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Perhaps the ideal point of introduction for the decadent delights of Kei Mizutani for an Occidental audience, Weather Woman, known as Otenki Oneesan in its native Nippon language, captured the zeitgeist of a Japanese audience looking for something decidedly different. A surprise home video smash in 1996, the film labelled the star as a ‘cult queen’ in the U.S., my first experience of the statuesque Oriental celebrity, superstar of a thousand centrefolds, came in 2001 when touring the cramped comic book corners of Tokyo. Upon discovering an Otenki Oneesan manga, signed by the aforementioned actress, going for the princely sum of 200,000 Yen (no, that’s not a misprint, about 1,000 pounds Sterling) my interest was piqued and I’ve been intrigued ever since as to the appeal of admittedly attractive artiste. Despite having seen this movie in Japan the same year I was left wondering quite what the hell was going on, even with my nascent nihongo (Japanese language), and so two years later I stirred up the courage to shell out for the shiny platter, available separately or as part of a 6 disc Kei Mizutani box set, still not quite knowing what to expect.

Keiko Nakadai reports temperatures rising in the East...
Yamagishi (Takashi Sumida) has a problem; the horny high schooler has the hots for his classmate, the school’s super sexy but ultimately unattainable object of desire Keiko Nakadai (Kei Mizutani). Attempting to illustrate his undying love for her, Yamagishi offers to throw himself off a building yet finds his courage falling short. Taking the plunge, the determined Keiko demonstrates the meaning of pure will by leaping off the skyscraper, seemingly never to be seen again.

Several years later a despondent Yamagishi can be found working the burger grill in a fast food restaurant. Ignoring the entirely honourable advances of the wholesome waitress who works with him, Yamagishi is concerned only with finding his true love, Keiko. One night, when visiting his favourite sobu (noodles) stopover, Yamagishi glances at the television playing in the corner of the establishment to discover that Keiko is presenting the national weather report. Bewitched, Yamagishi is further enamoured when, to the startling surprise of her audience, Keiko lifts her skirt to expose her underwear in an effort to boost ratings for troubled station JTV.

In supplying a national scandal for JTV to disseminate, haughty Keiko has hit the highest ratings the station has ever seen. Instead of replacing regular weather girl Michiko (Saori Taira) for solely one night, Keiko is given a permanent meteorological slot in which to flash her frilly pants with which to encourage viewers to tune in.

With meek Michiko ruing her lost slot and relegated to reality TV shows, in which programmes the likes of ‘Hentai-san, hajimemashite’ (Hello, Mr Pervert!) are supposed to support the regular schedule, Kaori Shimamori (Yasuyo Shimashima), the daughter of JTV’s carnally inclined CEO, returns to her homeland from Paris in order to oust her school days rival from the ratings summit.

'Hello, Mr Pervert': a new concept in reality TV.
What follows is a battle of wits and wills in which no stone is left unturned when Kaori engineers a shocking series of events to topple Keiko and take over the weather woman slot for herself. Keiko must subject herself to some serious sacrificial training to turn her life around and face her nemesis for a final spectacular showdown…

Weather Woman is not, by any stretch of the imagination, your ordinary movie. There’s crude characterisation, some senseless sexuality and a ton of tongue in cheek humour that certainly won’t be to every viewer’s taste. Yet, for all this, it’s a movie you won’t forget, and that’s all the better for it.

Whether it be the cartoon-like kung fu, the song n’ dance sequences, the overblown dialogue or the quite hysterical plot developments, there isn’t a moment in which you won’t be entertained. More akin to the Russ Meyer or John Waters school of schlock film making than traditional Japanese cinema, director Tomoaki Hosoyama has fashioned a superb sexploitation movie. Based on Tetsu Adachi’s acclaimed manga, although with none of its graphic content, Weather Woman ratchets the “What the hell?” factor up to 11 with its attention to baffling little motifs (red roses, jellied noodles and a solitary french stick make regular, if entirely unexplained, appearances) and sharply satirical skewed look at the ratings driven nature of broadcasting.

Indeed, it’s the very paradoxical nature of the frequent softcore fumblings on show that parallels the purpose of the narrative. With one key exception, these sequences (with the inclusion of one inordinately in-depth onanism scene which forms the centrepiece of Keiko’s early morning routine) aren’t strictly necessary, yet are almost assured to be as sexy as anything you’ve previously seen. That’s precisely the point; in the same way that Keiko bares her briefs (and more!) to boost ratings, Hosoyama grandly guarantees that he’ll have you hooked by the time Kei Mizutani begins abandoning her outer garments for the umpteenth time.

All of which places the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the central character and thankfully she doesn’t disappoint. Kei Mizutani is one model who really can act and takes the transition from glossy mag page to silver screen in her stride. In fact, as if to prove her prowess, Mizutani has since gone on to excel on stage and while it’s unclear whether she’ll quite make it to noh like levels (the Japanese equivalent of Shakespeare), she‘s sensational in essaying Keiko’s rapid rise, fall and ultimate redemption.

Alas, other actors fail to come off as well but their cypher-like status may well be the result of Hosoyama’s insistence on a relatively short runtime (just 83 minutes), in order to provide a narrative pace free from respite, as they simply do not have time to flesh out their respective characters.

A film to go down in the annals of Japanese weather forecasting history...
The image, non-anamorphic and framed at about 1.85:1, is a real disappointment. To be quite honest it’s difficult to say whether the print used was good or bad in that the disc’s encoding is poor at best. Granted Central Park Media have scrimped to squeeze everything onto a DVD-5 (in itself annoying, but not unforgivable) yet what can’t be excused is the sloppy nature of the transfer in which pixellation and macro-blocking is so prevalent as to detract from the viewer’s enjoyment of the movie itself.

