The term pinky violence is a retroactive term used to collectively refer to Toei’s various films of the early 70’s focused on sukebans, girl gangs and bad girls in general. Initially sparked as a reaction to the girl gang films of their rivals Nikkatsu and Daiei, pinky violence films soon took on a life of their own and would completely dominate Toei’s B-movie output. At the time, Toei were signing exclusivity deals with cinemas to show only their films, and part of that deal was the agreement that they would release a brand-new A and B movie every fortnight. They needed their B-movies to be cheap and quick to produce to meet this target and pinky violence was the perfect solution.
In Toei’s hands, the pinky violence genre flourished to the point where they were arguably as in demand as the A-movie that preceded them. By 1973, their popularity was so great that a new pinky violence film was being released practically every month. One key attraction of the films were their stars – inciting massive sex appeal from their audiences – such as Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto and Meiko Kaji. They would become household names as their controversial exploits, which challenged conservative gender norms at the time, attracted great interest and helped to introduce many viewers, who initially only went to see a yakuza film, to feminist points of view.
Running from 1970 up until 1975 before audience tastes changed, the pinky violence genre contains a massive 26 films. Whilst it can be daunting at first knowing where to start, every film, with the exception of the Female Prisoner Scorpion series, is completely standalone, so you can really jump in at any point and watch them in any order. To help present each film and give a helpful suggestion on where to focus your attention, we have put together the following tier list, ranking every single pinky violence film ever made!
All 26 of Toei’s Pinky Violence Films in Release Order
- Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams (1970)
- Delinquent Girl Boss: Tokyo Drifters (1970)
- Delinquent Girl Boss: Ballad of Yokohama Hoods (1971)
- Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess (1971)
- Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counter Attack (1971)
- Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Challenge (1972)
- Girl Boss: Guerrilla (1972)
- Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)
- Terrifying Girls’ High School: Woman’s Violent Classroom (1972)
- Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972)
- Girl Boss: Revenge (1973)
- Sex & Fury (1973)
- Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1972)
- Girl Boss: Escape From Reform School (1973)
- Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture (1973)
- Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973)
- Terrifying Girls’ High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (1973)
- Bankaku Rock (1973)
- Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (1973)
- Terrifying Girls’ High School: Animal Courage (1973)
- Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701’s Grudge Song (1973)
- Girl Boss: Diamond Showdown (1974)
- School of the Holy Beast (1974)
- Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974)
- Girl Boss: Crazy Ball Game (1974)
- Young Aristocrats: Maki of the 13 Steps (1975)
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)
Persuaded by her undercover cop boyfriend to help him infiltrate a yakuza group, Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji) is abandoned by him in her time of need as he allows her to be raped by the yakuza in order to secure a bust. After learning that instead of arresting the gang members, he was actually extorting them, she attempts to stab him outside the police station in revenge. After failing, she is arrested and the woman once known as Nami becomes the deadly prisoner dubbed “Sasori” (Scorpion) by her fellow inmates – a furious husk of a woman whose entire being is dedicated purely to seeking revenge on her boyfriend and the police force who enabled his actions. Sasori is both feared and reviled by her fellow inmates and prison guards alike. After several attempts on her life, it is clear she will do anything and kill anyone who stands in her way.
Adapted from the somewhat pulpy manga by Toru Shinohara, in director Shunya Ito’s hands the film is elevated to borderline arthouse levels with avant-garde filmmaking techniques taking influences from kabuki theatre, and a bitter political undertone running throughout challenging modern Japan’s ideas on justice and authoritarianism. This film absolutely made Meiko Kaji’s career and showed that the actress once known for her somewhat sunny disposition was capable of delivering abject, spine-chilling fury unlike anyone else. Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion shows that there can be far more to exploitation films than just sleaze and is regarded by many as the finest film of the “women in prison” genre to ever be made.
Sex & Fury (1973)
After a young girl’s journalist father is suddenly assassinated, he leaves her just one clue to the perpetrators as his last living actions: three picture playing cards – a boar, a deer and a butterfly. His daughter now going by the name Ocho Inoshika (Reiko Ike) – her name literally meaning boar-deer-butterfly – dedicates her life to the role of a travelling female gambler working at gambling dens across the country in an effort to track down and bring bloody justice to her father’s killers. Her journey leads her to mingling with the upper echelons of society and she soon becomes embroiled in political intrigue as a group of British spies also share an interest in one of her targets.
Stated by Quentin Tarantino as an influence for Kill Bill, Sex & Fury perfectly delivers on the two main tenets of pinky violence – being not only one of the most erotic films to come out of the genre, but also providing levels of bloody violence that rival even the legendary Lady Snowblood. Reiko Ike delivers one of her finest performances in this adaptation of the manga by Taro Bonten, portraying Ocho with not only vengeful fury but a degree of wiliness and confidence needed by a woman who spends her days navigating the Japanese underworld in Yakuza-filled gambling dens. Sex & Fury is also notable for starring Swedish exploitation starlet Christina Lindberg as the British spy also named Christina who pushes the levels of pinku extremely high with a very steamy sex scene between herself and Ocho.
Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (1973)
After Maki’s (Reiko Ike) father who was being extorted by the yakuza Oba Group is killed, she tries to take revenge and stab the gang boss in a club. After she fails, she is arrested and meets the notorious and heavily tattooed Masayo (Miki Sugimoto) who rules the roost. Maki doesn’t lose any of her desire for revenge and after her release, she assembles a gang of ex inmates to help her in her mission to kill all the men responsible for her father’s death. With the extra womanpower, they put together a devious plan to initiate a war between the Oba Group and a rival yakuza gang, letting the two gangs take each other out. All is not plain sailing, however, as Maki is reunited with Masayo, learning that she is actually the Oba boss’s girlfriend. When she becomes privy to Maki’s plans, she risks becoming a very deadly rival and has no issue with brutally torturing a fellow woman.
Criminal Woman: Killing Melody is, in my opinion, the pinky violence film. Coming as a later addition to the genre works very much in the film’s favour as it is able to take everything that came before and distil all the best parts. Forgoing the sometimes jarring comedy favoured by the Girl Boss series, the seriousness and grittiness is a welcome addition and really makes this a standout film. The story is smart and ambitious, and wouldn’t necessarily feel out of place as an entry in the legendary Battles Without Honour and Humanity series – a long way away from the cookie cutter plots that other pinky violence films were descending into by this time. Its two leads Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto are on absolute top form and by now their rivalry portrayed in the media to be seen as the top pinky violence actress was so great that the film essentially works as a meta showdown between them – even the trailer includes the line “Reiko vs Miki” to sell the film. Rather than relying on its two stars to drive the film, Maki’s gang is given equal amounts of screentime and their own detailed backstories making this far more of an ensemble piece.
Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974)
When a female cop (Miki Sugimoto) is attacked by a rapist, she takes matters into her own hands, killing him without realising the extra political consequences of him being an American. After this incident comes to light she is stripped of her badge and imprisoned, however she is soon approached by the shady “Tokyo Metropolitan Police Section Zero” who offer her freedom in exchange for operating undercover as the nameless Zero Woman, allowing her to use any extrajudicial methods to complete her missions. After a politician’s daughter is kidnapped, she is put on the case and it is up to her to infiltrate the gang and secure the return of his daughter via any means necessary, encouraged to use maximum prejudice to avoid arrests and thus media attention on the politician. Zero Woman must not only outfight the gang but also outsmart them as any risk of exposure would prove deadly for her as well as the kidnap victim.
Miki Sugimoto’s finest hour comes with the portrayal of Zero Woman, which requires a high degree of understated restraint that few other actresses in the genre would have been able to handle. Her character is forced to endure numerous rapes and nearly endless acts of violence in order to gain the trust of the suspicious gang. With every incident, she has to detach herself and is very much a coiled spring tightening each time; by the final act, she is fit to burst, but still has to suppress her anger until the last minute. Adapted from another manga by Toru Shinohara which was very much taking advantage of the new “outlaw detective” genre made popular by Dirty Harry, Zero Woman is nasty nihilistic film high on the sleaze factor with a constant slew of sexual violence throughout the entire runtime. Whilst difficult to watch at times, the film certainly doesn’t pull any punches and eventually serves to make the spectacularly violent ending extra satisfying.
Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess (1971)
Worthless to Confess begins, like every entry in the Delinquent Girl Boss series, in reform school and we meet our protagonist – a small time sukeban named Rika (Reiko Oshida). After her release, she seeks out one of her old classmates and is offered a job in one of their father’s garages. Unlike most characters in pinky violence films, she is eager to leave her life of crime behind and is more than happy to accept the job. All is not well, however, and like many small business owners, he is forced to pay protection money he doesn’t have to the yakuza. Rika is keen to stay on the clear and narrow but also feels she has a moral obligation to do anything she can to protect her friend’s family from the yakuza. After coming face to face with the yakuza in a fender bender, all-out war is on and she soon assembles a fearsome gang consisting of her ex-reform school classmates.
In many ways, the Delinquent Girl Boss series is more of a prototype to true pinky violence, not really immersing itself with the degree of sex and violence the genre would come to be known for. Worthless to Confess however comes the closest in the series to offering the violence that would later be expected with a barnstorming finale of the gang taking on the yakuza armed with razor sharp katanas. Reiko Oshida is endlessly endearing though never truly embodies the ruthlessness you would expect for the boss of a girl gang. Despite its flaws, the lighter tone of Worthless to Confess should definitely be appreciated in a genre which so often exceeds the limits of good taste and at times can veer close to outright misogyny.
Girl Boss: Guerrilla (1972)
Turf wars are just as important to sukeban gangs as they are with the yakuza and the Red Helmet biker gang led by Miko (Miki Sugimoto) are keen to spread their influence to a new city. The resident gang led by Nami (Reiko Ike) aren’t keen to give up without a fight and it’s not long until the two bosses butt heads. After victory, Miko finds out that Kyoto isn’t quite as easy to handle as she first thought and the yakuza soon make their presence known. Forced to seek assistance from her previous enemies, an all-girl alliance is formed to fight off the yakuza who are very much seen as the greater of two evils.
