Girl's Blood (2014)

7/10 - Largely inexplicable fusion of elements but somehow it works
Reviewed by Simon on 16 November 2019

Each night in an abandoned school in Roppongi, a group of girls with boring every day lives don costumes, assume their stage personas and enter a cage to fight each other in front of an audience. The fights are largely for show, nobody is getting seriously hurt, and when not in the ring the girls can mostly be found on the laps of their more dedicated/affluent fans. One day a new arrival turns up looking to join the crew, and in her first fight it becomes clear that she is no ordinary girl but a trained fighter, skilled and deadly. Before long her even more deadly, even more skilled husband (Hideo Sakaki) turns up, wanting to know why she ran away from him and demanding that she return.

I had no idea what to expect going in to GIRL'S BLOOD, which is probably for the best as if I had been expecting anything in particular the film would likely have frustrated those expectations - it's an odd beast, a Frankenstein's monster of martial arts film, feminist drama and - most inexplicably - soft porn.

A fair amount of the run time is spent with the girls fighting - either each other or Hideo Sakaki's goons, and in general the choreography is pretty good. Some of the the stage fights are more playful and titillating, but off stage (and sometimes on) the fights can get quite brutal and thrilling. Some of the girls at least seem to have genuine martial arts training, although there's enough fast cut editing that I couldn't swear to it in court.

In between fights we largely learn about the girls' backgrounds and private lives, the particular combinations of boredom and misfortune which led them to seek whatever it is they expect to find in an underground fight club. Four of the girls in particular get the vast majority of the character development, and through various scenes they form a close bond.

So, a film about women finding themselves and seeking empowerment in the ring, right? Everyone can get behind that, I assume. But then the film regularly throws in an interlude with some gratuitous nudity, fan service or some quite lengthy soft core sex scenes and you're left scratching your head about what exactly they're trying to say, and to what audience.

Well I was at least - I still don't have an answer, I'm not sure they do either. It's not like it's one of Nikkatsu's Roman Porno films where the studio mandated there must be some nudity every 10 minutes but the rest of the time the director had free reign - maybe it was made under a similar agreement though? Or maybe this is just the film the director wanted to make, and somehow convinced enough other people to go along with the idea that it actually happened.

Either way, it's definitely one of those "only from Japan" films, and I'm glad it exists. Whether you're looking for some solid fight scenes, some touching female bonding or some quite tasteful lesbian sex scenes, or even if you just missed seeing Hideo Sakaki throw down, you won't reach the end of credits of GIRL'S BLOOD entirely disappointed, at the very least.

Cast

Yuria Haga
Asami Tada
Ayame Misaki
Rina Koike
Hideo Sakaki