Rica, released by Toho Studios in 1972, is a fairly typical example of the Japanese pinky violence film. It doesn’t have the craziness or the visual inspiration of Norifumi Suzuki’s entries in this genre, and it doesn’t have a star with the charisma of a Meiko Kaji or a Miki Sugimoto, but it still delivers non-stop action and plenty of entertainment.
The movie opens with a flashback to the days of the Korean War. A Japanese schoolgirl, Kayo, is brutally raped by two American GIs on leave in Japan and becomes pregnant as a result. We then return to the present day, with Kayo living with a sleazy businessman while raising her daughter Rica (Rika Aoki) but when the businessman rapes the teenaged Rica the girl decides she’s had enough. She joins a gang, tangles with some nasty yakuza types, and ends up in reform school. In between numerous escape attempts she is involved in a struggle for power with Reiko, the girl boss of the reform school. While she’s in the reform school a yakuza gang boss sells the members of Rica’s girl gang into prostitution. They are to be shipped off to Vietnam to service the sexual needs of American servicemen. The plot becomes steadily more convoluted, with several rival yakuza gangs involved as well as corrupt government officials.
As so often in these films, the girl hero finds an unlikely ally in a mysterious male loner. He’s usually a former yakuza but who is basically a decent guy. In this case he’s named Tetsu. Rica and Tetsu must rescue a shipload of girls who are destined for sex slavery in Vietnam.
The action doesn’t let up for a moment, and director Kô Nakahira is certainly more than competent at directing action scenes. The acting is more than adequate, and although Rika Aoki can’t challenge the female superstars of 1970s Japanese exploitation cinema she’s still pretty good.
Like most pinky violence films it contains a political sub-text, and displays a cynical attitude towards authority. There’s a sub-plot involving American deserters, the intention of which seems to be to make the point that war makes everyone a victim, from the soldiers to the women who become victims of the sexual violence that is part and parcel of the price of military glory. And like most pinky violence movies it’s both exploitative towards women and also very pro-woman. There’s a lot of violence, large quantities of gushing blood (which you expect in a 70s Japanese flick) and a moderate of nudity. There’s also a hint of romance, and even some tenderness, which you don’t so much expect.
Rica doesn’t make it into the top rank of pinky violence films but it’s still a fast-paced and very enjoyable ride.