FANTASIA 2017: Shinjuku Swan II Directed by Sion Sono

Starring Tadanobu Asano, Gô Ayano, Motoki Fukami
FANTASIA 2017: Shinjuku Swan II Directed by Sion Sono
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What would a genre festival be without the latest work from prolific director Sion Sono? The ever-busy cult hero has directed five films since releasing the first Shinjuku Swan film in 2015, and he's already returned to the franchise with a sequel.
 
The flick picks up where the first movie left off — though there are plenty of flashbacks and explanations, so you won't be too lost if you start with the sequel. The film focuses on Burst and Wizard, two competing recruitment agencies who scout young girls for Tokyo's adult entertainment industry. When the Japanese liquor board announces plans to open a new gentleman's club in Yokohama, both agencies scramble to recruit as many young women as possible.
 
It's a bafflingly regressive storyline that begins with bureaucracy and ends with a cattle call beauty pageant. You won't find any critique of cultural practices that render women as objects here; instead, like Ken Wakui's manga source material of the same name, the film positions Japanese scouts as young heroes, and their female prey as chosen ones.
 
The rival scouting agencies are something like gangs, really, and they often break into massive brawls with each other while corralling cuties on the streets. Despite their wacky outfits and penchant for violence, however, they're not criminals — one of the film's subplots is about how Wizard crossed the line by getting involved with yakuza.
 
Shinjuku Swan II often feels episodic, moving from one narrative arc to another in its exhausting 133-minute runtime. Despite its lack of traditional structure, however, the film is packed with colourful backdrops, explosive action scenes and comedy both intentional and, perhaps, unintentional. You'll laugh, you'll gasp and you'll find yourself actively cheering for an adult industry scouting agency at an overblown beauty pageant.

(Sony)