Monday, December 10, 2018

Star Virgin (Japan, 1988)


I approached Star Virgin expecting lightweight Japanese erotica, but what I got was something altogether more charming. What it was instead was a frenetic procession of goofy rubber monsters, robots, fun miniature effects and perky idol pop, all revolving around an appealing heroine.

Pin-up model and actress Eiko Kuroki stars as Eiko, an alien visiting Earth in the guise of a normal teenage girl who turns into the bikini clad superhero Star Virgin by way of a “transformation bracelet” given to her by her scientist father. When we first meet Star Virgin, at the film’s opening, she is tied to a crucifix and being threatened by a giant spiny frog with an endlessly extendable tongue. Two ineffectual hand puppet aliens look on. After she punches her way out of this sticky situation, she makes her getaway on a flying scooter as her catchy disco theme song plays in the background. And with that, as they say, we’re off.


In short order, Eiko returns to Earth and reunites with her nerdy friend Koh, only for the two of them to be immediately attacked by a maurading futuristic tank. They are next stalked from the air by a gigantic, bird-of-prey like spaceship, and then a virtually indestructible robot. All of this turns out to be the work of one Colonel Arashiyama (Isao Sasaki) a demented scientist type who heads the Tsukenerawa Organization, an evil cabal that conducts its world domination plans from a lair inside a hollowed out volcano. But this no ordinary hollowed-out volcano, as it is also a hollowed-out volcano that flies.

With her skimpy attire, indomitable cheerfulness, game physicality, and evident baby fat, Star Virgin reminds me a lot of the Philippines’ Darna, especially as played by Wilma Santos – and longtime readers of this blog will know that that is not a comparison I make lightly. And despite a montage of Eiko Kuroki posing that looks like a magazine spread, there is very little salaciousness to the way she is depicted. Mind you, one synopsis I read of the video game that either inspired or was inspired by the movie (details are unclear) described Star Virgin as having a super power that allows her to detect when a man is planning to rape her. This doesn’t seem like too much of a super power, as one of the super powers that men are sorely lacking in is the ability to be subtle when they’re horny. Japanese exploitation films are likewise ham fisted in portraying male horniness, so given I didn’t see any Oafish perverts chasing Star Version in Benny Hill-style fast motion, I feel I can conclude, even without subtitles, that that story element was left out.


I want to be careful not to over-praise Star Virgin, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. It is clearly a film of modest ambitions, but it doesn’t use those ambitions as an excuse not to do the best it can. While its special effects are far from convincing, they are always clever and fun (I mean, if I’m seeing a flying volcano hideout, I really don’t care how well it's executed; I just want to see that shit.) Likewise, its acting, while not of awards caliber, is always enthusiastic and appropriately cartoonish. In short, I would recommend Star Virgin to anyone who doesn’t have a huge stick up their ass, while urging anyone with a huge stick up their ass to seek medical attention immediately.

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