Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981)

Shinji Somai (Typhoon Club, Wait and SeeMoving) is an influential filmmaker whose work has rarely been seen in the U.S. That’s changing with the Arrow release of one of his best-known movies, Sailor Suit and Machine Gun.

A combination of Japan’s unique idol and yakuza films with the traditional coming of age story, this film is centered on Hoshi Izumi, an innocent young girl who suddenly finds herself the leader of her great-uncle’s organized crime clan.

Hiroko Yakushimaru, who plays Hoshi Izumi, achieved icon status thanks to this movie and its theme song “Sailor Fuku to Kikanjū.” The song stayed at number one in the charts for five straight weeks and was the second highest-ranked song of 1982.

In truth, Hoshi’s father should have led the group, but he died in an accident before they could find him. Beyond inheriting the title of oyabun, she also is given her father’s secret lover Mayumi Sandaiji.

The kobun, or followers, refuse to take the young girl seriously and also seem to think that their attack against their rivals has to be successful. Faced with leading a gang that doesn’t want her and who will also enact a suicide pact if forced to disband, Hoshi must give up on her childhood and take the titular gun in hand if she wants to make her new life a success.

Despite its origins as a teen novel and the fact that its idol actress had such a major song out of the film, this is more arthouse than you’d expect. While its influence may be small in the U.S., the other films — and media — it inspired all flow from this original river.

The Arrow Video Sailor Suit and Machine Gun blu ray has both the original theatrical version and the 1982 complete version (kanpeki-ban) re-issue of the film, restored by Kadokawa Pictures from a 4K scan of the original negative. Plus, there’s a new documentary Girls, Guns and Gangsters: Shinji Somai & Sailor Suit & Machine Gun, trailers and TV spots, and a sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Michael Lomon. The first pressing comes with an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Aaron Gerow and Alex Zahlten, and a discussion between the film’s star Hiroko Yakushimaru and acclaimed director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who was an assistant on the film.

You can order this movie from MVD and Diabolik DVD.

On November 15, you can also stream this movie on the Arrow player. Visit ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

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