"Lion-Girl" (2023)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Kurando Mitsutake’s Japanese, English-language superhero film Lion-Girl.

Lion-Girl tells the story of survivors of a meteor shower who are left to defend themselves against each other and monsters known as “Anoroc” who hunt and kill human beings for their lifeforce.

The Good
Joseph: Check out the credentials for Lion-Girl: written and directed by Kurando Mitsutake (Gun Woman, Maniac Driver, Karate Kill) based on characters created by legendary manga author and artist Go-Nagai (Cutie Honey, Devilman, and Mazinger Z) and produced by Toei Video (Toei Company Ltd. has produced such works as Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider and What to Do with the Dead Kaiju?). Having had at least a little experience with each of those artists and the studio, I knew I would be in for something wild and wacky with Lion-Girl — and boy, was I right! 
Throw logic to the side and set your willing suspension of disbelief to “high,” and if you are a fan of exploitation and lower-budget outré fare, of weirdo superheroes and superheroines, of tokusatsu action, or simply cinematic nuttiness in general, you owe it to yourself to give Lion-Girl a try. Gratuitous nudity — both female and male — and violence abounds, as does corniness. You won't have to wait long for the nudity, as the film opens in a public bathhouse that seemingly allows both sexes in the same area. Nor will you have to wait long for more nudity, including practicing martial arts in the shower. Lion-Girl serves up gore galore, of both the practical effects and CGI varieties, with the former looking more impressive than the latter. And how can you not love that green-screen desert background during a motorcycle ride? The budgetary seams show often, but Mitsutake plays it up for smiles if not full-on laughs, which works wonderfully with the tone of this film, which also features some social satire.

Mike:  Dear Fourteen Year-Old Mike… in 2023 there’s gonna be a movie called Lion-Girl that you need to make sure you watch.  It’s got everything in it that I think you’ll like; tons of nudity, lots of hand to hand fighting, explosions, sword fighting, and some more nudity.  There’s some funny stuff and while not all of it sticks it, you should still see the satire behind most of it so at least the message(s) should stick.  The acting is okay, but really the only one worth a damn outside of Derek Mears (who plays the main bad guy - and you’ll also see him as Jason Vorhees in a reboot of that Friday the 13th movie you saw recently despite your mom saying you couldn’t watch it), is Tori Griffith who may not be Oscar-worthy, but she dedicates herself so fully to her role as the titular (did I mention nudity?) Lion-Girl that you won’t be able to say anything bad about her.  There’s also a lot of fun flashes of video game and comic book (they call ‘em manga over in Japan as you’ll learn in a few years) influences throughout the film. There’s also some nudity which could be a welcome break from all of the other nudity, especially during some of the fight scenes.
I think you’ll like this one, kid. 

The Bad
Joseph: Check my second paragraph in “The Good.” If any of that sounds bad to you, you can mentally move it to this section. You can already tell whether this movie is for you. The two hours and one minute running time does ask a bit much of viewers at times, but that’s one of the hazards of a superhero/superheroine origin story. I had too much of a good time with Lion-Girl to nitpick here.

Mike: Despite what I said to my younger self, this isn’t all sunshine and roses.  At two hours long it’s a big task to make it through in one sitting thanks in no small part to a mercilessly long flashback that was SO long I forgot it was a flashback by the time things shifted back to the “present”.  There’s also SO much going on - tons of ideas, and an entire world that needed to be built - that Lion-Girl requires what feels like one of the most dense info dumps I’ve seen in years.  Find a way to edit that and the flashback and cut twenty minutes from the runtime and I think there’d be a much easier to digest meal of craziness.

The Verdict
Joseph: The costumes! The action! The demon make-up! The camaraderie between the protagonists! The all-in performances — Tori Griffith rules this one in the titular role, by the way! The total commitment to baring flesh, and to laying waste to the victimized and the villainous! I can’t see genre-film fans at any level not having at least some fun with Lion-Girl. Recommended!  

Mike:  Lion-Girl is a crazy conglomeration of genres and ideas that somehow manages to all click into place.  There are some scenes that run too long and drag things down that can be distracting from the story at hand, but some of the action scenes and all of the nudity will more than compensate for it.  You’re not going to see much memorable acting here but, honestly, you’re not turning a movie like this on to see nuanced performances by award-winning thespians.  What you ARE going to get is some good, alt-superhero escapist fun that blends a few genres and features a plethora of both male and female full frontal nudity, then you’re certainly in the right place.  Bring on the sequel!

, from Cleopatra Entertainment, is available as of November 7th, both digitally and on Blu ray/DVD.

Directed By: Kurando Mitsutake
Written By: Kurando Mitsutake
Starring: Derek Mears, Tori Griffith, Damian TooFeek Raven, David Sakurai
Run Time: 2h 1m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2023