Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weather Woman (1995)

Directed by Tomoaki Hosoyama
Starring Kei Mizutani, Takashi Sumida, Yasuyo Shirashima, Saori Taira
Rated X
Japan

“God! She's got no knickers on! That's what I call a woman!”

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Based on the adult manga series ‘Weather Report Girl’, Weather Woman (known as Otenki-oneesan in Japan) was a straight to video affair when first released. However, after showings at numerous film festivals – including awards at the Stockholm and Oslo International Film Festivals – it was pulled from the shelves and given a proper theatrical release in 1996. It ended up being one of the highest grossing films in Japan that year. It’s also, in that great tradition of Japanese film, totally batshit insane: a sex and violence filled live-action cartoon, with martial arts, magic, songs and nudity galore.

Plus, as a bonus, it functions reasonably well as a satire of the nature of ratings and celebrity. I even had a media studies teacher who claimed it was his favourite film around the time it came out, so that must mean it’s clever. Well, maybe.

Things start as all good films should – with the main character dressed in high school uniform masturbating on a roof top.

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It’s not really clear what Keiko Nakadai (Japanese softcore queen Kei Mizutani) is doing up there, but it’s not really important either. Watching her – again, for some unexplained but unimportant reason – is Minoru Yamagishi (Takashi Sumida), a classmate who is totally obsessed with her.

He interrupts to confess his love to her, so she jump kicks him in the head. “You're the first woman I could give my life to!” he exclaims.

“Alright,” she replies. “Jump off the building.”

He climbs to the edge, but can’t quite bring himself to do it, so Keiko jumps off first, telling him to follow. A pole gets struck by lightning while he watches her fly off and then the opening credits roll.

The action cuts to a few years later – Minoru is flipping burgers for a living, while Keiko is masturbating in a cubicle in a flashy TV station office building.

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Regular weather woman Michiko Kawai (Saori Taira) is off sick, so Keiko is set to fill in for her. She reads through the weather demurely and politely, until she gets to the end of it.

“In Sapporo 40cm of snow fell,” she says, stepping out from behind the desk. “As my skirt is 10cm above the knee, 40cm will be...this high!”

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Minoru, who’s watching from a ramen shop, is stunned. Then the whole city goes bananas for Keiko. She’s on the front page of the newspaper, and copies are selling like some kind of heated cake product.

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Unsurprisingly, she’s brought in to face the station’s board of directors, although she arrives late. Also she flips into the room.

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“What have you been doing?” one of them asks.

“Masturbating, actually,” she replies calmly. “A part of my morning routine.”

She goes on to point out that the ratings are the best the station has seen in some time. The chairman of the board enters the conversation and gives Keiko his blessing. There’s a little argument from the rest of the board, but he silences it quickly. “Don’t you like panties?” he asks.

Keiko is given her own executive suite, and then sings a song.

Minoru helps bring some of her furniture in, then proceeds to hide while she goes off to do her panty-flashing weather segment.

This time, she’s being watched by ousted weather woman Michiko and her boyfriend, Masao (Kunihiro Ida). “She’s not bad,” he says. She gets whiney, so he promises to find a way to get her the position back. Then he feeds her cold jelly noodles from his mouth while wearing just a towel.

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Keiko finishes her segment and begins to berate one of the station’s workers for leaving her with such an austere corridor to walk down on her way to the executive suite. So he fixes it up.

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She flips down it to her suite. When she gets there, she masturbates in the bath for a bit, then begins to organise her chest full of sex toys in a display cabinet.

Before she can get through more than one handful of toys, Minoru pops out and once again declares his love for her. She tells him to jump off the roof, then jump kicks him in the head.

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Meanwhile, Michiko and Masao are in bed, both dressed in girl’s school uniforms. He’s also wearing some kind of miner’s lamp headset. He tells her it’s because he works for an ad agency and knows all the top trends, which she seems pleased about. “You and I are creating a new era right now,” he mumbles, checking out her feet with the lamp while rubbing her butt.