Colours are bright but this is due more to the over zealous contrast levels employed than the vivid nature of the transfer itself which is criminal because this is precisely where Hosoyama’s striking palette of pinks and yellows and Kei Mizutani’s succession of increasingly outrageous outfits are integral to what little plot there is. Perhaps this is struck straight from a cinema print (it would certainly explain the contrast complications); as a consequence, flesh tones are always the wrong side of pale with blacks so deep as to overpower almost everything in the relevant frame. With the possibilities of the DVD format, and particularly with a film less than 10 years old, this video presentation is barely acceptable.

At least the subtitles are digitally generated and, being transcribed in a chunky yellow font, are easy to read against the burnished backgrounds. Surprisingly free from grammatical or spelling errors, the translation does leave something to be desired with some of the script’s nuances (yes, there are some hidden away in the repartee) skipped over for a more literal (i.e. crass) interpretation.

Alas Central Park Media have started the way they mean to go on which results in the sound department too being pretty desperate. For a non-effects dependent movie a simple 2 channel stereo output would customarily be enough but the front soundstage is muddled and muddy, the bass too thick in the music sequences and the distinct dialogue set too low in the mix. In fact, the entire sonic delivery is rather quiet, necessitating the volume to be turned up a few notches past its usual setting, only to augment the latent hiss and exacerbate booming bass.

An English dub is provided and follows the letter of the Anglophile subtitles. This means that not only is some of the translation wide of the mark but that the lip synching is so far off base that watching the movie in English becomes laughably ludicrous. As to whether this will increase the enjoyment of the movie is open to debate but as the entire tone of the piece is tongue in cheek, with Kei Mizutani VA regular Wendee Lee supplying her vocal services, if you don’t mind dubbing (in a Monkey sort of way) then you’re in for a treat.  

Keiko's maid gets the wrong end of the stick...
The special features on this disc can only be accessed with a DVD-Rom drive. Great if you happen to own one of these with your home PC but severely frustrating if you do not. Most mystifying of all is that there’s nothing here that couldn’t be included in the regular format utilised by DVD players.

Kicking off these DVD-Rom features is a Kei Mizutani Video Interview. Alas, for this feature, not only is a DVD-Rom necessary but you’ll be obliged to download a copy of RealPlayer in order to view the video. At the time of writing, anyone who’s used RealPlayer with their PC will be conversant with the enormity of network, firewall and anti-virus difficulties this particular piece of software raises and it’s another irritating issue that could so easily have been avoided by Central Park Media. Nonetheless, I took the plunge and was soon wondering why. Undeniably it’s interesting to see the lovely Miss Mizutani espouse just how wonderful the experience was (including burning her bum when a pyrotechnic squib went awry, there must have been some queue to administer medical attention on set!) but overall the interview is all too brief and superficial for which it’s really not worth endangering the security of your PC.

Next up comes an Art Gallery containing excerpts of Tetsu Adachi’s original Otenki Oneesan manga artwork. Seemingly included to titillate the viewer rather than illustrate the satirical nature of the film’s source material, the comic book cuttings do at least demonstrate the provenance of the Keiko/Michiko bathroom scene while also ably embellishing the highly graphical nature of Keiko’s initial disposable amorous encounters.

A Director’s Biography is also included. With just two small pages of text, it’s not all that easy to get a grasp on the thought processes behind Tomoaki Hosoyama’s cult creation but two key points soon become clear. The quote that opens the film, at least in Hosoyama’s opinion, dictates all aspects of everyday life, hence its inclusion, and that in trying to establish himself as the ‘John Waters of Japanese cinema’ (his preferred quote, not mine) he settled on a distinctive, if familiar, aesthetic style.

A Photo Gallery follows the above and, once again is insufficient in its volume and substance. There’s nothing risqué or revelatory here, simply a succession of around 15 stills from the movie in a slideshow format. Once you’ve seen the movie, you won’t be required to view these a second time.

No, this really does defy any rational explanation...
Cast List and Production Notes are exactly as you may anticipate, a text-based run through of all the main players and those responsible for the disc and merely reproduces the information on the inside of the DVD sleeve.

A gallery of Trailers for anime movies on Central Park Media’s U.S. Manga label, including such gems as Demon City Shinjuku and Photon hamstrung by fixed English dubs, round out the extras selection. Strangely, the video quality of these promotional clips is rather better than the feature they accompany.

At least some thought and effort has gone into the menu design. While hardly ‘interactive’, they are at least animated featuring some saucy clips from the movie with the ladies’ naughty bits obscured by the various menu options.

Brilliant and bad, beautiful and bizarre, Weather Woman is a ridiculous but rather affecting film that manages to be that rare commodity; an erotic comedy that is both arousing and amusing in equal measure. Debilitated by a severely substandard disc, it’s an outrage that such an impressive and important cult movie has been treated so shoddily by Central Park Media who have a good record in previous anime DVD products.

With the brains behind BBFC liable to balk at certain scenes, and when you see Keiko paying penance by way of the Heavenly Whip you’ll see what I mean, it’s frustrating that the chances of a Region 2 release remain slim so this R1 travesty would currently seem to be the sole way of securing this remarkable movie on DVD. On this basis, unless you’re a staunch follower of films from left field or a loyal fan of Kei Mizutani, it’s tough to recommend this incarnation of Weather Woman. So, no Citizen Kane then, but still a hell of a lot better than even 5 minutes alone with Michael Fish...