As you may have discovered from reading the title of this article (oh you ARE an observant one, aren’t you?), I am writing this piece not as a fountain of knowledge on the issue at hand. I can give you the basics, I can give you some history but I would consider myself an intermediate in the world of Pinky Violence. So, J-Film Fans, take off your MMA gloves because I’m not here to pick any fights! I’m simply here to salute you as one Girl Boss film lover to another! With that out of the way, you might be asking "How in tarnations do pinky fingers cause violence? Due to their size wouldn’t any damage inflicted by these animated finger joints be minimal?" and if you ARE asking that then I would say bypass this article and perhaps seek out a psychological evaluation. The real question here should be: What is Pinky Violence? Well, it’s a lovingly admonished title set upon a particular group of Japanese films made during the 1970’s. These films often focused on girl gangs and roaming youths who directly confronted the male power structure, but still catered to the male ticket buyers by providing ample amounts of violence and titillation. The story doesn’t start or end at that however, so keep reading and maybe we’ll both learn a little something.
To find the start of the Pinky Violence genre, one must head into another more encompassing genre of Japanese film: Pinku. Pink Films or Pinku Eiga are similar in content, but entirely different in execution. The Pink Film is interesting in its on light and a much more dominating presence within Japanese cinema as it has roots that travel to the 60’s and further, but as a genre it has never truly died out and still thrives even now. A Pink Film is ostensibly softcore pornography, but through happenstance and the industry that helped them achieve popularity these films often had very transgressive and art house fluctuations to their content. In the height of their popularity, Pink Film directors were given a certain quota of required nude scenes but given full control over every aspect of the production which ultimately lead to many socially relevant and engaging films made under the guise of simple pornography. Notable works include: Satoru Kobayashi’s Flesh Market (1962) which is considered to be the very first Pinku Film, Koji Wakamatsu’s amazing Go, Go Second Time Virgin (1969) and Yasuzo Masumura’s Blind Beast (1969). This is a genre that has been in swing for half a century however and it is absolutely deserving of its own article within itself to be sure.
The Pink market was primarily an independent movement at first, with the major film studios catching on due to their immense popularity with audiences (which saw the more "mainstream" Japanese films declining in popularity). Looking to capitalize, both Toei and Nikkatsu threw their hats into the sexploitation ring hoping to garner their audience back. Nikkatsu created their Roman Porno line of films which had higher production values and lived up to their "Romantic Porno" title. Toei on the other hand created a collective of lines such as their Sensational Line, Abnormal Lin and Shameless Line which are commonly referred to as Pinky Violence films. Although the genre is very easily classified from the outside looking in, there are a great number of films that seem to fit into this segment of cinema. Focusing on youth gangs, wronged women, female empowerment, dominated women or any other assorted ideas that could be transformed into some form of bad-girl action cinema – there seems to be no single agreed-upon definition of what makes a Pinky Violence movie.
The genre is elusive in its absolute categorization. Films such as Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs and Teruo Ishii’s Joys of Torture are both harsh films that stand out in extreme contrast to the light and fluffy Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss. For a layman (such as myself) it is easy to grow confused in the trappings of genre while exploring these complex and wild films! The good news however is that if you’re exploring this particular time and era in Japanese film history, you’re bound to run into many classic films you might have overlooked otherwise! I cannot stress how large this genre of film can be, especially if you go into with the concept of being a completest. Depending on personal classification, there are over sixty titles within the Pinky Violence genre and many have never been released within the United States.
When you step into the world that these movies transfer you to, it can be like falling into another dimension. The fashion is so hyper-stylized and hip, even for today’s retro-minded youth, that the characters barely resemble average human beings. The colors are all vibrant and exotic, the sunglasses are massive and mirror tinted or so dark they seem covered in paint. When someone is stabbed, arterial spray jettisons out of their body like it has been ejected via a water hose. The women all seem small and petite, but will just as soon slap you in the face and then dig their shoes into your nostrils. The films paint a picture of an otherworldly Japan that is chaotic, violent and enticingly beautiful. Where women are pale white but their ruby red lipstick burns into the eyes of any male who catches their attention. Making stars out of young women who may not have featured the greatest acting talents the world has ever seen, they carried with them a charisma and charm that made them beloved in their home countries and abroad.
There are three women who stand out from within the Pinky Violence genre and helped make a real cultural impact on Japanese cinema in their portrayal of strong and ferocious females. You have the goddess and most well known of the group, Meiko Kaji who helped define feminism and strong women within the Japanese film world. Reiko Ike, a beauty who appeared wise beyond her youth she excelled in portraying the big sister or independent woman out for revenge. Her period-piece films showcase her talents best as she was able to pull off a self-confident appearance while also remaining demure and introspective such as the women were in those days. Her role in films such as Sex & Fury and Female Yakuza Tale (which featured dozens of topless women taking on a yakuza gang during the finale) helped escalate her popularity. Finally there is Miki Sugimoto, the tough street girl who exudes sexuality in every stride she takes. From the standpoint of acting talent, Sugimoto may have been the least beloved of these girls but she could carry any film just as well as the other girls. She teamed up with fellow starlet Reiko Ike in an impressive nine films and a rivalry was often placed upon the two. Their films together however were always of the utmost quality and make for some of the best the genre produced. Titles featuring these two word tracking down include: Girl Boss Guerrilla, Criminal Woman: Killing Melody and Terrifying Girls High School: Women’s Violent Classroom. How do you like those titles, eh?
Meiko Kaji is certainly the best known of all these stars. She starred in the extremely popular Sasori (or Female Convict Scorpion) series of films as well as the even more famous Lady Snowblood movies which were made famous here in the United States due to Quentin Tarantino’s famous homage towards the end of Kill Bill: Volume 1. Kaji had a certain cool charisma about her and her characters were often very confident and exuded an awareness that few others could. She also helped kick off the Stray Cat Rock series with the previously mentioned Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Crime Boss directed by the infamous Yasuhara Hasebe. A film based less on sexual promiscuity and more on action and the fun side of this genre, it marks a very fun and light entry for beginners and counts as one of my all time favorites.
These films more often than not featured a great deal of similar themes and issues, so it is easy for the collection of films to sort of meld together for any viewer. However, titles such as Girl Boss Guerrilla with the smoldering sexuality of Miki Sugimoto and the onscreen powerhouse presence of Reiko Ike is a definite must see for Japanese film junkies. Terrifying Girl’s High School: Lynchlaw Classroom is another interesting entry into the series, as we watch young girls work as amateur detectives discovering the presence of a secret society of bad girls within their school who drain the blood of their victims. These films can be difficult, due to their frequent use of torture and use of women as objects occasionally but within the context of a growing Japanese culture they are dynamic relics of a previous age that showcase extremely talented filmmakers working within a medium that allowed them to challenge societal norms. If you haven’t acquainted yourself with the genre, I highly recommend you start now!