What to make of Assault Girl? At first glance it seems to be a bizarrely elaborate ad for a fast food franchise. Then maybe a proof of concept for a new video game. Or… OK, I don’t know what to make of it, but it is so much fun trying.
Director, writer, and madman Mamoru Oshii is best known to US audiences for the acclaimed anime titles Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (which I have handy reviews of here and here should you need to catch up). Oshii went on to direct Tachiguishi-Retsuden, titled The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters in the West, based on his own novel. How does one describe this work? Mix This Is Spinal Tap, Japanese history and cuisine, Terry Gilliam’s old Monty Python paper cut animation, and a lot of crack, and you’ll still have no idea. Naturally, this was a hit, so there followed Shin-Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden (released as The Women of Fast Food in English speaking countries), which is not a sequel, but a spin-off in the most general of ways, consisting of six unrelated stories. Assault Girl, subtitled Hineko The Kentucky, is one of these. And to further confuse its lineage, it is not an animated faux documentary, but a live-action, sci-fi, effects-laden demi-commercial.
Don’t look for a plot, or at least don’t look to understand one. Assault Girl opens with the arrival of a massive military spaceship around an unknown world. With radio chatter in Engrish (yes, it is like English, but if you can understand more than half the words, you are better than I), our heroine prepares for her drop to the planet below. On her mission, she will evade lasers, fly a rocket powered robot, and go one-on-one with a giant sand snake. Her goal, and the only words in Japanese in the film, I’ll leave for you to discover.
Assault Girl is beautiful, as are most of Oshii’s movies, but it also manages to avoid his normal over-use of descriptive dialog. It’s a fun little ride, that will leave you shaking your head, but with a smile.
In case you want more, Oshii has more for you. The anthology film Kill contains his follow up: Assault Girl 2, which has made its way to YouTube. It is less exciting than its predecessor (a lot less exciting), with two-thirds of its brief running time taken up with an angelic “assault girl” lying in the grass. A very brief sword duel between her and a dark winged opponent caps the film. Oshii returned yet again to the material for a feature: Assault Girls. This is just reaching US shores, and has three weapon-clad females (apparently the ones from the two shorts) battling the sand snakes, but now explained to be in the virtual reality world he created for the film Avalon.
Oshii’s features require dedication from the viewer, and a philosophical mindset. Assault Girl asks less, and minute for minute, delivers more.