Sukeban Deka [1991 Anime Remake] Review

Sukeban Deka DVD

AKA: Sukeban Deka (1991), Sukeban Deka OVA, Delinquent Girl Detective, Delinquent Cop, Delinquent Detective

Genre: Action/Crime Drama
Year Released: 1991

Distributor: Unlicensed (DVD formally available from ADV Films)
Origin: Japan
Running Time: OVA, 2 episodes, 45 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: 15+
Related Films/Series: Sukeban Deka, Sukeban Deka II: Shojo Tekkamen Densetsu, Sukeban Deka III: Shojo Ninpo-cho Denki, Sukeban Deka: The Movie, Counterattack from the Kazama Sisters, Yo-Yo Girl Cop

For Fans Of: City Hunter, Kill Bill series, Battle Royale, Gokusen, Shadow Star Narutaru, Lucy, Ichi the Killer
, Kill La Kill, Cutey Honey, Ikki Tousen
Notes:
-The English dub was used on the DVD, but I’ve seen it in both languages.
Fun Facts:

-Sukeban Deka is based on a manga by the late Shinji Wada who also wrote Crown, Vanilla Essence no Gogo, and Ninja Hisho. Something that’s crazy given how violent and action packed it was the fact that the manga ran in Hana to Yume in 1976 to 1982 which is a SHOJO manga. Trust me, you wouldn’t have known it was a shojo series unless I told you.

-This anime remake was the debut of director Hirota Takeshi. His other anime work has involved being a chief director of Hunter X Hunter: G. I. Final, storyboard work for Happy Lesson Advanced, and worked on Locke the Superman.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: Anyone familiar with ADV/Sentai works should recognize several of the main VAs, but the funniest fact involves the three protagonists. Saki is voiced by Amanda Winn-Lee, Sanpei is voiced by Kurt Stoll, and Junko is voiced by Tiffany Grant. ALL of them were in Evangelion and it would be like if Rei was a hot-headed juvenile delinquent, Sanpei has a massive crush on her, and Asuka is a shy and mousy damsel. Speaking of ADV, this isn’t the only time Amanda Winn-Lee played the main heroine and Marcy Rae (English dub voice of Reimi Mizuchi) played the lead villain. Two words: Gunsmith Cats!

-Anime fans, there are two series that are well-known that have been inspired by Sukeban Deka: Revolutionary Girl Utena and Kill La Kill. Come on, Utena could pass as Saki’s sister for crying out loud and Ryuko is a delinquent who goes after the student council president. This makes way too much sense for that connection.

-Fandom Bonus: In New Cutey Honey, the title character cosplays as Saki Asamiya in one episode.


Yes! I get to cover another anime I remember watching during my teenage years. For an obscure anime remake (at least obscure to most Americans) of a long-running live action Japanese TV show, I was shocked by how influential this anime was to other series that came out long after. Even watching it, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tarantino got at least some inspiration when he made Kill Bill since Gogo Yubari may or may not be some analog of the main character (saying nothing about her being played by a Battle Royale cast member). I had a brief nostalgia trip as I decided to revisit this violent OVA that I’m shocked to find out was a shojo series the whole time.

Is it still worthy to watch even for a short action series?



Sukeban Deka is about a juvenile delinquent sixteen year old girl named Saki Asamiya. She’s in jail for an assault conviction that happened at Takenoha High school. The local police who have her in the holding tank make a deal with Saki. She can join the force as an undercover cop while commuting her sentence for a major case, or she can stay in prison and have her mom be executed for her crime of killing her husband and Saki’s father. Saki while furious takes the job and becomes part of this secret police project named “Sukeban Deka”. She’s armed with a yo-yo that’s made from a bulletproof ceramic, has an unbreakable string, and is fireproof. Her mission is to go back to her old school Takenoha High after the cops catch wind of a conspiracy involving the wealthy politician Gozo Mizuchi’s daughters Emi, Ayumi, and Reimi. They run the school and are popular, but they have very dubious means like how Emi plagiarizes artwork, Ayumi runs a drug cartel, and Reimi influences so many of their murder plots. Saki has to shut down the Mizuchi’s illegal activities, but has to deal with other goons associated with them, going back to school, and facing Vice Principal Numa who sent her to jail to begin with.

