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Kino on Video presents
Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (Samehada otoko to momojiri onna) (1998)

Tanuki: Where's Samehada?
Mitsuru: He's crossed the river. I can't smell him.
Tanuki: You can't smell him? He crossed with a woman. Why can't you do that?
Mitsuru: I'll get wet!

- Ittoku Kishibe, Shingo Tsurumi

Review By: Robert Edwards  
Published: October 31, 2003

Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Shie Kohinata
Other Stars: Ittoku Kisabe, Susumu Terajima, Shingo Tsurumi
Director: Katsuhito Ishii

MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexuality and brief language
Run Time: 01h:48m:37s
Release Date: July 08, 2003
UPC: 738329030025
Genre: gangster

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-B+B C-

DVD Review

If you're gonna steal 100 million yen from your yakuza buddies, you'd better have a darned good escape plan. But Samehada (Tadanobu Asano) doesn't, and when caught by his former associates in mid-flagrante delicto with not one but two girls, he's forced to flee in nothing but his underpants. Mob boss Tanuki (Ittoku Kishibe) and Sorimachi (Koh Takasugi) pursue him, but their chase is brought to a sudden end when Toshiko's (Shie Kohinata) Jeep plows into their car.

Tanuki herself is on the lam, having just escaped the hotel run by her domineering uncle, who has not only stolen her life savings, but abuses her sexually. She's instantly intrigued by the easy-on-the-eyes Samehada, and it's not long before he starts to care for her too. But Uncle is very unhappy that she's escaped, and hires the bizarre hit man Yamada (Tatsuya Gashuin) to track them down, kill the man she's with, and bring her back.

Taken from Minetaro Mochizuki's manga, Shark Skin Man is peopled with unusual characters, primary among them Mitsuru (Shingo Tsurumi), a bleached blond yakuza who's endowed with a super-sensitive sense of smell, which allows him to pursue the couple on his hands and knees through the woods—although once they cross the river, he refuses to continue and get his clothes wet. Yamada is a weird little nebbish who drives a tiny car bristling with antennas, the better to listen in on cell phone conversations. And he's not the best choice for a hit man—the best don't fall in love with their intended victims. Even the boss Tanuki has an odd hobby, collecting metal advertising signs.

It's easy to see some Tarantino influence here. The gangsters are portrayed in a slightly mocking, humorous light, and they obsess over pop culture details (arguing over the name of a book about yoga). The boss is constantly annoyed by their bad language, near-disrespect, and constant bickering. And there's a scene where each of the three characters has a gun pulled on the others.

This was director Katsuhito Ishii's first feature, although he's directed many commercials, but his visual style is completely appropriate for this comic book-based material. There's lots of jump cuts, both slow and sped up motion, swift tracking shots, flashes to black, and other stylistic tics, which add interest and excitement to the material. In one of the most visually interesting sequences, strobe-like flashes of light penetrate a dark forest each time a gun is fired. While Ishii is not exactly breaking ground here—other Japanese directors such as Takashi Ishii and Takashi Miike have been doing similar things for years—he does manage a visual style that's completely complementary to the plot. And the visuals are matched by the sound mix, which not only emphasizes the artificial elements (gunshots are exaggeratedly loud), but also naturalistic ones, such as the sounds of birds in a forest.

So if you're looking for a fun, stylish yakuza romp, with a bit of sex and violence, which doesn't go to the extremes of some other recent Japanese flicks, check out Shark Skin Man.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a mostly very good anamorphic transfer, with reasonably accurate colors and good fleshtones, but it seems a bit soft, and the darkest parts of the image never achieve true black. There are no compression artifacts.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseyes

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is about on par with the image—good, but not great, with some low-level hiss. There's a reasonable amount of activity in the surrounds, but this is mostly about atmosphere, so don't expect any bullets whizzing over your head. One wonders why Kino chose only to include two-channel audio, when there is a 5.1 mix available on the Region 2 import version.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
12 Other Trailer(s) featuring Chaos, Dead or Alive, Dead or Alive 2, Dead or Alive: Final, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, Junk Food, The Most Terrible Time of My Life, Sasayaki, Tell Me Something, Tokyo Eyes, Welcome Back Mr. McDonald
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Printed Insert with chapter listing
Extras Review: The sole extra here that pertains directly to the film is the theatrical trailer, which is presented in a poor, nonanamorphic transfer and isn't subtitled. The remaining 12 trailers, most of them nonanamorphic and with burned-in subtitles, provide an intriguing look at some of Kino's releases of other Asian films.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Director Katsuhito Ishii's Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl is a stylish, enjoyable comic book gangster film, peopled with eccentric characters and filmed in a dynamic visual style. The good anamorphic transfer and sound make it well worth checking out.


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