Sukeban - these girl gangs continue
to be a strong influence on Yankī
and Bōsōzoku to this day.
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The Sukeban (スケバン/女番/スケ番 - literally: "Girl Boss" but carrying
the meaning of "Delinquent Girl"), is essentially the female
version of Banchō, the leaders of Middle and High School gangs that began in the 1960s in Japan.
The typical image of a Sukeban is that of a merciless fighter, though with a strong sense of gang honour, something that would carry over to the
Yankī and Bōsōzoku who followed in their footsteps.
The Sukeban became serious pay dirt for movie makers (see PINKU VIOLENCE) and the writers
of TV dramas (see SUKEBAN DEKA) from the early 70s through
to the 1990s and beyond.
Today, classic Sukeban fashion, typified by a long, flowing skirt and streaked beached hair, is considered woefully out of style, but the Sukeban’s way of life - a
revolutionary mix of to-the-death sisterhood, iron-clad rules, and an underworld-style flair for organization - continues to influence Japanese schoolgirls whenever
they gather in packs.
One major aspect of Sukeban style can be seen to this day. Indeed, it is major contribution to the universally accepted image of the Japanese bad girl. -
The Sukeban religiously wore their school uniforms no matter where they were or what they were doing.
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The tradition has stuck with generations of girls
since, from the Kogals of 1990s right up until today’s Shibuya District girls (although the skirts have since gotten a whole lot shorter).
During the mid-60s, the gangs ranged in size from Tokyo’s United Shoplifters Group, which numbered 80 girls in all, up to the Kanto Womens' Delinquent Alliance,
the single biggest Sukeban organization, made up of some TWENTY THOUSAND girls from across western Japan.
Like a real corporate entity, the alliance boasted within it’s ranks a presidential hierarchy, including a board of directors, advisors, and even an accountant.
The Sukeban phenomenon peaked in the mid-70s with the emergence of allegedly the single most fearsome Sukeban in history.
Hailing from Saitama, Tokyo, K-Ko the Razor commanded a private army of 50 teenaged warriors. Her nickname came from her weapon of choice:
a cut-throat razor tightly wrapped in cloth and tucked between her breasts, whipped out with superhuman speed to slash her enemies’ faces.
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Few Sukeban cast quite as menacing a shadow as did K-Ko, whose exploits have reached the status of an urban legend of sorts, but physical violence of one sort or another was an everyday
fact of life for many Sukeban.
Not only were there plenty of rival factions to tangle with, but there was also ample opportunity to inflict damage on members of one’s own gang.
Breaking the rules (and the Sukeban loved to make rules) could result in a physical sanction known as “lynching”.
Lynching involved several degrees of punishment, beginning with a lit cigarette applied to bare skin, which was considered getting off easy. The same cigarette
applied to more intimate parts of the body ranked as ”medium.” The hardest of punishments rival anything one would see in any of the
Pinku Violence movies of the era
that cashed in on the Sukeban image.
Reasons for lynching were numerous and varied from gang to gang.
They might include showing disrespect to the senior members, speaking to “enemies”, or being caught doing drugs (although sniffing paint thinner for a quick and
cheap high was common among Sukeban), the most common cause of a lynching was fooling around with the opposite sex.
Cheating on a boyfriend (inevitably a Banchō gang member himself) would surely lead to a lynching - that is, if a member even bothered with guys in the first place.
Because of the emotional nature of the relationships between the girl-gang members, jealousy and crushes on other members could, and often did, lead to intense, soap opera-style drama.
In spite of all the petty crimes the Sukeban casually indulged in, the girls themselves were convinced that they were living by high moral standards.
chasteness of the Sukeban (take those long skirts, for instance) was a reaction to the permissive sexual revolution of the 1960s.
Dressing sexy and wearing too much makeup were frowned upon.
These girls looked and acted tougher and older then they actually were, but the chain and razor-packing Sukeban were surprizingly conversative when it came to
matters of dating, romance and sex.
Though the actual Suken phenomenon itself had all but died off by the 1980s as gang members just grew up, "graduated" from gang life, and slowly became integrated into society,
their mythos continues to endure in Japanese Pop-culture.
YANKI and BOSOZOKU: ORIGINS AND HISTORY