This was certainly a trip revisiting this little OVA. The fight scenes were really fun. Yes, it is insane how Saki uses a yo-yo as a weapon, so don’t expect any realism, but they certainly will keep people interested. The English dub was actually good. While it gets cheesy, at least most of the cast members were actually self-aware of how crazy of an anime it is. Amanda Winn-Lee has great chemistry with Kurt Stoll as Sanpei who is a riot with how they interact. Sanpei could have easily been a Ron Stoppable type of sidekick, but he proves to be useful with his computer hacking skills and is far braver than he looks since he’s the only one who helps an injured Saki. Okay, he’s certainly obsessed with her and her threatening him only makes him randy (“Ooh! S&M! I’m Game!”), but he did serve a point and not just comic relief. Marcy Rae just kills it as Reimi with how she can play this ladylike facade, yet can also sound like a total madwoman at the same time. Seriously, she’s underrated as a voice actress and she just sells it as a villain much like one of her later works as Major General Garrachova from Yugo the Negotiator. Some other highlights of this anime are the ending theme and some of the character dynamics. Yes, the ending theme “Kizuna” screams early 90s ballad, but at least it has more bite and a butt-kicking saxophone as a lead instrument in it. Saki is someone who could’ve easy have been a strong female Mary Sue, but she doesn’t win all the time and she has selfish aspects that bite back really hard in the second episode. Vice Principal Numa hates Saki’s guts, but he hates the Mizuchi’s even more with how good they hide their evil nature. It was fascinating how they were forced to work together later on. While Emi was the least threatening of the sisters, she’s still evil with her copycatting paintings and claiming they are her own. Maybe she should work for Christopher Nolan or the Disney corporation (Kelso voice: BURN!). Ayumi is certainly the most overtly sadistic of the three as she tries to be this violent queenpin of the school with the gambling and drugs while fleecing the rich kids at Takenoha High. When she gets access to lots of money or a shotgun, she goes absolutely nuts while being overjoyed at her endeavors. There were certainly enough characters that kept me interested here. Despite being two episodes long, it does tell a complete story which is very good.

Sukeban Deka does sleep almost as much as it walks the dog (yo-yo puns!). Since this was made in the early 90s, the animation has definitely aged. I’ve seen anime movies, OVAs, and series made close to that same time period that look better than that. The background music was generic synth-driven stuff that still sounded like the vestige from the 80s. Some of the fight scenes resort to cliched 90s still shots and the three times repeated effect especially in the final battle. The Mizuchi sisters are threatening enough villains, but they are stereotypical villains. If they weren’t so traditionally pretty, people would say that they would suffer from Disney villain syndrome. It makes things less subtle with the constant snake imagery or how the sisters have “normal” eyes when they’re doing school related things, but they switch to reptilian slit pupils when they do or think about evil things. This also gets worse with some choices I didn’t agree with in the OVA. While Numa was a complex character who takes no crap from anyone, but there was one scene where he went too far. When a student mouths off about everyone failing a major exam, he straight up punches said student in a face. Dude, Numa. You assaulted a minor and you still have a job as a vice principal? Teachers have been suspended or fired for just YELLING at students, but he gets a free pass for giving a student a knuckle sandwich! Unbelievable. Also, I took severe umbrage with one of Reimi’s henchmen Getz. He’s a tall muscular Black man with an Afro who doesn’t talk, but is just violent, stabbing people, and is the first villain to rape another character (spoilers avoided) before his Caucasian co-worker joins in. Said other henchman actually talks somewhat intelligently compared to Getz which really rubbed me the wrong way and it adds to the “Big Scary Black Man” stereotype. 

This anime wasn’t as good as what I remember even though I knew it wasn’t some cerebral or meaningful anime when I first watched it.

Sukeban Deka does have interesting things going on, but it’s not far off from a brainless action anime. The main characters are certainly likable enough and the Mizuchi family are viable antagonists, but they couldn’t hold this entire anime together. I do appreciate how it told a complete story or at the very least an arc given how many volumes the manga spawned back in Japan. The shallow motifs, dated animation, protagonist centered morality on Numa’s part, and resorting to a racial caricature for a lackey didn’t help things. In hindsight, Sukeban Deka may have a great heroine, but the anime was average.


Adjustable Rating System:

Add 1-2 points if you like action anime.
Add 1 point if you like 90s anime.
Subtract 1-2 points if you want your anime to have more depth and effort.


Pros:

-Good main protagonists
-Nice ending theme
-The English dub is surprisingly good

Cons:
-Protagonist centered morality at times
-Dated production
-The depiction of Getz

Final Score: 5/10 points

Content Warning: Sukeban Deka may have been a shojo manga, but this anime is nothing like Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket, or Cardcaptor Sakura to name a few. This anime gets very violent with multiple deaths including two entire school buses of students malfunction and fall off cliffs. Since it’s an ADV anime, the language in the dub is very strong. There are sexual innuendo elements in the dialogue, some nudity, and sexual assault as a major plot point. The Mizuchi sisters get involved in corruption, drug trafficking, student gambling (and it’s not played for comedy like Kakegurui), and terrorist plots. Older teens and up would be the right demographic.

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Sukeban Deka is property of Shinji Wada and Sido Limited. The DVD cover is from Amazon and is property of ADV Films.

2 comments

  1. Great review! Glad I’m not the only one who spotted the horrendous racism, with the black henchman. I also watched the English dub version; I would have loved if there was a Neon Genesis Evangelion blooper reel.

    Liked by 1 person

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