Year Released: 1997
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 109 minutes
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What starts out as a sickening, but vastly interesting look at the ko gal phenomenon in Tokyo, kinda like a Japanese version of “Kids,” quickly transforms into a sappy drama that may find some running for the toilet.
Ko gals, for those who don’t know, are teenage girls in Japan who whore themselves out to dirty old men, not because they have to – these girls are not broke and desperate – but because they want to. They sell their bodies, dirty panties, bodily fluids, in order to buy the finest in accessories – Gucci bags, cel phones – so that they can fit in with the other girls at school.
Enter “Bounce Ko Gals,” and filmmaker Masato Harada plops us right in the middle of a group of friends, ko gals, as they discuss, in a bubbly manner, their latest dirty deeds, abortion, and what bullshit they plan on buying with their earnings. It’s a sick world that these girls happily live in, and from what I understand, Masato’s take on this world is spot on.
The film then starts to focus on three major characters: Lisa – an innocent schoolgirl who, trying to rack up as much cash as possible for her trip to New York the following day, decides to sell her panties to a vendor, who will in turn sell them to a perverted buyer; Raku – a ko gal who stars in soft core porn for money; and Jonko – the leader of a “gang” of ko gals, who has the connections to the big spenders and ultimately winds up with a yakuza on her tail who is concerned that her and her friends may be taking away from their sex business. And it’s a meeting between this yakuza and Jonko that really spells out why ko gals do what they do and it’s simply because they can. Young teens are a notorious fetish item in Japan, so why shouldn’t they try to capitalize on it? She explains that, even in grammar school, her and her friends were offered money for hugs, or kisses, or whatever. From a frighteningly earl age, they’ve learned the dirty things they can do for money.
A story then continues to grow around these three characters as Lisa winds up getting her New York money ripped off, so she relies on the aid of Raku and Jonko, who teach her the way of making fast money the ko gal way. But with Jonko, the ko gal way involves more trickery and violence than sex. As they spend an evening ripping off clients, a friendship quickly blossoms and the original expose on ko gals form the film began with, has completely been passed up for a feel good drama about friends conquering all the odds for the gain of a better life in a far away land. If that story flip isn’t bad enough, the last fifteen minutes drags like you will never believe. Thought the ending cemetery scene in Raimi’s Spider-Man was long-winded? That’s nothing compared to the sluggish wrap up here, where ultimately, everyone turns out to be a nice guy, and everything is resolved all rainbows and roses. Yuck!
Still, the first half of the film is engaging enough to overshadow the missteps of the final act. It’s a down and dirty look at the world of the ko gals, but it has class. There isn’t a bit of nudity and no sex is ever shown. With his film, Masato comes off as a man who is disgusted by this phenomenon (probably explains the ending), rather than a dirty old man himself who is just trying to exploit the ko gals.
Posted on September 29, 2003 in Reviews by Eric Campos
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