Director: Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu
Synapse Films

While the U.S. no doubt dominates the zombie film market in terms of sheer numbers, when it comes to flat out weird tales of the living dead you need but look East. From Thailand (SARS WARS: BANGKOK ZOMBIE CRISIS) to Hong Kong (KUNG FU ZOMBIE, BIO ZOMBIE), Asia is ripe with some of the strangest and most entertaining tales of the walking dead, with Japan in particular a standout thanks to its rich harvest of undead delights. From Ryuhei Kitamura’s VERSUS and Atsushi Muroga’s JUNK, to the brilliantly titled ATTACK GIRLS' SWIM TEAM VERSUS THE UNDEAD and Sakichi Satô’s TOKYO ZOMBIE, which literally features a mountain of dead people, Japan has time and again delivered horrific narratives that relish in gore, action and comedy. Two of personal favorites, Naoyuki Tomomatsu’s STACY and Tetsuro Takeuchi’s WILD ZERO, which stars the punk rock group Guitar Wolf, have seen stateside DVD releases thanks to the fine folks at Synapse who, with BATTLE GIRL, have thankfully chosen to continue their “Asian Cult Cinema Collection” line.

A meteor crashes into Tokyo Bay, jettisoning a thick cloud of contaminated dirt and debris into the air upon impact. Blanketed by a noxious mist, Tokyo Bay is placed under martial law by the local government in order to better contain and assess the situation. Those unfortunate enough to have been trapped behind the toxic haze find little assistance however as Captain Fujioka (Shiro Shimomoto, S&M HUNTER), leader of the Ground Self-Defence Force has little concern in protecting the citizens of Tokyo Bay. He is much more interested in experimenting with Cosmo-Amphetamine, a virus awakened by the meteor's arrival that turns the dead into cannibalistic zombies. Between the gangs of looters, punks and flesh eating zombies, those left behind have little hope for survival. Enter K-ko (Cutey Suzuki), a female fighter who, instructed by her father, Colonel Kirihara, has been given 20 hours to coral together as many survivors as possible and shepard them to a check point where a possible antidote is being tested. She has also been given the task of locating and eliminating the “Human Hunter Unit”, a band of maniacs who kill any human, living or undead. To aid her in mission, K-ko is given a battle suit designed to enhance her natural fighting skills but will it be enough to defeat a army of zombies capable of welding weapons of their own?

After a handful of writing gigs, including helping to co-script Koji Wakamatsu’s GO, GO SECOND TIME VIRGIN, Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu transitioned from the typewriter to the director's chair where he is most renowned for helming ENTRAILS OF A VIRGIN and ENTRAILS OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN, two short (both running around 70 minutes) but decidedly graphic films that overflow with sex and gore. Those familiar only with 'Gaira'’s ENTRAIL films, both of which are currently available through Synapse, will probably find BATTLE GIRL a tad disappointing as there is very little in the way of gore, surprising given that it’s a zombie flick, and even less in the way of sex. Those with a fetish for ladies wrestling will also feel let down as, despite featuring a cast of noted female pro-wrestlers (Cutie Suzuki, Devil Masami, Shinobu Kandori), the film’s action is rather pitifully choreographed.

There are few laughs to be had, such as one scene in which a grenade plops into a zombie’s face like a baseball into a catcher’s mitt, but the anticipated face explosion is alas, never present. Squib blasts that clearly knock over mannequins dressed as zombies and the aforementioned clumsy choreography keep this low budget train moving down an amusing path but its light gore quota does hinder its overall undead appeal.

Shot for the video market, Synapse Films presents BATTLE GIRL in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, transferred from original vault materials. The majority of the picture is awash in dark, disheveled tones but whenever there are splashes of color, such as the cheesetastic opening meteoroid crash, they are quite vibrant and lively. Likewise blacks are rock solid and the picture as a whole is complemented by a healthy sheen of grain. Audio is on hand in a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. Both the film's dialogue and synth score fair well and are accompanied by newly translated removable English subtitles.

This release features only one extra but it’s a dozy. An unedited, 54-minute video interview with Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu documents the director as he recalls being hired for and making BATTLE GIRL, all while chain smoking himself into an early grave. To say that Gaira likes his Marlboro Lights would be an understatement. The man loves to smoke! While he admits that the performances in BATTLE GIRL are a little stiff, not once does Gaira comes across as having any regrets for taking on the project, which was offered to him by effects company, Moby Dick. Fans of Gaira and Japanese V-cinema may want to consider checking out this release for said interview alone. (Jason McElreath)