This year’s New York Asian Film Festival featured quite a few special guests flown from overseas, but none seemed more omnipresent than Tokyo Gore Police director Yoshihiro Nishimura. Even in comparison to fellow goremeisters Tak Sakaguchi (Versus, Yoroi Samurai Zombie), Noburo Iguchi (Machine Girl), and visual effects maestro Tsuyoshi Kazuno, he seemed to pop up at more screenings than humanly possible. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that he worked on the effects in some capacity on a lot of the films screened. Other than Tokyo Gore Night, however, the world premiere of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl was the man’s main event, and Nishimura and co. came to the show fully ready to rumble.
Co-directed with Stacy-helmer Naoyuki Tomomatsu (who Noburo Iguchi showed up at the screening to pose as, to much of the audience’s confusion), Vampire Girl takes a fraction of Tokyo Gore Police‘s budget and weaves an off-the-wall riff on romantic high school comedies with it. Hapless student Mizushima is caught in a bit of a love triangle once Valentine’s Day rolls around, approached by the extremely forward Keiko and her gothic lolita crew. Despite his reluctance, she insists they be boyfriend/girlfriend, but this gets complicated once transfer student Monami comes into play. She gives Mizushima a chocolate in secret, and not just any chocolate; this one is filled with her blood.
That would normally just be creepy and off-putting, but Monami is a vampire. She wants to fully turn Mizushima and live with him as a vampire couple… forever! Keiko doesn’t like this one bit, and once she discovers her father’s Frankenstein lab in the school’s basement, it isn’t long before his patchwork madness sets off the love-winning, appendage-chopping showdown of the century.
Vampire Girl may be based on Shungiku Uchida’s manga, but Nishimura was quick to point out that his and Tomomatsu’s version veers wildly from the source material in roughly the amount of time it takes Mizushima to bite into that fateful piece of chocolate. Naturally, that means audiences should expect Nishimura’s own unique sense of humor stamped over every inch of this, from more wrist-cutting gags to frequent appearances by the school’s group of ganguro girls that mimic African-American culture to an extreme degree. These play out like insane non sequiturs that would normally distract from the story if the story wasn’t already completely off-the-wall insane.
They do weave their way into the narrative in time for the grand finale, which, digitally at least, fulfills Nishimura’s love of Tokyo Tower. The “filming” at the tower, along with a ton of additional computer-generated effects, were made possible by Tsuyoshi Kazuno, who has provided VFX for pretty much all of this crew’s films, from Tokyo Gore Police to Noburo Iguchi’s next madball flick, RoboGeisha. These effects are abundant, but they rarely overshadow the practical ones, which are highlighted to greatest effect in a couple of scenes with action directed by Tak Sakaguchi himself. When the blood rains, it pours.
There’s some incredible energy here for anyone that can get past the low-rent looks. I saw some people mentioning how much more they would have enjoyed it if “the effects were good” or something else along those lines, but I think they’re missing the point. Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl is a movie made by people that just love making movies. They make them their way and play by their own rules, and it comes across in every frame. After the screening, Nishimura even teased the rough premise of his next directorial effort, saying it involves high school girls driving around and running over zombies. If that isn’t an incentive to show up at next year’s NYAFF, I don’t know what is.