!) I kid you not. Pass the curry.

What ensues is malicious violence to a pineapple, one lobotomy apparently done with a rusty spoon, grimacing girls in chains (!!), atomic yo-yos, spontaneous explosions, and the droopy flesh face of a narcissistic killer robot.

Man, those were the days...


If I had a category for "Cutesy Crapolla", this would fit snuggly therein. This could have achieved "camp" status were it not for the fact that the targeted age group is (relatively) quite young -- that of junior and senior high students. Thus rather than "camp", this comes across as a failed Saturday afternoon kid drama which should have NEVER been resurrected from its decades long slumber.

The plot is ridiculous. The lead actress (Minamino Youko) seems to have but a single facial expression through which she exhibits ALL the emotions of fear, pain, boredom and ecstacy. The advanced physics whereby a yo-yo can literally explode through a concrete wall in one swing yet only knock the villian down in the second swing is not adequately explained to my satisfaction. (This film would have been far more remarkable had the villains exploded in the same manner!!! That's what I'm talking about!). And the fact that the Japanese government's Department of Anti-Terrorism has no recourse other than leave the nation's fate in the hands of one yo-yo wielding high school girl is nothing but frightening. (And YES, you will hear the concerned department chief seriously proclaim those very words.)

If you can't control your curiousity (as I could not), this is an easy rental, but FOR CRYING OUT LOUD do not purchase this. You'd get more satisfaction by simply sending SaruDama your cash (please see mailing address below...). For those of you who are really curious, I'll say that this is not as fun or entertaining as the Kekko Kamen films, which were similarly ludicrous yet maintained a degree of adult-centric tongue in cheek humor (and bOObies!). This film, however, takes itself way too seriously, has no humor, and truly expects you to be emotionally invested in the heroine (who has no bOObies!).

Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD with English subtitles. Available via all mainstream venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
This represents a rather popular manga-derived series. Hokey PG-rated depictions of machine gun, yo-yo and marble violence. And one lobotomy. Thankfully, none. You'll have to kill me with your yo-yo first.

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