Blu-ray Review: "Mutant Girls Squad" Is Your Low-Budget, Japanese Schoolgirl X-Men

Here's the litmus test for whether or not you'll enjoy the latest movie from the Sushi Typhoon line of low-budget, exploitation horror movies from directors Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, and Versus star Tak Sakaguichi: are you repelled by scenes of extreme, implausible, gory violence? Do you take issue with casual nudity? Are high production values simply mandatory if you're going to sit down and watch a movie? If you answered "yes" to any of these, then there's nothing much for you here, really.

For the rest of us who enjoy the sort of "let's put on a show" aesthetic of these kinds of well-meaning and often ridiculous movies, Mutant Girls Squad represents the steady (albeit slow) evolution of the line, with improved production values, some strong action staging in the first act, and a bit less narrative fat than previous films under the Sushi Typhoon umbrella. While the successor to the likes of Karate-Robo Zaborgar and Alien vs Ninja wouldn't be what you'd call a "good" movie, it a fun one, enlivened by energetic performances by the entire cast and an utter lack of shame.

Mutant Girls Squad opens with Rin (model and singer Yumi Sugimoto), Yoshie (Suzuka Morita), and Rei (Yuko Takayama) in white vinyl jumpsuits using their mutant fighting skills to battle a group of tengu mask wearing killers in the middle of the night. Right off the bat, the movie gets off to an awkward start as the bulk of Mutant Girls Squad will ostensibly be about whether Rin can control her powers and work together with the Yoshie and the hot-headed Rei. But nevermind that for now.

Rin is a high school student, awkward and bullied, and currently suffering from a mysterious pain in her hand days before her 16th birthday. When she's nearly captured by a member of an anti-mutant group, her arm spouts claws, bumps, and a guitar string wrapping (which will be relevant later), leading in turn to the death of tattooed high school nurse and later, a shopping complex of business owners and patrons who want to capture her so that she can be stuffed and mounted as the mall's mascot (it makes somewhat more sense in context).

After a few gallons of blood are spilled, she's recruited by Mr. Kisaragi (Sakaguichi), a kimono-wearing mutant freedom fighter (well, they're called HILKO in the subs) who wants to fight human prejudice the way Charles Xavier wouldn't approve: through bloody murder and acts of terror. With nowhere to go, Rin joins the other oddball assortment of female HILKO with their increasingly odd mutations: a face growing out of one girl's belly, a pair of hands out of one girl's ears, a chainsaw from one young lady's butt... you get the idea. There, Rin meets Yoshie, a nurse cosplay enthusiast (for some reason) and Rei who was sold into a carnival by her home village and harbors a deep hatred for humans.

From there, the movie just careens from one scene of violence to the next, and watching it, you get the feeling the Sushi Typhoon guys don't quite know how the insides of human beings work, but, you know, if they did they probably wouldn't be the Sushi Typhoon guys. The first third of the movie moves along at a brisk pace, and you can clearly see the join points where one director passes the baton to the next in terms of the staging, action, and tone. The first and third acts are more or less in the same realm of prosthetic and CG nuttiness, while the middle act gets maudlin without any real payoff.

The pretty leads have the requisite quality for this kind of movie: a willingness to look silly in the face of a dumb effect, and it pays off a few of the movie's better gags. If you've seen Sakaguichi as the quintessential tough guy in the likes of Versus or Death Trance, then his white make-up caked, kimono-clad role here will be a wake-up call that this guy is not afraid to play outside of his comfort zone.

The T&A quotient is pretty low (this is either a good or bad thing depending on who you are), and that kind of adds to the overall, I don't know, earnestness of the whole thing—like it's supposed to be fun for the whole family if you're family is weirdly really into gore effects. That extends to the humor which tends toward the one-note and scatalogical: they'd prefer to make you smile with silly mutation that build up a complicated gag around the characters.

I'll speak about the look of the movie more in the AV section, but the look varies from grainy, almost film-like DV to the video-est of video, something that could probably be attributed to a mix of budget and rotating directorial talent. Still, it's one of the best looking movies in the line. As for the effects, they're a mixed bag of garish, plastic-looking CG and latex effects.

But that's Mutant Girls Squad in a nutshell: it's not trying to escape its low-budget roots, but it doesn't awkwardly play them up or call them out. Everyone involved knows what kinds of movies they're making here and simply seem to hope that the small audience for them appreciate the skin and violence on display.

Audio and Video

The variable picture quality is hard to ignore on Well Go's Blu-ray (the DVD is also included in the set). Still, during the early mall scene, the movie is crazy with grain while later scenes in the HILKO compound in low light have an extra bloom around the colored costumes onscreen. Still, this is probably as theater-quality as you're going to get with this particular movie.

Special Features

There's a healthy batch of bonuses on the disc, although most are in standard definition. There's the Opening Day Q&A with the stars and one of the film's directors which runs about half an hour, interviews with the cast and creators, a making of doc, and a 16-minute short called "Yoshie Zero" which is in HD. Finally, the whole thing is rounded out by trailers for other Sushi Typhoon releases.

Mutant Girls Squad is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo now from Well Go USA.