“Oh, Masao?” she says suddenly. “I'm having my period now. Is dry humping okay?”

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Next day, the two of them are at a restaurant, talking with one of Masao’s bosses. He promises to do what he can to get Michiko her job back. She’s a little concerned that it might make things worse for her, but it’s not long until they get a phone call telling them to come to Keiko’s suite.

Unfortunately, when they get there, Keiko’s well and truly taken control of the situation.

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It definitely makes things worse for Michiko. Not only does Keiko make the ad executive bark at them while riding his back, she orders him to come up with an “interesting new program” for Michiko to host.

And so, Michiko ends up hosting ‘Hello, Mr Pervert!’. The first episode is about an enema enthusiast. Michiko has to hold the washbasin in order to catch the, erm, exiting fluids, but doesn’t quite get the angle right.

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Meanwhile, the network chairman’s daughter, Kaori Shimamori (Yasuyo Shirashima) catches some of the media frenzy about Keiko on TV while she’s over in France. She’s incensed because the entire reason she’d been sent over there was to learnt how to be the best weather woman ever, so she immediately heads back to Japan. “She looks like the girl who spilt milk on my lunchbox at school,” Kaori rages to an assistant at the airport. “Unforgivable!”

She yells at her father – who’s busy putting together a Keiko jigsaw puzzle – but he’s not about to fire the network’s biggest star without a reason. So Kaori hatches a plot: Michiko will serve as Keiko’s maid in order to dig up dirt. Mercifully, in exchange, ‘Hello, Mr Pervert!’ will be cancelled.

So, this time, when Keiko finishes her segment and flips down a corridor of half-naked men, Michiko is waiting for her. She explains that she’s the new maid, and the two of them end up in the bathroom. Michiko is just about to begin sponging Keiko off after her bubble bath when she’s stopped. “Doing it like that might damage my skin,” says Keiko. “Use your tongue instead.”

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So she does.

Things take a turn for the worse the next day though. Keiko’s segment is dropped after a breaking news story comes in at the last minute: a self-confessed Keiko fan robbed a young girl of her ice cream. Keiko seethes at the humiliation of being bumped off air, while Kaori smirks upstairs in the control room.

Next day, the police ask Keiko and the station chairman to tone down the segment. And so, she reads the weather politely, dresses conservatively, and stands behind her desk the whole time.

Not that this changes anything in her executive suite.

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However, not only is Kaori concocting news stories – she’s watching and taping the lesbian action in the bathroom too. The next night, she gets the tape put to air mid way through Keiko’s segment, and Keiko’s career is ruined. “This old man really enjoyed seeing you flash your panties...” says the chairman, mournfully.

Kaori steps in as weather woman, and begins to plan a weather report that will be more than a segment – it’ll be it’s own show. Michiko still has to work as a maid though.

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But Keiko hasn’t given up yet. She enlists the help of Minoru, and the two of them go off to a hut in the forest to train with the legendary Heavenly Whip, which Keiko has tracked down in an effort to defeat Kaori.

Apparently, the training involves hanging Keiko from the roof while Minoru whips her. Seems valid.

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Eventually, the training is complete, and Keiko – in blonde wig and an outfit made by Minoru – crashes the debut of Kaori’s new show.

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What follows is battle of the weather women, complete with magic, martial arts and also two commentators. It’s almost crazy enough to make the rest of the film look sane in comparison.

Despite (or maybe in addition to) its rampant insanity, Weather Woman is a truly great film. It shoots for an absurd number of genres – comedy, satire, martial arts, softcore, occasional musical – and somehow manages to succeed on every front.

Plus, it all moves at such a pace that it’s never for a single moment of its very economical 85 minutes boring; and even if it were, there’s enough sex, violence, laughs and nudity to keep things entertaining. Easily, and highly, recommended.

- Alistair Wallis

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