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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Kamikaze Girls

Takemoto Novala

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To purchase Kamikaze Girls

Title: Kamikaze Girls
Author: Takemoto Novala
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 215 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Kamikaze Girls - US
Kamikaze Girls - UK
Kamikaze Girls - Canada
Kamikaze Girls - India
Video: Kamikaze Girls - US
Kamikaze Girls - UK
  • Japanese title: 下妻物語
  • Translated by Akemi Wegmüller
  • Kamikaze Girls was made into a film in 2004, directed by Nakashima Tetsuya

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent teen account that goes off the rails when it becomes a buddy-story

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Kamikaze Girls is narrated by teenage Momoko Ryugasaki, who lives in a backwater Japanese town with her father, a small-time, some-time would-be Yakuza underling who is such a loser that she actually calls him the Loser; her mother ran off with another man a while back. They moved to Shimotsuma after things got a bit too hot for the Loser (or rather the Yakuza he worked with), but at least he made a decent score before he was run out of town and so they're not entirely impoverished.
       Momoko is a 'Lolita':

No matter what hardships I may face, to be a Lolita is my raison d'être -- more simply put, my identity.
       Being a 'Lolita' does not mean that she wants to be a Nabokovian nymphet; rather, it's a fashion statement -- the fashion being an over-frilly Rococo look. And, indeed, she aspires to the spirit of that age rather than Lolitan seductiveness, too, with Rococo, for her:
Prizing elegance, sweet emotions, and fantasy more than morals and truth; wallowing in fleeting romance rather than trying to give meaning to life, when who knows what's going to happen to you anyway; ignoring virtue and conventions to cherish only the pleasures you are definitely experiencing now
       Her escape from her dreary backwater life is going to the big city boutiques and shopping for the latest distinctive fashions -- whereby her taste is definitely rather specialized:
If the aesthetics of subtraction is the basis of design, then the aesthetics of overdoing it forms the basis of the Lolita look.
       The Loser made his big killing with counterfeit Versace products, and it's these, which Momoko tries to sell to make some cash, that bring her into contact with Ichiko (actually Ichigo, which is what Momoko winds up calling her) Shirayuri, who is a 'Yanki' -- basically "working-class rebels" that obviously are pretty much the opposite of Lolitas. Of course the girls hit it off and become buddies .....
       Kamikaze Girls offers a decent, entertaining look at teen subculture, though isolated Momoko lives largely in a world of her. She makes for a decent guide to her bizarre Lolitan world, and the family background parts -- Loser dad and his Versace scheme -- are entertaining too. Once Ichigo comes on the scene, however, most of the fun stops. Sure, the story may come together in best buddy-style, all oil and water and sticking up for each other, but despite their little adventures -- Momoko turns out to be a pachinko prodigy ! Ichigo is turned into a model and Momoko is her manager ! violent confrontations !-- it all gets pretty bland and boring: Momoko was a lot more fun on her own.
       Takemoto strikes a decent tone for Momoko, but his ill-matched pair remain ill-matched, reducing the story to one that becomes far too cartoonish (or cinematic -- this type of thing probably does play better on the screen). It's too bad, because Momoko's bubbling enthusiasm about her life and lifestyle, and some amusing narrative ticks (like the grand statements which she then quickly admits are exaggerations or lies) are really solid; her tales of adventure with Ichigo ... less so.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 November 2011

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Kamikaze Girls: Reviews: Kamikaze Girls - the film: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Takemoto Novala (嶽本 野ばら) was born in 1968.

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