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Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform was Nippon TV’s answer to Toei/ Fuji TV’s hugely successful high school action series Sukeban Deka (1985-1987).

It opened in late 1986, just before the second Sukeban Deka series ended. Yumi (Nobuko Sendo), Ruri (Risa Yamamoto) and Kei (Kyoko Goto) form a three girl rebellion league, backed up insider Miho (Miho Nakayma), in a fight against corrupt high school officials and teachers straight out of a Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale) film, and you know you are in for a special sort of craziness when classes are led by Rikiya Yasuoka (the madman who tries to kill Sonny Chiba with a traffic sign in The Executioner).

While there is a larger backstory that is introduced in the first few episodes of Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform, it is soon forgotten and the episodes quickly become individual stories only very loosely related to any bigger scheme.

The secrets revealed in the final episodes are also somewhat underwhelming.   For this reason Rebellion League is rather superficial entertainment; the series is as good as the sum of its episodes, and episode quality is mostly defined by the amount of humour, original villains and inventive fight scenes.

It’s the fight scenes that are the show’s greatest asset... they are streets ahead of Sukeban Deka!

The action choreography, which is by Sonny Chiba’s Japan Action Club, is easily the best ever seen in a 1980s idol project, and it is obvious from the beginning that these girls have taken a karate lesson or two before walking into the set, and they only improve as the show advances.

Watching Sendo, Yamamoto and Goto doing Donnie Yen style split kicks, running on the opponents’ shoulders, or just delivering ordinary roundhouse kicks episode after episode often makes you forget that these girls – although naturally assisted by a skillful stunt team and editors – are indeed adorable J-Pop idols.

Any slight stiffness in their performance doesn’t hurt the fun, and Japan Action Club’s choreography gets most insane in episode 12 where the girls battle an entire football team!.

Just like the Sukeban Deka girls, each of the heroines have their signature weapon... Yumi relies on boxing gloves, Ruri throws sharpened pens and quills, and Kei uses a combination of scarf and long yellow chain.

When going into fight, the girls disguise themselves with outrageous hairstyles, make-up and white uniform... Especially Kei is an attention stealer on battlefield - the war paint on her face almost makes her look like a rather cute special forces commando on jungle mission.

Sendo and Yamamoto each contribute one song to the soundtrack, and Rock band A-JARI perforns the theme song ’Shadow of Love’.

A-JARI is also seen in front of the camera in one episode, and this is definitely a band cameo to remember, unlike their special episode in Toei’s Shoujo Commando Izumi one year later (another high school action series that A-JARI worked on).   The songs are all good 80s J-Rock, although, the amount is quite small compared to some of Toei’s other series.

Sendo, Yamamoto, and Goto are all good in their roles, but not unforgettable.   Miho Nakayama, was marketed as the star of the series, but in actual fact she was more of a supporting player and doesn’t even appear in every episode. In fact, she only becomes equal to the other three leads in the last three episodes.

Nevertheless, she is the first billed star in the opening credits till episode 4, after which she starts taking turns with the real star, Sendo. Nakayma’s selection of weapon is explosive roses. Although she was a successful pop star, most western fans probably know her best from Shunji Iwai’s Love Letter (1995) in which she played the leading role.

Despite its shortcoming in terms of story and characters, Rebellion League of Girls in Sailor Uniform provides great, occasionally jaw droppingly cool, delinquent girl high school action fun.

What it lacks in depth, it makes up for with with crazy opponents (such as, a blind caucasian teacher with a huge afro), a solid cast and visiting stars that include Kinya Aikawa, Shinzo Hotta, Noriko Hayami and Jun Izumi, and absolutely first grade action scenes.

Not a Sukeban Deka beater, but a great challenger.

Sadly, I have been unable to find any source for it apart from Peer-to-Peer downloads, or Japanese websites such as 'Global Rakuten' - kind of a Japanese eBay (but in broken English)


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