HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, May 9, 2009


WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY tells a Japanese story of Gang leader Nami ( Meiko Kaji), who after killing a member of a yakuza group, is sent away to prison. Upon her release three years later, she’s become a shamed woman confined to living in the shadowy world of sex clubs and street gangs. She returns to the city to live with her uncle, a billiard-hall owner, and after befriending pimp and never-do-well Ryuji (Tsunehiko Watase), she gets a job working at a hostess club in the chic Ginza neighborhood, where the expensive shops and neon lights conceal a dark world of crime and sexual slavery. But when a rival gang attempts to muscle in on the club, Nami becomes enmeshed in a violent struggle that forces her to wield a skilled pool cue to defend her uncle’s business, and eventually a short sword to wreak bloody vengeance upon her enemies.

I’d had really been anticipating this release for some time now. Having absolutely loved Synapse’s previous Pinky releases of the FEMALE SEDUCTRESS trilogy, obsessed with the fantastic range of retro Pinky films available in English, and fully aware of Meiko Kaji brilliance as a Pinky heroine, WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY looked to be a sensational Pinky film.

However, WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY is not the film you’d expect. It doesn’t contain the flare of the regular 1970s Pinky films that busted with style, excitement, and exploitive coolness. It’s a very straight forward Japanese feature that stays very static to its story. The film puts the basic drama of the film as the dominant theme, leaving any exploitive flavor unseen. The only burst of its Pinky traits lie in the final reel, where it fizzles with a final action set-piece that does finish lightly soaked in blood.

The thing is I expected something totally different. I expected it to be like the other Pinky films or similar Meiko Kaji pictures, bubbling with violence, style, and energy only achieved by the Japanese. However, this is not the film’s approach. GINZA is very basic in telling its story and doesn’t take any real liberties along the way. If I’d known which direction GINZA was going to take prior, I would have adjusted my standards and expectations accordingly. But I didn’t, and therefore initially felt somewhat frustrated and disappointed as the credits rolled. Although, after thinking about the film sometime later and properly assessing the film’s material, I have come to conclude that the film does contain a fair amount of quality and value.

It’s directed with a very keen eye that remains fluid throughout, and has some fantastic musical pieces, including a great theme sung by Kaji herself. Although the pacing of the film is extremely slow, Meiko Kaji’s great presence really keeps the film going. The film also contains some very intense sequences that really get the viewer involved in the film, most notably, the billiard scene. Considering how slow the general tone of the film is, you’d expect the viewer to lose interest in the film. This however is not the case. GINZA is able to hold the viewer’s attention very lightly. Although you may not be enthralled in the events unfolding, your interest is always pulled forward.

All in all, WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY is well made Japanese feature. Those expecting a Pinky film will by HIGHLY disappointed. But, for those interested in a retro 1970s Japanese drama, sprinkled with very light doses of exploitive flare, GINZA might just be for you.

Synapse have done an absolutely stunning transfer on WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY. In an almost flawless anamorphic print, GINZA oozes with great colors allowing the beautiful retro 2:35:1 scope to burst perfectly from the screen.

The sound is presented in a perfect Japanese mono. No hisses or pops are present, allowing the sound to come through as clean and untouched as possible. The music comes through the speaker’s really well, taking full advantage of the quality Synapse has provided. The subtitles are practically flawless, and translate the film completely.

Synapse have done a really good job in giving the release a proper assortment of extras.

The first extra is a full length audio commentary by Japanese film expert Chris D. Chris D. does a really commendable job in analyzing the film as it unfolds. He gives some great background history on the cast & crew, how the film is seen in context with other films of the same period, and from what approach the director was creating the film. It’s a really great supplement that works as a great companion piece to the feature.

The next supplement is in-depth interview with the film’s director, Kazuhiko Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi is very open about the piece and discusses all aspects of the process of putting together WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY. It’s really very nice to see the actual filmmaker proudly discussing the film, giving various anecdotes, and being fully active in the discussion of his work.

Rounding off the extras off extras are the original theatrical trailers for both the first and second films and a really impressive reversible DVD cover, revealing the much preferred original Japanese artwork.


Synapse have done a brilliant job on WANDERING GINZA BUTTERFLY. Although the film itself is not the masterpiece one hoped, the release is truly excellent. It is an exceptional DVD release that covers more than the necessary grounds, and should be fully treasured by cult fans around the world.

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