Just like her character, Miki Sugimoto is the young pretender given her first leading role alongside the more veteran Reiko Ike. She steps up to the mark, however, and clearly announces herself as a force to be reckoned with. Alongside the main plot lies a few subplots of the Red Helmet gang committing various hijinks throughout the city as they build influence, including a bizarre comedic section of a STD ridden gangmember sleeping with a priest so they can extort him afterwards. These comedy subplots are somewhat of a signature of director Norifumi Suzuki and would continue to be present throughout the entire girl boss series. It is clear from the first time Miko does an exaggerated jingi greeting with her gang that this will be a very fun film and it is no surprise that the pinky violence genre really exploded after this release.
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972)
Off the back of the first film, Sasori is once again in prison, though things look very bleak. The corrupt warden is only interested in revenge and has locked her away in the dungeonous depths of the prison, leaving her to rot in solitary confinement for over a year. Her only chance is a one-off day trip at a hellish quarry where the women are forced into back-breaking labour. After being gangraped by prison guards in an attempt to humiliate her and break her spirit, she takes the opportunity to steal a truck and secure her freedom accompanied by a small group of fellow inmates. It is then up to the fugitives to make their way through the Japanese countryside and find their precious freedom with the police constantly one step behind.
Taking the focus of this sequel away from the prison stops the series becoming a series of copy pasted rehashes and makes this feel like a proper saga dedicated to the character of Sasori instead of just using her to tell rehashed women-in-prison stories. Director Shunya Ito seeks to build on everything he introduced in the first film and pushes them to even more epic proportions, the kabuki inspired scenes become extremely left field sometimes feeling like an acid trip as they metaphorically explore the characters’ mental struggles. The focus is also as much on the other prisoners as well as Sasori making the film more well-rounded whilst also not letting Sasori’s near mutism drag it down. That being said, the plot does wallow at points and with so much of the focus on the fugitives running from their captors, there’s not much else holding the film together.
Girl Boss: Escape From Reform School (1973)
As a shake up to the previous films in the Girl Boss series, Escape From Reform School places Miki Sugimoto as the sole lead in the role of serial reform school escapist Ruriko. After starting with her being chased by a group of men through the gutters, she is once again apprehended. Her latest reform school is run by a corrupt principle who is using it to cheat money out of the government. After escaping again, she goes on the run, this time coming across a young male delinquent who has stolen a truck and a bundle of cash. Ruriko is initially drawn to the money he has stolen but soon a romance ignites. After reuniting with her ex-classmates they go on the run together culminating in a deadly standoff with the police at a beach shack.
Escape from Reform School is very much a change of pace for the series and instead of focusing on some grand battle against the yakuza or a violent sukeban gang war, is more about the concept of freedom itself. Ruriko isn’t really a bad person, she just doesn’t see herself fitting in the capitalist world and has a somewhat naïve dream of escaping Japan itself and living in some dream paradise across the ocean. This hopeful undertone has far more in common with the youth cinema of the late 60’s than it does with pinky violence but makes a nice change to the switchblade-armed superwomen and gives us a more sympathetic protagonist with real depth. Miki Sugimoto has always been good at balancing cat-in-the-headlights youth with toughness and in this film really helps to give her character some much-needed vulnerability.
School of the Holy Beast (1974)
After a Maya’s (Yumi Takigawa) mother joins a convent and mysteriously disappears, she decides to enter the convent herself to try and get to the bottom of what happened to her. Formerly a juvenile delinquent, she has to rely on all of her street-smart to survive in the nightmarish convent. Soon after joining, she is exposed to a culture of flagellation, sexualised corporal punishment and a lesbian mother superior. Maya has to constantly fight to survive, but the worst is yet to come when the bishop visits – a depraved man who after feeling that god has abandoned him decides to take out his hatred on the female members of the church.
Pinky violence maestro Norifumi Suzuki after his previous successes was given carte-blanche to create any story he wanted as long as it included the necessary amount sex and violence. Initially suggested by Toei to create another high school based sukeban series, he decided instead to take inspiration from western nunsploitation films – in particular Mother Joan of the Angels. Suzuki was sometimes criticised for lax direction in his earlier films – often pushed by Toei to finish them as quickly as possible, though with School of the Holy Beast he really shows what he is capable of. The film is gorgeously shot with numerous artistic flourishes, especially taking advantage of light – both metaphorically referencing god but also beautifully lighting the dank convent set. Newcomer Yumi Takigawa is given the lead in her first ever acting role and steals every scene she is in, with a natural wide-eyed vulnerability. Western audiences may however find some issues with the portrayal of Christianity- not so much the blasphemy, but the inaccuracy of so many ceremonies and biblical interpretations. It is clear that those making the film had little-to-no real knowledge of Catholicism and at times it can seem a little bizarre to a western audience who has most likely grown up with at least some introduction to the church.
Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams (1970)
Rika (Reiko Oshida) after being released from reform school decides to go straight, getting a job at a laundrette. However, after being molested by the owner, she moves on instead to work in a bar where she is reunited with her reform school friends. All is not well though and the local yakuza are constantly threatening the bar and sponsor a rival girl gang to hassle them. When it is discovered that the yakuza with help from the rival girl gang have been pushing drugs on one of her friend’s junkie sisters, Rika decides she needs to make a stand and leads her gang to raid the yakuza and put a stop to things.
