Go Nagai’s Last Superhero?

Lion-Girl, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Japanese director Kurando Mitsutake (Maniac Driver) takes several characters in a zany post-apocalyptic scenario from legendary manga artist Go Nagai’s twisted imagination.

The gonzo filmmaking maverick formulates an impossibly cheesy movie, liberally borrowing from anime and a confluence of strongly divergent inspirations. An insane smorgasbord of anime, superheroes, Wild West action, and Power Rangers-inspired nonsense, there’s an audacious movie lurking somewhere in Lion-Girl’s cookie-cutter effects, terrible acting, rampant nudity, and goofy battles.

Lion-Girl’s wacky b-movie mania works much better in a casual group setting with friends

Filmed in the United States during the height of COVID, the incredibly low-budget action thriller is a sprawling mess made with reckless abandon. Independent film label Cleopatra Entertainment saves this film for future generations to study by granting Kurando Mitsutake’s dearest wish.

Based on creative ideas from artist Go Nagai (Devilman among others), Kurando Mitsutake goes wild with a mostly American cast as Earth’s last defender fights beast monsters known as ANOROC. In the year 20XX, humanity is barely hanging on by a thread in a post-apocalyptic wasteland named Neo-Nippon. Meteorites have bombarded the planet, killing most and mutating many survivors into horrific creatures who hunt humans.

It’s a dog eat world and humanity’s last hope is Lion-Girl (Tori Griffith). A superhero Yakuza fighter blessed with powers, Lion-Girl and her comrades follow the path of Ninkyo as honorable outlaws. Lion-Girl eventually faces the evil bounty hunter Kaisei Kishi (Derek Mears). Shades of Mad Max and Afro Samurai creep into the ambitious storytelling.

Kurando Mitsutake realizes at some point he’s not making great art with Lion-Girl and goes full-on exploitation mode. There’s blood, lots of blood. There’s nudity, lots of nudity. There’s also nonsense, lots and lots of low-budget nonsense. The movie is trash, but trashy fun done in a biting tongue-in-cheek style that isn’t purely Japanese or American in spirit.

Lion-Girl as a film is a freaky hybrid product, one that only could have been made with a vibrant creative vision. Over two hours long however, the uneven results are not always pretty. The creature make-up is amazingly effective, second only to the raucous music which powers Lion-Girl.

Lion-Girl’s wacky b-movie mania works much better in a casual group setting with friends. If you know what you are getting into beforehand, the unrepentant live-action anime can be a laugh riot of cheesy fun.

Video

The serviceable 1.85:1 presentation has inconsistent video reflecting a low-budget production shot on digital film cameras. Cleopatra Entertainment encodes the 122-minute main feature in AVC on a BD-25. Overly bright with often blown-out details hidden in a washed-out contrast, clarity otherwise is usually sharp and inviting. The 1080p video’s best-looking moments are usually fights taking place inside with more controlled lighting environments.

Lion-Girl’s haphazard picture quality seems mostly like an afterthought for the film crew. The set pieces receive a little more care and attention but generally the video results are poor.

Audio

Lion-Girl’s choppy 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is a collage of unpolished sound design and indie limitations. The energetic music leads to somewhat muddy dialogue reproduction, though dynamics are tight with full fidelity.

Some separation and more complex movement across the soundstage is evident in the occasionally flashy surround mix. Discrete effects coming from behind are most prominent in the superhero battles. The film’s bass was more anemic than expected.

No subtitles are included other than forced English subtitles for the smattering of Japanese dialogue peppering the mostly English soundtrack. Secondary 2.0 stereo Dolby Digital audio is offered.

Extras

Rescued by Cleopatra Entertainment, Lion-Girl receives a full line-up of entertaining bonus features including a feature-length audio commentary. It’s a set well worth watching, often more fascinating than the main feature. The disc is coded for all regions.

Audio commentary with Director Kurando Mitsutake – Fluent in English, Mitsutake discusses the production’s challenges while filming during the pandemic and other topics.

Introduction by Go Nagai (00:48 in HD)

Conversation with Go Nagai (28:20 in HD; Japanese audio w/ English subtitles) – A warm interview with manga legend Go Nagai held by director Kurando Mitsutake. Absolutely recommended as the director gives vital information about the movie’s finances.

The Making of Lion-Girl (59:58 in HD) – Packed with behind-the-scenes footage from the movie set, cast and crew are interviewed throughout this lengthy documentary.

The Hollywood Premiere Screening with Director and Cast Q&A (31:27 in HD) – Director Kurando Mitsutake, Tori Griffith, and Damian Raven answer questions after the film’s debut.

Lion-Girl Trailer (01:58 in HD)

Slideshow (02:05 in HD)

Cleopatra Entertainment Trailers (5 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Lion-Girl
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  • Audio
  • Extras
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Made with heart and told with daring creative vision, filmmaker Kurando Mitsutake plunges into manga artist Go Nagai’s fevered imagination for a wacky exploitation adventure

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