Rina Takeda is a young Japanese actress and who began her Karate training at the tender age of 10. She is also an expert and a holder of a Kuro Obi in the Ryukyu Shorin-ryu Karate discipline. When she got her big break in the 2009 martial arts film “High KickGirl”, I had a feeling she was going to bring action movies to new heights one day. I still believe that that day will soon come, and still a young actress (20 years old during filming) in 2011’s “KG: Karate Girl”, Takeda’s future remains bright as a up and coming female action heroine.
Ayaka (Rina Takeda) is a young high school girl who has a very dark past. Her father (Tatsuya Naka, Black Belt) was killed when a man called Shu Tagawa (Horibe Keisuke) betrayed him to claim the coveted black belt of her ancestor, Sojiro Kurenai. Presently, Ayaka means to keep a low profile and hides her skills in order to protect her family treasure. That is until, she accidentally reveals her skills in public and she becomes a star overnight. This act had gotten the attention of a rogue Karate group that uses their skills to carry out hits to gain profit. This group is also the same who had killed her father and kidnapped her sister. Now, Ayaka has little choice but to fight, as this gang of rogues and her estranged sister (Hina Tobimatsu) are after the Kurenai family Kuro Obi.
How does one judge the quality of a martial arts film? Is it mainly because of the martial arts sequences and the realism of the stunts? Is it the way the film is plotted to capture the spirit of the martial art on display? Well, if you have answered yes to all three questions, director Kimura Yoshikatsu’s “KG: Karate Girl” meets all the quality requirements. The plot of the film is very simple and at its heart, it is a simple tale of honor and redemption. The script by Nishi Fuyuhito keeps things pretty standard and admittedly, the screenplay leaves a lot of details to the imagination of the viewer. It starts off like “A History of Violence” and then becomes something that is similar to films about familial revenge.
There are a number of weaknesses in the film’s script, I mean who took over Ayaka’s training after her father’s death and what is the relevance of the man called Keith (Played by Richard William Heselton)? I have to admit, there were elements that made me question the screenplay, and some characters seemed to have disappeared from view after its set up and things that was left undeveloped (example: Ikegami Miki who was Ayaka’s adoptive mother). The screenplay wasn’t as solid as I would’ve hoped, but hey, I wasn’t here to see an intricate script right? We are here to see the “bad-assery” of Karate.
Ok, if you are here to see the display of “No Wires- No Stuntmen- No CGI” martial arts fights then you are in the right place. Rina Takeda has the skill and proof that it is easier to teach a martial artist how to act than to teach an actress to do martial arts. Perhaps this is not the film to display one’s acting prowess, nonetheless, Takeda takes command of the film’s action sequences as she displays the many complex moves of Karate. The action sequences are very similar to “High Kick Girl” and she does all her own stunts. She is just incredible and very convincing; as she embodies the innocent girl next door who can kick you ass. This time, Takeda is not alone, and Hina Tobimatsu lends a hand in the fight sequences. The two move in an almost perfect synch, and yet they have their own unique way of expressing their moves.
Not to be outdone, “Karate Girl” also has its share of familiar faces from the Karate circuit which gives the movie a feel of credibility. Tatsuya Naka who is also the star of “Kuro Obi” and “High Kick Girl” adds some action support in the film’s opening act as he fights his way through a group of bad guys. Naka is precise in the scenes and the direction seemed to have improved in the camera shots. There is a sort of drama in Naka’s scenes, and as with his past film, Kiumura keeps the camera at a distance to allow for some tricky editing at times to express the power of the moves. The fight choreography by Fuyuhiko Nishi complements the film’s cinematography; the look and atmosphere of the movie is all about martial arts.
It is difficult to not compare this film to “High Kick Girl” (I mean, the final act feels like a homage to that film). But I think it would be safe to say that if you enjoyed Takeda’s first movie then you would be right at home with “Karate Girl”. For me, “HKG” is the superior film, since it had the amazing Tatsuya Naka as someone more than just a part of the supporting cast. Not to say that “KG” is a bad movie, but it is just a different flavor. Rina Takeda and Hina Tobimatsu does make beautiful action scenes in this movie. Now, if you are a fan of Rina Takeda then this film is definitely for you. This is a good movie to inspire the teens of Japan to take up Karate since it is fast becoming an almost hidden art (or so I've read).
Timid Recommendation to Action Junkies, a RENTAL for Everybody Else. [3 Out of 5 Stars]
Real-life female Karate champ Rina Takeda returns to show her stuff in the big screen. "Karate Girl" or "KG" as known in Japan, has also been promoted as "High Kick Girl 2" in some countries. I hope to see this movie correct the flaws in her first film. No wires, no stunt doubles, Rina does them all! Click on Full review Here