Lion Girl (2023)
Directed by Kurando Mitsutake
Written by Kurando Mitsutake
Starring Tori Griffith, Damian T., Derek Mears, Joey Iwanaga
Release Date November 7th, 2023
Published November 8th, 2023
I'm not sure what I just watched. Parts of the movie Lion-Girl are so insane that describing them feels impossible. If I tried to simply explain the death of Lion-Girl's father in the movie, I would need two full paragraphs just to set the stage. This movie is wacky as all get out. It's also bursting forth with nudity, male, female, and those that lay betwixt. It's entirely gratuitous and, if I trusted this filmmaker at all, I might argue that the nudity is intentionally silly, a comic riff on the idea of gratuitous nudity. But, nothing else in the whole of Lion-Girl makes me think that director Kurando Mitsutake is anything more than a bit of a pervert.
So, who is Lion-Girl? Great question, it's also a question that the movie itself is asking. In a future world where most of humanity was wiped out by a massive meteor strike, children can be born with superpowers and become protectors of the innocent. Or, you can be infected by walking too close to one of the pieces that the meteor left behind on Earth and you become infected. Once infected, you become something of a zombie who feeds off of the life force of the uninfected. Lion-Girl stands between the infected and the innocent. And she stands between the evil Shogunate and the people living under the ironclad rule of the Shogunate.
So, Lion-Girl (Tori Griffiths) was born with superpowers, she's not infected and is capable of harnessing the power she was born with via a magical tattoo on her back. When she isn't destroying people infected by the meteor, Lion Girl and her Uncle and protector, offer a protection for hire business. Lion Girl can get people from one part of the remaining tiny land mass of Earth, located in a stretch of Japan, to the other relatively unharmed. Their latest gig however, is a little more dangerous. They've agreed to take a father and daughter to the most dangerous part of the remaining world.
The father and daughter have a dangerous secret, the daughter is like Lion-Girl, someone who can tap into superhero powers as needed. She doesn't control her powers as Lion-Girl does and this makes the girl even more volatile and dangerous. The father and daughter are being pursued by the Shogunate's top Lt., Kaisei Kishi (Derek Mears). Kishi is eager to wipe out all of the so-called infected, regardless of whether they were born with the mutation or if they become infected randomly. This is all very silly and mildly humorous until the movie drags toward a needless 2 hour runtime.
Lion-Girl is a T & A movie, the kind of late night HBO-Skin-a-max movie, that has mostly gone the way of the dinosaur since pornography became so easily accessible via the internet. Perhaps that's why I find Lion-Girl rather oddly entertaining. It's nostalgia for a more innocent time when teenage boys had to hope for a movie like Lion-Girl to pop up on cable so we could see and enjoy naked breasts. Lion Girl certainly carries the kind of storytelling and needless, gratuitous nakedness that appeals to the teenage boy mind. So, in that way, and in that way alone, there is a sort of charm to Lion-Girl.
It's also a film of wild, out control insanity. The plot is nuts, the performances are uniformly terrible but they are terrible in the best, most unintentionally comic way. It's all played very earnestly, as if the actors were told to mirthlessly enact this bizarre story without betraying the silliness of it all. This creates a comic dissonance, a space where what you are seeing is laughable but no one in the cast is allowed to laugh at it. If you enjoy that kind of irony without irony approach, a pure camp, pure cheese approach, Lion-Girl may be for you.
Just don't forget the needless nudity. The film takes every opportunity to strip down the main character. The film is not at all shy about getting the hero topless even when it doesn't suit the moment, like when her clothes disappear in the midst of a fight. The dedication to getting the star of the film topless is like anti-humor, it's a joke that isn't funny, and then becomes very funny, and goes back to being numbing, before rounding the bend once more as a comic gag. That template tracks throughout the weirdness of Lion-Girl.
I am not even close to doing justice to how weird Lion-Girl is. It's part Power Rangers style cheap make up, rubber suits, and martial arts fights, and part epic low budget sleaze picture. There is a Z-movie charm to Lion-Girl that I find irresistible, but I certainly cannot recommend the film highly. The movie is too gratuitous for many audiences and too disjointed and strange to be a good movie, even on an ironic level. I like the ambition of it. I admire the low budget aesthetic and the 60's, Roger Corman, Russ Meyers qualities of Lion-Girl but it's not a good movie.
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