Blossoming Night Dreams was Toei’s first proper foray into the pinky violence genre, and despite some uncertainty on tone, it is largely very successful. Opposing the somewhat happy-girl-lucky gang running the bar is an urban grittiness of dingy backstreets and drug addiction. The portrayal of drugs in film was still very controversial at the time in the Japan and the fact that the film tackles the issue so head on really makes it stand out. It is incredibly similar to Worthless to Confess in many ways, but is somewhat let down by the ending where instead of a violent sword-slashing finale, the final fight falls a bit flat with none of the gang members never really using their weapons to their full effect.
Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1972)
In this high school for delinquent girls, a sadistic disciplinary committee of students runs the roost. Often resorting to torture, these girls revel in electrocution, waterboarding, burning and more to enforce their rule. However, when the hard-as-nails Noriko (Miki Sugimoto) is enlisted in the school with two other sukebans, it seems the disciplinary committee may have eventually met their match. When Noriko and her pals sneak their way into a bar, they are approached by a shady journalist hoping to use them in order to blackmail a corrupt politician via a sex scandal. In return he is more than happy to help bring down not only the disciplinary committee but the entire corrupt school. Nevertheless, it seems Noriko’s plans may come unstuck when her ex-rival from the streets Maki (Reiko Ike) bursts her way into the classroom looking to settle a score.
The Terrifying Girls’ High School series seems very much designed to break up a non-stop outpouring of girl boss films. Whilst not really deviating from that formula and mainly shifting the action from the streets to the classroom, the series does seem a bit more scandalous for its high school setting – very much helped along with some shameless uniform fetishism. Lynch Law Classroom with lack of a better word is an absolute sleazefest. Not content with just offering the viewer a near-constant slew of sexual scenes showing the girls trying to cavort with teachers, play around in the shower, and generally just get naked like its predecessor, Woman’s Violent Classroom, the film almost takes delight in its sexualised torture scenes. The camera pores over the victims’ bodies as they are beaten, cut, and assaulted by the disciplinary committee. Whilst the exaggerated setting, characters and events reduce the impact of such scenes, making the film feel more like a slasher horror, it cannot be denied that Lynch Law Classroom is the pinky violence which really pushes the limits of what is deemed acceptable in the genre.
Girl Boss: Crazy Ball Game (1974)
After a fight with a rival gang Kyoko (Yuko Kano) is sent to reform school for two years. After her release she tracks down her old gang and learns that in her absence her old rival Mina has led her Orchid gang to completely dominate the city after aligning themselves with the yakuza. After hearing news of Kyoko’s release, Mina is quick to seek revenge for her scarred face and arranges for her to be kidnapped and delivered to her. A bitter war erupts and with the help of the yakuza, the Orchids seem to be unbeatable. The Orchid gang aren’t totally loyal to the yakuza and when they learn of a supposedly bankrupt businessman looking to smuggle his money away in the form of diamonds they hatch a plan to steal them for themselves. Once Kyoko and her gang learn of this plan, they decide to take it on themselves and succeed. However once the yakuza discover what has happened they are out for blood.
If the pinky violence genre has taught us anything, it’s that Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto can easily carry a badly written film, transforming even the slowest entries into a fun flick. So, perhaps it would be wise to be worried when starting Crazy Ball Game that for the first time in the Girl Boss series, neither star is present with Yuko Kano taking the reins as the lead. With Reiko and Miki’s films the focus is very much on the boss character, however, Crazy Ball Game brings the rest of the gang more to the forefront with Toei nervous perhaps on giving Yuko Kano such big shoes to fill. The gang is excellently cast, especially with the ever watchable and charismatic Tajima Harumi given the focus she deserves after being relegated to the background in so many other films. The film certainly lacks the outright fury and sleaziness of the other Girl Boss entries, but doubles down on the fun factor and is all the better for it. Sometimes pinky violence, a genre originally meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, takes itself a bit too seriously and Crazy Ball Game is really a breath of fresh air, especially with its blisteringly fast pace and an insane finale featuring an all-out assault with speedboats.
Young Aristocrats: Maki of the 13 Steps (1975)
Maki of the 13 Steps (Etsuko Shiomi) is the leader of the “Stray Cats” girl gang specialising in martial arts (taking her name from the 13 postures used in tai chi) who are more interested in using their strength to help the vulnerable rather than cheating and stealing like the other gangs. When a rich girl mouths off to the gang after an altercation, Maki initially offers her a chance to apologise, but after thumbing her nose at this, they put her in her place and this ignites a bitter grudge between them. Little does Maki know, the girl is actually from a powerful aristocratic family with ties to the yakuza and she is able to get Maki imprisoned on false charges. With Maki in prison fighting off the resident girl gang, her own gang are left undefended and come to the attention of the aristocrats who plan to kidnap and traffic them overseas.
