Terrifying Girls’ High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (1973) review

Introduction

In his long career, screenwriter Masahiro Shimura only directed two features, the third and fourth instalment of the Terrifying Girls’ High School series. Can his first attempt at the Sukeban genre bring something fresh to the table or will it be burdened by the previous work of Norifumi Suzuki (Women’s Violent Classroom (1972), Lynch Law Classroom (1973)).

Review

Seiai Girls High School is a still that is marked by a radical division. On the one hand, there are elite students who have fathers in top positions within society and on the other hand, there are the delinquent students who, in most cases, do not even know who their father is.  

Due to the sudden transfer of Miya Saionji (Misuzu Ota), the elite Red Rose Clan holds an election to decide who will become the next leader. Takako Nonaka (Reiko Ike) beats Kinue Hayama (Ryoko Ema) and becomes new leader. Yet, the same night, her father, a member of the municipal parliament, dies in a scandalous car-accident. Due to the financial problems that ensues from her father’s untimely passing, Takako loses her elite position within the school and is forced to join the school’s ‘trash’. Little does Takako know that her father’s death is linked with Yusako Hayami’s illegal business dealings with Americans.

Terrifying Girls’ High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (1973) by Masahiro Shimura

Delinquent Convulsion Group is a narrative that explores the themes the series is know for – i.e. the link between sexual violence and the phallic fixation that structures patriarchal society, the sexual power dynamics between the sexes, and the corruption by sexual pleasure and phallic power – in a more serious and quite shocking manner. Some of this freshness is due to the political flavour that spices up the plot of corruption. The third instalment in the Terrifying Girls’ High School series gives expression to a certain anti-American sentiment that lingers within Japanese society and subtly argues that the rise of American capitalism and consumerism has polluted Japanese society.

Delinquent Convulsion Group also succeeds in making the exploration of phallic corruption, the destructive nature of blind sexual thirst and phallic fantasies, and the societal rot caused by those enamoured by phallic power fresh by shaking up the structure of the narrative and utilizing slightly more serious narrative angles. The opening of Delinquent Convulsion Group elegantly (re-)introduces the spectator to the idea that societal dynamics are shaped by the ‘respected’ presence of fantasies of phallic power and perverted by the thrust to satisfy such fantasies by sexually exploiting the female for enjoyment (Narra-note 1). The former is highlighted by the female teacher who proudly announces that the sole goal of the female elite within the Japanese society of the seventies is to become wives of men who hold power – to become shining objects that prove and support the phallic position of their husband. The latter is illustrated by the male teacher who prefers to read SM-porn within the classroom instead of teaching. The kind of pornographic imagery he reads is not without significance. In our view, his need for such porn is born from the fact that the group of delinquent girls he needs to teach keep confronting him with his phallic failure. Indulging in such sexual power-fantasies allow him to escape his powerlessness as man and tutor and satisfy his unconscious frustrated desire to submit the unruly to his sexual and phallic power (Narra-note 2).

Terrifying Girls’ High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (1973) by Masahiro Shimura

 

It is not that difficult to see that this societal phallic dynamic underpins the formation of gangs and fuels the tension between them. The Red Rose Clan base their reign solely upon the position of power their family has within the greater society – the school runs with the money of their families, so they are entitled to rule the school. What binds the delinquent trash together, on the other hand, is nothing other than their societal rejection, the pedagogic abandonment, and the ever-present emphasis on their castrated position within the societal game (Narra-note 3).

Takako Nonaka is, due to the death of her father, able to see both sides of the societal game – rich vs poor, respected vs despised, gang-leader vs nobody. The murder of her father, furthermore, beautifully reveals that within a patriarchal phallic society a woman’s decorative position is solely determined by a man’s financial clout and the power he can wield. It also uncovers the fact that, within the game of power, the hungriest resort to vile tactics to maintain their position and ensure the pristine state of their societal image.     

Terrifying Girls’ High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (1973) by Masahiro Shimura

Faced with such radical societal castration, Takako is ready to give up her education. Yet, a chance encounter with Linda (Yuko Kano) on the streets gives her the courage to fight back. Her initial resolve is create a new gang to fight the injustice that marks the school and to end the unrightful exploitation the Red Rose Clan subjects others to. Her fight has a certain revolutionary flavour. It is not merely a mirror-image of the phallic conflict and the corruption of power that structures the greater society, but an attempt to change the phallic dynamic that structures the school. With her rebellion, Takako aims to ensure that those who bear the phallic symbol and wield power are not simply those backed by familial money and decorative prestige, but those who earn it with violence, be it sexual or physical (Narra-note 4).  

