With a filmography of over ninety productions, it’s no surprise that some of Takashi Miike’s films are yet to see release outside of Japan. What is rather tragic is that the vast majority of his earliest V-Cinema works are nowhere to be seen on DVD, even in his home country. While his early 90s era is far from his greatest period – a decade away in the early 2000s – it’s fascinating to see the pre-prolific Miike honing his craft on cheap yakuza flicks and, in this case, goofy comedy.
original title: 突風！ミニパト隊／アイキャッチジャンクション (Toppuu! Minipato tai – Aikyacchi Jankushon)
Japan, 1991, Takashi Miike
The film opens with a young man madly chasing a tracksuit-wearing weirdo. He finally catches up to target and throws a few punches, but before he can go any further he’s interrupted by Makoto (Hiroko Nakajima) and Atsuko (Aiko Asano), two young policewomen. Makoto delivers a hearty kick to the crotch, and Atsuko knocks him unconscious with an impressive feat of martial arts. They let the oddball who was being chased run free, only to realise the young man they’ve knocked out is fellow police officer, Detective Kawamura (Daisuke Nagakura). Cue ham-drenched title sequence!
This pre-title taster perfectly sets the tone: silly as fuck. And things only get sillier. We’re introduced to another female police officer, Miyuki (Minako Fujimoto). Miyuki is forming a fitness club as part of an initiative to promote the police department as a valuable community asset. Makoto tries out for the club, stripping down to a leotard and joining Miyuki in a workout session. The male cops and their police chief (Bû Takagi) watch on in nose-bleeding delight.
Makoto joins the club and, after a quick tickle fight (don’t ask), enlists her partner Atsuko. The trio’s fitness club soon evolves into “Eyecatch Junction”, a secret crime-fighting sect. Little do the ladies know, they are being watched by Megumi (Risa Tachibana) – the mayor’s loony daughter who has been given her own police division to keep her out of sight. Megumi is a science geek and has the entire department bugged with audio surveillance. She vows to secretly help Eyecatch Junction in their police work.
It’s not long before the ladies stumble across an interesting case involving a murdered woman, a rubber-fetishist yakuza boss (Jirô Miyaguchi), and a prostitution ring made up of young college girls. Under the direction of Miyuki and with a little help from Megumi’s spying abilities, Makoto and Atsuko go undercover to discover the truth behind the brutal murder.
Make no qualms about it, the protagonists may be female, but Eyecatch Junction is in no way empowering to women. Any potential feminist readings are violently flushed down the toilet in the final moments of the film when Makoto, Atsuko, Megumi and Miyuki strip down to skintight lycra and battle the yakuza using an assortment of rubber balls, ribbons, and hula-hoops.
Somewhat sexist, yes, but also hysterical. And that’s perhaps the most surprising asset Miike brings to Eyecatch Junction. Admittedly, the comedy is as dumb as a remote-control operated basket of rubber balls, but that doesn’t stop it from being funny. The leading women play their cartoonish stereotypes with pitch-perfect comedic delivery. Aiko Asano is particularly great. The side players also approach their parts with wild abandon. Bû Takagi’s ridiculous police chief sent me into giggling fits, and an absurd woman with a stolen underwear problem had me laughing pretty hard.
While the tone might be as light as a feather, the underlying storyline of Eyecatch Junction is actually rather disturbing and bleak. Its primary case is one of sexual exploitation, and the film jarringly cuts from slapstick antics to brutal violence. There is a shocking scene where a woman is beaten to death by yakuza scumbags, and a strange fetishistic sex scene is spliced in out of nowhere.
Stylistically, there’s nothing to suggest that Takashi Miike is behind the camera. That said, compared with the vast majority of 90s V-Cinema, Eyecatch Junction is very competently made. Miike shoots the film with far more confidence than you’d except from such an inexperienced director. The garish cinematography is poles apart from the signature style Miike would develop over the 90s, but it suits the lunacy of the narrative.
I must also give special mention to the music score by Tomio Terada. Tom Mes, Miike biographer and author of Agitator and, more recently, Re-Agitator, describes Terada’s score as “rather atrocious”. I describe it as “fucking incredible”. A cheap, funk-infused mess, Terada’s synthy score adds so much to the film’s buffoonish aura.
This isn’t a lost classic by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not Ichi the Killer, nor is it Gozu. Hell, it’s not even even Full Metal Yakuza. It is, however, a pleasant surprise. Eyecatch Junction is an accessible, non-offensive (well, mildly offensive) bit of fluff. It’s also a valuable insight into one of Japan’s most interesting filmmakers.
(Special thanks to my lovely partner for watching this with me and painstakingly translating it line by line! She is also responsible for the subtitles in the clips.)
Eyecatch Junction is yet to receive a release on DVD, not even in Japan. It can sometimes be found on VHS if you dig around on Yahoo! Auctions Japan, but, needless to say, the video does not have subtitles.