An all-female martial arts troupe is thrown into disarray with the arrival of a new member. “Girl’s Blood” are a group of women who battle it out in front of exuberant spectators in a cross between the fighting style of MMA (bouts taking place in an octagon with few apparent rules) and the extravagant costumes and characters of pro-wrestling (including a dominatrix, a nurse, and a police woman). One of their top fighters, Satsuki (Yuria Haga), is troubled when new member Chinatsu (Asami Tada) joins their group. Not only does Chinatsu not pull her punches in the arena, she also threatens to expose Satsuki’s hidden sexuality. The two soon begin a romantic affair; one that is jeapordized with the reappearance of Chinatsu’s husband who runs a rival martial arts group.

Based on the novel “Aka x Pink” by Kazuki Sakuraba, “Girl’s Blood” is an erotic action film, with a heady blend of fight scenes and gratuitous sex and nudity. Despite its low-brow exploitation trappings the film tells a surprisingly romantic story, with Satsuki and Chinatsu’s relationship providing a strong central plot around which the more extreme elements revolve. A majority of the film’s lengthy run time (a little over 2 hours) is taken up either with fighting or the women undressing, showering, or making love. The fight choreography is strong and entertaining, with the over the top theatrics of the in-ring tussles, or the street-fights that propel the plot forward. While the sex in the equation may be gratutious it doesn’t feel particularly egregious, with the lesbian romance at least lending a degree of respectability. One sour note is the sexual assault and rape that takes place later in the film, that feels unecessarily violent and out of place. The cast all do a good job with the action and bring their distinct, if rather unbelievable, characters to life. Yuna Haga’s Satuski hides her vulnerability behind a facade of gruff aggression; while Asami Tada’s Chinatsu goes through a series of transformations that see her both despised and pitied. The supporting cast, particularly Ayami Misaki as Miko and Rina Koike as Mayu, are also engaging with small side-plots that tie into the larger themes. Oddly, all the players in “Girl’s Blood” are introduced with anime-style openings, but aside from these four the others remain as stereotypical background. It would have been great to see a series with each of these getting a chance to shine.

At the heart of “Girl’s Blood” is a story about female empowerment, acceptance of sexuality, and overcoming trauma. We learn at the beginning of the film that Satsuki is estranged from her parents, a situation that seems to be commonplace amongst several of the characters. Miko was also thrown out of home while Mayu ran away. These women’s relationships with their mothers are strained at best, utterly shattered at worst. It is an interesting element to their characters with their profession as fighters, and their unique characters, a physical representation of their different yet comparable struggles. It is this lack of maternal affection that seems to shape and drive them and provides the film with it’s most interesting thematic through-line. The latter half plot involving a fight between “Girl’s Blood” and the rival “Ando Ichimon” club is almost nonsensical; as are numerous minor details such as the oddly varied crowd at the women’s events and whether they are intended to be martial artists or pro-wrestlers (two distinct professions). However, many of the more ridiculous elements can be forgiven with the entertaining performances and heartfelt message about overcoming your past and following your heart.

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