Bounce Ko Gals
- Running time: 0 minutes
Masato Harada's 1997 drama Bounce Ko Gals (sometimes known as Leaving) assembles a strange and not always successful mixture of social criticism, modernist horror, and teen-angst comedy, covering the curious Japanese phenomenon of "date clubs," wherein high-school girls in class uniforms share their company with older men for money. Some of the transactions are fairly benign–just a drink and a chat at a karaoke bar–while others involve selling soiled underwear, posing for pictures, watching the men masturbate, or engaging in degrees of sexual intercourse. Bounce Ko Gals takes place over one day in Tokyo, tracing the initiation of Yukiko Okamoto into the "kogyaru" (call girl) business, as she tries to make back stolen money earmarked for a trip to New York. Yasue Sato shows her the ropes, teaching her how to avoid having sex, mostly by wielding a stun gun. Okamoto also learns how to duck the yakuza (represented here by the mysterious Koji Yakusho), who are fed up with the kogyaru sidestepping traditional prostitution channels. Harada takes a matter-of-fact approach to a world as nightmarish as that in any horror film, in which bodies become products and girls get groped on subway trains before they even reach adolescence. The writer-director eventually stretches Bounce Ko Gals into a direct attack on the free market, comparing teen prostitution to child labor and observing how the girls are complicit in the commodification of their youth, driven by their own materialism. He further addresses how the kogyaru market is inevitably skewing younger, as perverts seek new thrills and preteen girls look to get in on the action. Bounce Ko Gals ultimately devolves into a litany of social ills, with not enough of a proper story, and Harada loses the thread of the film whenever he slips into slapstick comedy, or has his female leads play the role of giggly best friends who tell jokes and share dreams. When Harada lets the situation play out naturally, his characters come up with subtly pointed lines like "Only sell yourself when you don't really have to," a piece of advice that itself illustrates how capitalism can be cruel.