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Issue #193 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES January 5th, 2004

Bounce Ko Gals
(1997; Panasonic Digital Contents/Teichiku Co/Television Tokyo Channel 12/Horipro/Cinema Japanesque/Toshi Shioya Actor's Clinic/Riku Corporation/Skyhawk)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Straight-laced Japanese high school student Lisa (RETURNER's Yukiko Okamoto) will soon travel to New York City to continue her studies and get a fresh start. Wanting to make some extra cash before departure, she heads down to Tokyo's Shibuya district (and the wrong side of the tracks) to sell some of her used panties and school uniform to a sex shop. She then gets together with three others her age for a "schoolgirl video" shoot in which they prance around blowing bubbles and doing other innocuous things while completely clothed. When the place is invaded by thugs, a young male admirer (GEMINI's Jun Murakami) helps Lisa to escape but her money is stolen. Laku (THE DIMENSION TRAVELERS' Yasue Sato) and Jonco (RING I & 2's Hitomi Sato), two very different girls who have a lot more experience at this sort of thing, offer to help Lisa make as much of her lost money back as possible before the girl's flight leaves the next day. However, Jonco's habit of robbing customers (usually by blasting them with a tazer gun before anything sexual can take place) comes back to haunt her, leading to a potentially lethal situation for all three girls.

Japanese pornography happily caters to just about every fetish imaginable, with schoolgirls apparently being one of that country's paramount fixations. Indeed, the synopsis above could easily be for any number of adult videos but writer/director Masato Harada (INUGAMI) is not interested in exploitation (there is no nudity on display, let alone prurient activities). By the same token, no moral judgements are passed on these "ko gals." Harada does, however, have much to say about the men who solicit them, as well as a male-dominated society that subtlety forces some women to act as sex toys in order to make a living. After a time, one almost sympathizes with Jonco's view that the hentai (perverts) deserve what they get when foolish enough to pick her up. However, the reality of the situation is brought home by a vignette in which a businessman beats one girl almost to death but is let go by police because she approached him first. With such a system and "role models" as these, it is easy to believe how girls so young could end up casually tossing about mature topics like abortion and diet pills, and performing adult acts for individuals old enough to be their parents but seemingly far less grown up. Jonco is threatened one evening by a Yakuza (CURE's Koji Yakusho), who feels that these teens are hurting his club's business by charging far less than his stable of "professionals." In spite of this, Harada presents him as a principled and, ultimately, sympathetic human being we come to respect, just like Jonco and Laku. The director elicits very natural and appealing performances from all three actresses, whose characters are distinct and interesting enough for true chemistry to form. Outsider Lisa is polite, principled, and shuns materialism; Jonco is jaded and street smart enough to be a survivor; and the slightly scatterbrained Laku (who, among other things, has a serious phobia about being parallel with straight lines) is too full of life to be dampened by its downsides. The events leading up to the finale are a bit too pat but the closing minutes are also surprisingly affecting, thanks to the warmth these performers have engendered. It would be so easy for any film on such a topic to be nothing more than heavy-handed and obvious; Harada's defies the usual strictures of social commentary by managing to be pointed and, wonderfully enough, also quite life-affirming.

Cover art courtesy Infinity.

Yukiko Okamoto (left) and Yasue Sato. Image courtesy Infinity.

Hitomi Sato. Image courtesy Infinity.
Hitomi Sato. Image courtesy Infinity.
Infinity #FDVD-119 (South Korea label)

Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0

Sync Sound Japanese Language

Optional Subtitles in English, Korean, and Japanese

30 Chapters -- 9 Illustrated in the Menu With Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.83:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

109 Minutes

Contains mature subject matter, mild sexual content, and mild violence

DVD menu courtesy Infinity.

Singapore: PG
South Korea: 15


Yasue Sato. Image courtesy Infinity.
The anamorphic image is slightly soft and blacks are light but colors are warm and attractive. However, the upper matte is a bit too high during one reel, with a white line often present just below it. The splice is also apparent at some shot change points. The 5.1 track is marred by occasional reverb but remains serviceable; the original 2.0 mix is also included. The film is presented with its original Japanese track; the English subtitles are mediocre (names are presented with unnecessary quotation marks and the spelling differs from the usual Romanizations). The gist of conversations is adequately conveyed, though there is a lot of overlapping dialogue that would still be lost even with the best of translations. A number of supplementary features are on offer but, alas, only Korean and Japanese speakers will find them accessible: the original Japanese trailer, a TV spot
(which is more like a brief promo than a commercial), director and cast profiles, interviews with Harada and several cast members, and a 21 minute "Making of..." Like many Korean DVDs, the clear keep case comes packaged in an attractive outer sleeve featuring slightly different art. There is also an insert featuring a short Harada interview and more cast info in Korean. A domestic DVD is available from Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock; it may offer better English subtitles but has no notable extras.

UPDATE -- Reader Glenn Hughes wrote in with the following information:

The Media Blasters DVD has MUCH better subtitles, better even than the fairly good HK VCD version. The Korean subs are abysmal. Also, the Media Blasters DVD has the same 21 minute documentary, with subtitles. The disc still doesn't look as good as the Japanese unsubtitled release, but it's much better than the Korean one.

So, if you have Region 1 playback capability, it sounds like the Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock edition is the way to go.

John Charles


BOUNCE KO GALS is available at Poker Industries.

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