The encounter with Jiro Ogata (Jo Shiraishi) gives her rebellion another aim. Besides upsetting the power hierarchy and the dynamic that structures it, her fight also aims to clear her family’s name and reveal how Yusaku Hayami’s thirst for power impelled him to abuse his power. Takako’s rebellion turns into a fight to enact revenge  and inflict societal ‘castration’ on those who rightfully deserve it, the Hayami family (Cine-note 5 (spoiler)).

The composition of Delinquent Convulsion Group offers pleasing dynamism and thoughtful static moments (Music-note 1). Dynamism (i.e. a mix of tracking movement, shaky framing, zoom-ins, zoom-outs, …etc.) is pleasingly used to generate tension within more action-rich sequences, to add drama to certain encounters, to infuse some flair in certain violent acts, to subtly emphasize the violating nature of bursts of sexual aggression, or to give certain sexual encounters a rough but enticing elegance.

Terrifying Girls’ High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group (1973) by Masahiro Shimura

Static moments, on the other hand, are also used thoughtfully within the composition (Cine-note 1). Not only are these shots, by emphasizing loathing facial expressions, rejecting body language, and threatening signifiers, effective in making the tension that thrives within interactions more palpable, but they are also beautifully used to dramatize the moment of silence that precedes a possible outbreak of violence and to expose the impact of slashing sticks, penetrating bullets, and swishing knifes.

While static shots are important to evoke relational tension by emphasizing facial expressions and the delivery of signifiers, Shimura also heightens the tension or drama within his composition a few times by temporarily changing the pace. Rather then utilizing the performances to heighten the tension, these quick concatenations of shots exploit the sudden change in pace to evoke the tension that fuels certain moments in the narrative (e.g. the election of a new clan leader, Takako’s discovery of her mother in the arms of Mr. Shepherd).

Terrifying Girls’ High School: Delinquent Convulsion Group is an amazing narrative. While some spectator might miss Suzuki’s inventiveness and his love for seducing the male gaze, Shimura has made this narrative completely his own by giving the narrative a more serious tone and a political flavour. The end result is a film that does not give the male spectator the chance to satisfy his gaze but shockingly confronts him with violence that is born from the corrupted phallic game and supported by intoxicating phallic fantasies.

Notes 

Narra-note 1: It is, in a certain sense, the meek acceptance of these dynamics and the understanding of her ‘castrated’ societal position that leads Takako’s mother (Yoko Mihara) to accept the aggressive sexual advances by Mr. Shepherd (Mike Dunning). And by accepting her sexual exploitation, she indirectly expresses her desire to reattain a certain standing within society.   

Narra-note 2: While this male teacher enjoys watching female bondage porn, his sexual enjoyment is function of his submission to the sexual exploitation by the female other. He visually pleases himself with the fantasy of submitting the female other, while enjoying the position of castrated slave by the violent hand and voice of his adored sexual object.  

Narra-note 3: One could say that the elite forms a gang because they feel protected by the reputation and phallic power of their family, while the ‘trash’ socializes as group because they have, due their rejected position, nothing to lose.

Narra-note 4: Besides inflicting violent directly, our girls also exploit their sexual desirability to force men to inflict sexual violence on other girls. Such instances of indirect sexual violence and humiliation reveal that our girls know that phallic-fixated men can easily be manipulated with sexual favours.

Narra-note 5: The gun functions within this narrative as a veritable phallic symbol. It is not only used to evoke the political idea that Americans (and their capitalism) wield more power within Japanese society than Japanese subjects, but also to highlight that what attracts Takako in Jiro is his phallic ‘promise’. Ultimately, the gun, as phallic object, becomes an object for Takako to assume the phallic power necessary to eradicate the phallic and capitalistic rot in society.   

Music-note 1: The musical accompaniment, which at times becomes quite spaghetti-western like, gives many scenes (of violence) a pleasant flair.   

Cine-note 1: Shimura also utilizes static moments to give the narrative a certain visual flair. By elegantly playing with geometry in one way or another, he crafts a myriad of moments that, due to their compositional tension, please the spectator.

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