As the last film released in Toei’s wave of pinky violence, it is very much a signpost to the next era. The president of Toei, feeling that sukeban films had run their course, ordered an immediate cease to the genre and instead wanted to focus their B-film efforts on the emerging martial arts genre. Maki of the 13 Steps offers a great amalgamation of classic pinky violence mixed with karate. Etsuko Shiomi of Sister Streetfighter fame plays very much against type as the delinquent Maki (there were worries at the time that playing such a character might compromise her reputation as a hero) in a story based on the manga by Masaaki Sato and Ikki Kajiwara. Though it is very much a box-ticking exercise of the generic pinky violence tropes and storylines, the inclusion of martial arts is enough to make the film feel very fresh. Whilst pinky violence usually relies on fairly uncinematic catfights filled with gut-punches and switchblades, every fight scene in Maki of the 13 Steps is an explosive event, taking full advantage of Shiomi’s large repertoire of fighting skills – she is even able to showcase her somewhat signature nun-chucks in a spectacularly violent final showdown.
Delinquent Girl Boss: Ballad of Yokohama Hoods (1971)
When the orphan Rika (Reiko Oshida) is released from reform school, she moves back to Yokohama to work in the bar of her pseudo adoptive parents – a brassy ex-hostess and a drunk but well-meaning bartender. Before long, she comes face to face with Omon, her rival from reform school who has now formed an all-girl biker gang and has decided to make Yokohama her turf. Alongside battles between the Rika’s gang and the bikers, the local yakuza haven’t taken warmly to this new gang muscling in on their territory. When Omon is killed by the yazuka, the girls put their differences aside and Rika takes up the mantle as the new leader and leads them into battle.
Ballad of Yokohama Hoods definitely has issues with a slow plodding pace focusing too much on tit-for-tat attacks and counterattacks between the two rival gangs and not much more. However the true merits of the film lie with the finale which is probably one of the most over-the-top and crazy sequences in the entire pinky violence genre. The final showdown against the yakuza features a cavalry of motorbike riding sukebans led by Reiko, clad in thigh high stripper boots and sporting a tommygun. She has absolutely no qualms spraying the yakuza with bullets in a showdown of such pure insanity it has to be seen to be believed.
Female Prisoner Scorpion – Beast Stable (1973)
With Sasori still on the run, she is apprehended on the subway and she proves she has lost none of her ruthlessness when she ends up viciously dismembering a detective in order to escape. Hounded by the police and the dismembered detective out for personal revenge, Sasori is forced to take refuge wherever she can find it. She ends up staying with Yuki, a young prostitute and her mentally ill brother. Wanting to pay her dues, Sasori tries to help Yuki in her struggle against her yakuza pimps but finds herself encountering a particularly bitter enemy she made in prison.
Beast Stable for the first time takes Sasori entirely out of the prison setting and puts her on the run. In an attempt to make Sasori more human and not just a cartoonish superwoman, there is dedicated effort to portray her as more vulnerable. Her physical and emotional exhaustion is bared for the viewer to see; however, after a while, her inaction feels more like Sasori has been declawed and it becomes difficult to relate her to the character we have seen in the previous entries. Whilst not a bad film in its own right, it fails to live up to the high expectations carried over from the first two films and the looser slower pace can feel a bit anticlimactic when compared to the other films in the series.
Terrifying Girls’ High School: Animal Courage (1973)
A Catholic high school has five new transfer students – three delinquents, an academic achiever attracted to their prestigious overseas study program and finally Aki (Reiko Ike) who’s a notorious sukeban not even bothering to show up on her first day. Almost immediately, the resident Black Rose gang led by Ryuko targets the new transfers, hazing and humiliating them into submission. However, behind the scenes, the strings are actually being pulled by the ruthless Ranko – head of the fencing club who not only takes money from the Black Rose gang but is also sleeping with the president of the school board to secure extra funding for her sports clubs. Alongside fights erupting between Aki, Ryuko and Ranko, there is something more sinister going on at the school: the overseas study programme is in reality a front to enable the trafficking of girls to America of which Aki’s older sister was also a victim to.
The appeal of Animal Courage, much like Lynch Law Classroom, is its celebration of the excess. Rena Ichinose’s portrayal of Ranko is deliciously camp as she chews the scenery with an unrestrained bitchiness, and she even manages to steal scenes from the great Reiko Ike – highlights include the archery club threatening the new transfers by using them as human target practice, the fencing team wielding their epées with sadistic glee and we are even treated to a brilliantly over-the-top sabre duel. Whilst many other pinky violence films often over rely on the presence of their main stars, especially those starring Reiko Ike, the strength of Animal Courage is its willingness to let the supporting cast shine and share the screen. Unfortunately, the gang wars at the school are given far more attention than the trafficking story which is arguably more interesting and unique, though perhaps was deemed a little too dark for a film which is aiming for a more lighthearted tone.
Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701’s Grudge Song (1973)
Taking place a few years after the events of Beast Stable, Sasori still has her freedom and is finally allowing herself to settle back into a normal life again. This relief is unfortunately misjudged and she is captured and arrested. After managing to escape, albeit heavily injured, the battered and bruised Sasori is barely clinging onto life and stumbles into a closed strip club for refuge. There she is found by one of the workers, Kudo, who helps her recover and even manages to become close to her. The tenacious police aren’t far behind and ultimately manage to apprehend Sasori for the final time despite the best efforts of Kudo. Things look very bleak for her as she is due to face the gallows with no means of escape in sight.
