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Dickman & Throbbin Ride Again

The-virgin-psychics-movie-review-erina-mano
2015 Busan International Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
The Virgin Psychics (2016)

Sion Sono's gonzo gangster-cannibal-hip-hop fantasia "Tokyo Tribe" had its tongue in its cheek and death on its mind; "The Virgin Psychics" puts mortality to one side and gives Eros its day, but without feeling the need to calm down. Originally a manga by Kiminori Wakasugi (and already brought to TV by Mr. Sono in 2013 with a bunch of the same actors as here), it's a relentlessly ribald sci-fi burlesque about a group of young virgins with shared prenatal connections who all acquire lascivious superpowers at the same time. They then get caught up in a particularly carnal version of the end of the world on loan from some cheapo 1970s porn parody - which for all the resulting difficulties certainly looks like more fun than the Midwich Cuckoos ever got up to.

The plot, if that's the word, involves the dubiously credentialed Professor Asami (Ken Yasuda) forming a superhero team out of serial onanist Yoshirô (Shôta Sometani, the M.C. from "Tokyo Tribe"); nudist teleporter Yosuki (Motoki Fukami, his genitals covered by an added censorship graphic at all times); shy mind-reader Miyuki (Elaiza Ikeda) and a few other horny dingbats to fight the mysterious psychic villain unleashing the hidden libidos of the population. All are staunchly deadpan in the face of mounting absurdities, none more so than the prof's buxom assistant Takako who can sense the future of anyone caught staring at her breasts — played, very gamely indeed, by Megumi Kagurazaka, another of Mr. Sobo's regulars as well as being married to him.

One issue for Anglo audiences will be Mr. Sono's raucous relishing of both manga's visual style and Japanese schoolgirl erotica, since the screen overflows with boisterous young ladies (and a much smaller number of young men) in their underwear and low camera angles selected for upskirt potential before then fulfilling it. At one point a character collapses face first into a pile of inflated sex dolls, and a timely gust of wind blows her short plaid skirt up over her waist completely. Weatherman or prop man? You decide. There's also an oddly conservative undercurrent, given that the film's villain wants to unleash a global orgy as punishment for humanity's screwing around with the environment rather than as anything more constructive; and the most prominent lesbian character is shown to be the one led most easily astray. All cleavage and 12-inch tented erections to the contrary, John Waters territory this is not.

Even so, tough right now to dislike a film taking uninhibited glee in sensual pleasure, and one which by energising the imagery of Japanese panel art for rambunctious sexy purposes proves all over again how little effort American comic-book films are putting into processing their rather different source materials. Plus the fate of the world turns out to hinge on a Shakespeare sonnet, suggesting that lust isn't the only game in town after all. The sight of unusual children all conceived at once will always have resonance where nuclear Japan is involved — there's a nod toward David Cronenberg and "The Brood," although the origins of its concerns are closer to home — but the film only has space in its head for one coherent theme, and even "Tokyo Tribe" kept more plates spinning than that. If one theme is the limit, though, there are worse ones to find room for than letting your freak flag fly.

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