This week Guest Star Michelle Kisner writes about Kaoru, tennis champion and Lady Battle Cop. Keep up with Michelle’s work on Instagram at @robotcookie.
RoboCop (1987) took the world by storm when it came out, spawning many knock-offs with varying degrees of technical expertise. While some of them were cheap cash-ins, like Robo Vampire (1987), there were others that tried to do something unique with the basic idea of a former man in a cyborg suit fighting crime. Director Akihisa Okomoto’s take on the concept, Lady Battle Cop (1990) manages to put a fresh spin on the concept while injecting some more outlandish flourishes into the film.
The film follows Kaoru (Azusa Nakamura), a tennis champion who has recently come in second place during a recent tournament. She is adorable and perky and has recently become engaged to the love of her life. Although things are going great in her neck of the woods, there is trouble brewing locally in Tokyo when a terrorist group known as Team Phantom starts attacking research facilities in order to spread fear and chaos. They are seemingly controlled by a bigger organization who is hell bent on global domination. In one of these skirmishes, Kaoru is gravely injured and sexually assaulted. Luckily, her intrepid fiance is also a scientist who was working on a cybernetic suit of armor and he puts it on her to save her life. The sweet and kind tennis player has now been transformed into a bad ass cyborg killing machine (complete with an inspiring sax-filled, pop ballad theme song about tennis players turned into armored murder bots).
Initially, one might be tempted to write-off this film as a simple copy-cat project, but the presentation and legitimately great practical effects and costuming set it apart from the pack. Lady Battle Cop’s intricate suit was designed by Keita Amemiya who is known for his work on Kamen Rider, Mirai Ninja, and Garo. RoboCop itself takes some inspiration from Japanese Super Sentai shows like Metal Heroes with police and military types donning super powered suits to fight crime.
Lady Battle Cop returns the favor by injecting tropes from tokusatsu films/shows back into the fray. One of the more over-the-top ideas is the introduction of Amadeus, the main villain. When we first meet him he is butt naked, glistening with sweat, flexing in an underground scientific facility where he spends his time attached to a machine that imbues him with psychic powers. He feels like he was imported straight from an anime and his fights with Lady Battle Cop are outlandish and entertaining.
Lady Battle Cop’s armor bears special mention because it’s beautifully designed and executed. Her intro has the camera spinning around showcasing every detail, finally settling on her face to reveal that it has a retractable mouth-piece that protects the bottom half of her face à la Casshern. This might be a little poke at the fact that RoboCop has no such protection and thus a weakness. The small details are fascinating–Kaoru’s suit has high heels that give a satisfying metallic click when she walks (and also have spring action in them) and her helmet has a dangling sparkling earring because why wouldn’t you want to accessorize? Other than one titillating shower scene, Kaoru isn’t objectified in the film because she is a woman, and she kicks a whole lot of ass the entire runtime.
This film was released direct-to-video during the V-Cinema era. Toei trademarked this term and it was used mostly to release Kamen Rider side stories. Here in the west it’s become more of an ubiquitous term for Japanese direct-to-video releases. The nature of bypassing the studio meant that directors had more freedom with their ideas and some directors purposely chose this path to take advantage. Lady Battle Cop has some pretty gory moments thanks to this loosening of standards. While this is indeed a B-movie, it’s obvious it was made with a lot of passion and love.
I will leave an excerpt of the truly inspiring lyrics of Lady Battle Cop’s theme song “No No Give-Up” here so that many more people can be given hope from their power:
Even if someone hurts me or robs me
That time is always a new beginning for me
The silver suit that I exchanged my dress for
I burn myself in order to fight
If I feel like crying
All I have to do is look up at the stars
No, no, no, no give up
As long as I have tomorrow
My dream will not be over
No, no, no, no give up
Women were made for tennis
Now, stand up!
Michelle Kisner writes about film. Keep up with her on Instagram at @robotcookie