#701’s Grudge Song is very much a film of two halves. The first half carries on the themes of Beast Stable in an effort to portray Sasori’s more human side and with the inclusion of Kudo we finally see her perhaps capable of love. Kudo is the only male character in the whole series shown not to be a despicable rapist who is a welcome addition in a series which previously bordered on misandry with its black and white view of the world. Unfortunately, he ends up taking a lot of focus away from Sasori and she is effectively made a supporting character in her own film. In the second half, things completely change up when she re-arrested and this is where the film more represents more what we would expect of the series, albeit with a far more excessive and even schlocky interpretation. Shunya Ito the director of the first three films steps down for this final entry with Yasuharu Hasebe taking his place. In Hasebe’s hands, the film loses a lot of the uniqueness of the other entries and ends up becoming a more standard exploitation fare.
Bankaku Rock (1973)
When Yukiko (Emiko Yamauchi) is released from prison, she immediately joins her friends again after promising her parents she will go straight, and retakes her place as the bankaku of the Akabane 100 Gang. A bankaku acts almost like the bodyguard of the gang boss and is the best fighter in the gang. During her absence, the gang has been engaged in a bitter war against the Ikebukuro Cavalry, led by her ex prison mate Taka who she had previously built a mutual respect with. Yukiko is also reunited with her boyfriend who now has ambitions on joining the local yakuza clan. When Yukiko turns to him for help with their gang feud, he involves his yakuza friends and they take matters too far, murdering a member of the Ikebukuro Cavalry. With the assumption that Yukiko was the murderer, not only are the police on her tail but Taka and the Ikebukuro Cavalry now take a no holds barred approach to their feud, with each attack escalating to ever more extreme levels.
Somewhat of an outlier in the pinky violence selection, Bankaku Rock has far more in common with Nikkatsu’s Girl Boss: Stray Cat Rock than it does with Toei’s other offerings. Notably missing are Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto as the film severs all ties with the Girl Boss and Terrifying Girls’ High School series being released in the same period. Unfortunately Emiko Yamauchi in just her second ever film doesn’t have the same screen presence as Toei’s two premier stars and she struggles to portray the supposedly fearsome bankaku with any real menace. Despite a lacklustre leading performance, the grittiness and nihilism of the film are perfectly executed and the brutal realism certainly leaves an impact that its contemporaries in the pinky violence genre cannot match. Toei with this film were specifically trying to echo the tone of Last Exit to Brooklyn and with its grimy look into the everyday life of a sukeban, it definitely succeeds in its mission.
Girl Boss: Revenge (1973)
In the back of a truck being transported to prison, two hot-headed sukebans Komasa (Miki Sugimoto) and Ryoko are at each other’s throats with a more experienced third sukeban Maya (Reiko Ike) watching on in amusement. When the road is blocked and the truck has to stop, the girls make their escape and go their separate ways. Komasa forms her own gang and descends on the city of Osaka, slowly building influence on the streets. She is not alone however and Ryoko soon makes herself known again, working for the yakuza and helping to provide girls to them for a prostitution racket. Maya eventually joins the fray and it is clear she has unfinished business with the yakuza as well. When Ryoko uses her yakuza connections to kidnap Komasa’s gang to sell them into sex slavery, the rivals Komasa and Maya despite their differences realise they must unite to take down their common threat.
With the success of Girl Boss: Guerrilla just 4 months earlier, it seems there was a certain amount of reluctance to stray too far from that formula and the film ends up feeling more like a remake with the same actresses portraying effectively the same characters as before. The main issue comes with the two differing stories of Komasa and Maya. Whilst both would work well as standalone films, putting both together leads to the plot becoming diluted as there is simply not enough time to give the necessary attention to each of them. Even the revenge of the title becomes less satisfying with the film effectively having two endings carried out one after the other as each girl has to finalise their own revenge mission separately.
Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture (1973)
When Ocho (Reiko Ike) travels to a new town, she is almost immediately set upon by thugs who sedate and abduct her. Whilst tied up and molested, she discovers the reason she was kidnapped – she has been mistaken for a drug mule by the yakuza who are smuggling heroin in women’s vaginas. After realising their error, they go on to frame her as the “crotch gouge killer” – a serial killer who is mutilating and murdering the local women. What they didn’t count on was Ocho’s thirst for revenge and investigative abilities, and she soon sets upon her mission to find the men responsible. Navigating a vast underworld of prostitution, drug dealing and gambling, Ocho works to infiltrate the yakuza and take down the men running the drug smuggling operation accruing an army of violated women along the way also eager for their own revenge.
