The final film in the Comica Obscura Marathon is some great female driven revenge!
Screenplay By: Norio Osada
Directed By: Toshiya Fujita
The obvious comparison to Shurayukihime is either Kill Bill: Vol. 1 or Kill Bill: Vol. 2. The comparison exists because The Kill Bill films are the Shurayukihime film, and its sequel, minus a few key ingredients. The Kill Bill films were empty exercises in style and possibly the best example of the misogyny that plagues Quentin Tarantino’s career. The character Uma Thurman portrays isn’t a strong woman, she is a woman acting like a man. Yuki Kashima is quite different as no matter how much blood she sheds she is decidedly a woman and acts decidedly like a woman. She still kills, she still has an agenda of revenge, but at the same time she displays feminine qualities and attributes in a very strong manner.
A key sequence in establishing this in my mind was when Yuki is training as a young girl with her master, Priest Dôkai. Her master is harsh on her, for all intents and purposes he is harsh on Yuki because he wants to create a killing machine just as much as he wants to beat her feminine qualities out of existence. At one point she attempts to use a jump that is very reliant on the idea of female grace to avoid his strike. She does not succeed and is disrobed as a result. The film quickly moves away from the disrobing and ahead in Yuki’s life where once again it appears her master is overpowering her feminine fighting style. This time, however, her light steps and her graceful moves however prove to be a match for Dôkai’s blunt force. It becomes instantly clear that the director has not crafted Yuki as a woman acting like a man. Instead he has allowed her strength to come from her very femininity.
Another key moment in Shurayukihime as having something positive to say about the power of a woman comes in the form of Yuki’s birth. Her mom dies and creates her daughter’s life mission out of what is possibly the most defining aspect of womanhood, the ability to bring life into the world. Shurayukihime is tinged with moments like the birth scene, moments that very quietly speak about the power of being a woman and how when she needs to a woman can use her body in many different ways to accomplish her goals. And by body I’m not just referring to sexual appeal, but also to the brain power that Yuki shows in her dogged determination to seek revenge.
With my pretentious ramblings and all the feminist claptrap out of the way, what is it that makes Shurayukihime so gosh darn awesome? It’s a grimy picture, and it shows its dirt lovingly. The direction is rough around the edges in all the best possible ways. The colors are dulled so as to make the fake blood look even faker and thus even more awesome. The kills are quick and to the point, and the film very astutely leaves them behind in hasty fashion. Shurayukihime doesn’t linger on moments, on character, on anything. As a result the audience isn’t given much time to think about the places where the film does falter. The brisk pace, the thin characters, and the stark minimalism that the filmmaking is couched in all contribute to making Shurayukihime a wonderful experience.
Part revenge film, part feminist critique, part exploitation grime, all words that fail to adequately describe the awesomeness that is Shurayukihime. The roughness of the filmmaking only helps the film to be as engaging as it is. Shurayukihime is one of those films that represent all that is wonderful about dirty, grimy, stark filmmaking. Skip the overblown, vacuous, and misogynistic Kill Bill films and go straight to a healthy dose of real 70s exploitation awesomeness where a woman can be an awesome killer and a woman at the same time.
Go read what Edgar had to say at Between The Seats.