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When the cheapie Iron Girl (2012) became a hit, it was inevitable that a sequel would follow. For this follow-up in what is turning out to be a trilogy, Kenichi Fujiwara’s Iron Girl: Ultimate Weapon (2015) has a lot more nudity, better CGI and better action choreography. Stephen Tan reviews.

In the near future (it’s always the near future), an apocalyptic war has broken out and what remains are pockets of habitable land. Bandits are everywhere and only the brave or foolhardy try to make a living as bounty hunters. The bad guys are stereotypical brutes who beat up the weak and rape and abuses women - not surprisingly, hookers appear to be somewhat spared!

Iron Girl Kurisu’s District 8 enclave includes bounty hunter Kento; sweet and innocent Miria and the resident Clown. Kurisu has targetted the Sparti gang and her earnings are meant for a gizmo that might help to bring back her memories. That’s Kurisu’s problem - either she has amnesia or her memories have been wiped out. A flashback shows Kurisu as a soldier in the last great war fighting alongside her lover, Kiru, and Kento. A hail of bullets takes out Kiru and there is an explosion. Next thing Kurisu knows, she has this wonderful armour suit; an awesome sword (the kind that’s featured in any number of computer games) and superb fighting skills. But she has no past.

After defeating some Sparti minions, the gang retaliates by attacking (raping?) Miria; killing the scientist who had been helping Kurisu understand her amour; and stealing the memory gizmo. To take on the Sparti gang, Kurisu must battle Poison (with her red leather, she seems to have stepped out from a bondage movie) and a powerful masked man, who turns out to be - surprise, surprise - Kiru, now turned into a cyborg.

The main draw is porn actress Kirara Asuka (as Kurisu aka Iron Girl). Appearing topless in several scenes, the voluptuous star swipes a barcode tattooed on her arm and she is instantly suited up and ready for battle. Even then, how many times can a nude Asuka suit up before that becomes stale? [OK, there would be some who will say, ‘Never’.] Fortunately, the fight scenes are fairly well staged and Asuka moves with a certain balletic grace.

It is obvious that the strong and silent Kento has a crush on Asuka; similarly, Miria has a crush on Kento but these love lines/triangle are never played out or developed. It would have been more interesting if the Clown had a secret past or possessed special powers but sadly, he is really there strictly for comic relief.

When Iron Girl: Ultimate Weapon is not bogged down by expository scenes or weak melodrama, it has a glossy sheen which makes it visually passable. For genre fans, the absence of big explosions or splatter gore is striking. If the lack of a budget remains an obstacle, the film’s problem - as with most middle films in a trilogy - is trying to bridge the first movie with the third while trying to explain who does what to whom.

It is still Kirara Asuka’s womanly charms that remain the film’s main attraction and one of the movie’s gags is to have Kurisu whacking Kento’s balls (or nether regions) to stop him from following her! Asuka certainly helps to take your attention away from the usual “end of the world” images such as the arid and bleak wasteland that’s central to Mad Max or “the end of civilisation across the waters” ala The Planet Of The Apes. Not since Cherry 2000 has there been a decent female bounty hunter and, of course, the icing for Japanese anime/manga fans, an adult version of Ultra Man, only that here, it is a nude Atsuka who gets to power on… or, in this case, suit up.

The memory gizmo is Ultimate Weapon’s McGuffin and does the viewer really care if Kurisu never gets her memory back? The mystery over how Kiru has turned into a cyborg ended with his/its death and the film ends with the mysterious Julia giving Kurisu a clue to solving the Iron Girl connundrum. Viewers can only wait for Iron Girl 3 with bated breath!

Note: The Iron Girl: Ultimate Weapon DVD is banned in $ingapore.

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