As a sequel to Sex & Fury, Female Yakuza Tale suffers from the fact that Ocho’s original revenge mission has been concluded. With this singular motivation gone, the sequel has to rely instead on a standalone tale which is far less interesting and less focused on the character of Ocho. Though with the film’s main protagonist sitting on the sidelines, no one else is truly brought into the limelight. Whilst it moves on at a brisk pace, there is no real drive for the audience as we have no one to properly take control of the story and focus on. That being said, Ocho is just as well realised as in Sex & Fury with Reiko Ike again perfectly portraying the role it seems she was born to play, and it is very much a joy simply just seeing how she deals with each situation presented to her. Teruo Ishii takes over the role of director from Norifumi Suzuki for this sequel and, much like Shunya Ito did with Female Prisoner Scorpion, seeks to elevate this film from just another pinky violence exploitation flick to true audiovisual art. He absolutely succeeds on this mission with gorgeously moody neo-noir scenes and exaggerated colouring not too dissimilar to his earlier masterpiece Blind Woman’s Curse.
Terrifying Girls’ High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (1973)
Unlike the previous entries, the school in this film is not a reform school for delinquent girls, but a highly prestigious private school. Alongside the students from rich families, the school in an act of charity also accepts a small amount of less fortunate students who are segregated in a separate class, referred to by the other students as the “trash class”. Whilst the rich students may seem better behaved at first glance than the harpies of the trash class, many belong to the Red Rose gang and rule the school with an iron fist, quickly putting the girls from the trash class in their place. When Takako’s (Reiko Ike), who is the newly elected leader of the Red Rose gang, father is murdered by gangsters looking to take over his business, her tuition fees are no longer able to be paid and she is moved to the trash class. Initially attacked by the girls whose lives she previously made hell, she soon sees the error of her ways and befriends them, forming her own gang. When her new best friend’s rape by American ex-servicemen is covered up with the collusion of the school board, Takako leads the girls on a revenge mission.
Delinquent Convulsion Group is the third film in the Terrifying Girls’ High School series, and the first entry to not be directed by Norifumi Suzuki. The lack of Suzuki removes a certain amount of style from the film but also reduces the overall sleaziness of it. Whilst there is still sex present with a sideplot of a student acting as a dominatrix for one of the teachers, the onslaught of nudity and borderline pornography of the first two films is no longer present. In many ways, this works in the film’s favour with more time allowed to build on the plot. Whilst the plot is interesting and eventually weaves quite a complex but well thought out web, the setting of the high school reduces its effectiveness. As a Girl Boss film the plot would work well, but in this scenario too much time is spent on school grounds with many of the more intricate details delivered via expositional dialogue. Whilst it’s fun so see Reiko Ike given the chance to play a villain as the boss of the Red Rose gang, this phase of the film is sadly all too short.
Girl Boss: Diamond Showdown (1974)
The film opens with Keiko (Reiko Ike) sitting in the shadows with a knife – her target is a yakuza boss who killed her sister. After lunging at him and stabbing him in the stomach we jump to reform school where she has been incarcerated. At the very bottom of the ladder she must fight against the ruthless Miwa to survive and eventually becomes top dog accruing her own gang of fellow delinquents. After her release, she is eager to face Miwa again head-to-head to settle their score. However, when paying off a friend’s debt her path soon crosses the yakuza and she discovers that the yakuza boss she stabbed still survives as poses just as much of a threat as ever.
As the last film in the extensive Girl Boss series (Crazy Ball Game which was the actual last film to be released was delayed mid-production), Diamond Showdown very much shows the signs of a series which is past its prime. The plot is meandering and feels cobbled together jumping from one revenge mission to the next, almost borrowing entire sequences from its predecessors as it opts for familiarity over anything novel. However, we do get a new perspective missing from the other films and that is the weakness of Reiko Ike’s character which is really the only standout feature of this film. She is often portrayed as an experienced and almost unbeatable badass from the outset, but at the start of Diamond Showdown she is shown to be quite vulnerable. Once in reform school, it is clear she isn’t used to the delinquent life and we see her transformation through a series of montages from a weak girl to a formidable boss. Although once she is released, it is very much business as usual.
Delinquent Girl Boss: Tokyo Drifters (1970)
After Rika (Reiko Oshida) leaves reform school, she is is left roaming the streets on her own. Luck is on her side and she is soon approached by a man offering her a job in sales. He leads her not to a department store, but to the den of a smalltime yakuza clan of street vendors who have very much fallen from their original glory. After impressing the oyabun matriarch, she is quickly accepted into the clan and begins work. When working on the market stalls, they soon attract the attention of the larger local yakuza group who don’t like the competition and ransack their operations, igniting a war between them. When this war escalates into the murder of the oyabun, Rika assembles her former school mates to take revenge.
As the second film in the Delinquent Girl Boss series, it is perhaps understandable that Toei wanted to go a different route whilst still exploring this fresh new genre; however, the decision to make this a comedy was definitely misjudged. Whilst Reiko Oshida has great timing and can easily carry her role as the straight man, the film itself isn’t very funny and soon becomes a tedious farce with most of the supporting cast acting like clowns. With a boring and inconsequential story about market stall vendors adding to the list of problems, this film quickly becomes one of the worst of the genre. The one saving grace of the final fight which shows the girls armed with fearsome katanas is even ruined by comedic sequences and even has one of the clan armed with a toy that shoots golf balls.
Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counter Attack (1971)
When Jun, the boss of the Athens girl gang is arrested, Reiko (Reiko Ike), AKA “Queen Bee”, takes up the gauntlet. She becomes a successful leader and inspires loyalty from the rest of the gang; however, it is not long before she breaks the cardinal rule of being a sukeban – never fall in love with a man. When Jun is released from prison, she is not happy with the direction Reiko has taken the gang and soon her place at the top is under threat of mutiny as word spreads of her relationship. The Athens gang until now has been allowed to operate under the watchful eye of the yazuka, though Reiko seeks freedom from this underworld patriarchy. When the Athens gang unites with a biker gang whose boss has his own beef with the yakuza, they start plotting a way to take them down.
With a title like “Queen Bee’s Counter Attack”. you would be forgiven for mistaking this for a sequel, but that is not the case. This is the very first entry in Toei’s seven film Girl Boss series, though there are definitely some teething problems with this premiere entry. Despite being named in the title, “Queen Bee” is never given any proper introduction or characterisation; the audience is just told that she’s the boss and that’s that. We are thrown straight into the story almost halfway through with most of the runtime consists of various kernels of story ideas thrown together left only half realised. Much like Reiko’s hypocrisy, the film also struggles to stay true to its initial message of feminism and the main plot of the fight against the yakuza is almost entirely male dominated, almost like the female protagonists weren’t trusted to hold the audience’s attention. The film is also filled with sexist attitudes towards women (even for 1970’s standards), culminating in a bizarre drag race sequence with the biker gang where the girls lay on top of bikes and are penetrated as the men race each other.
Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Challenge (1972)
The “Queen Bee” in this entry is Maki (Reiko Ike), the boss of the Pearl gang who use any tactics necessary to cheat men out of their money from prostitution to extortion. Opposing them, however, is the Black Lily gang led by Yuri, who are just as strong and formidable. A war breaks out between the two gangs and the yakuza soon see an opportunity. Interested in no more than prostituting the girls they find the best way achieve this is to first end the gang war. After the Black Lillies are victorious over the Pearl gang Yuri learns of the yakuza’s real intentions and it is left up to Maki to take down the yakuza.
Rather than a sequel to Queen Bee’s Counterattack, Queen Bee’s challenge is instead more of a remake with Reiko Ike effectively playing an identical character as before with a nearly identical gang, just with different names. Just like Queen Bee’s Counterattack it suffers from nearly all the same problems with a reliance on male characters to carry out the hard work. Whilst the sexism is toned down, the film still visually exploits its female stars taking advantage of several bondage torture scenes with the camera lens poring over their naked bodies. Queen Bee’s Challenge does manage to give our protagonist some backstory this time with her trying to seek out her estranged mother who abandoned her at birth, although it is messily executed and feels shoehorned in to the rest of the plot.
Terrifying Girls’ High School: Woman’s Violent Classroom (1972)
From the very first shots it is clear this is no normal high school – in just one classroom there are girls masturbating and sniffing glue behind the teacher’s back. When a switchblade is thrown into the blackboard inches from his head, we soon learn that it is Michiko (Miki Sugimoto) who is the queen of these halls. When a new girl Yuki (Reiko Ike) joins the school, Michiko immediately takes a disliking to her, motivated even more by Yuki’s seeming unwillingness to fight her. After a long overdue fight between the girls, Michiko finds out that Yuki is actually an orphan and feels a certain kinship with her due to her own suffering in the past. When she learns that Yuki’s guardian (also a school official) is sexually abusing her, she offers to join forces and soon the full brunt of the school’s student population is dedicating itself to the cause.
Woman’s Violent Classroom is the first film of the Terrifying Girls’ High School series and it is clear that after developing the concept for this new series, its creator Norifumi Suzuki wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it. Obviously much of his focus is dedicated to the potential lewdness the high school setting has to offer, with most of the film’s runtime filled with a seemingly endless slew of unrelated sex scenes showing the largely nymphomaniacal student population going from one bawdy situation to the next. Opposing this display of borderline pornography plays out the tales of abuse that Michiko and Yuki have been forced to endure. Any poignancy that these scenes between the two girls holds is immediately undercut by the tastelessness of the rest of the film, especially with rape being portrayed as a horrific act one second and as a joke the next.
More on Extreme Cinema
Celebrating Japanese cult cinema, the Japan Film Fest Hamburg is gearing up for its 2021 season running from August 18th to September 1st. What has got us so excited for…
As a proud Canadian (at least when it comes to the world of cinema), I always find myself interested in horror coming from the ‘great north’. As Cinephiles from the…
Rave (Svartklubb) is a 2020 Swedish body horror film written and directed by Nils Alatalo in his first feature-length debut after graduating from film school. The film stars Isabelle Grill…
The evolution of action films has come a long way over the years; from cheesy one-liners and over the top shootouts, the genre has progressed to slick visuals and epic…
Hi, I have a borderline obsession with Japanese showa-era culture with much of my free time spent either consuming or researching said culture. Apparently I’m now writing about it as well to share all the useless knowledge I have acquired after countless hours surfing the web and peeling through books and magazines.