Having served her time in prison for the murder of her partner, Saki (Asami) finds that, despite her attempt at redemption, that society is not ready to accept that she has served her time and deserves of a new life. After Saki loses her latest job due to getting in a fight with co-workers, she spots a young girl trying to steal food at a grocery store. Saki saves the young girl from getting caught on a few occasions and the daily trials they face push the two into a friendship, and Saki becomes determined to save the young girl from a turbulent home life, reminiscent of her own.

Tunguska Butterfly is screening at Japan Film Fest Hamburg

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With Saki unable to get a job and Mari’s mother being neglectful of her child, Saki is forced into her criminal past when offered a large sum of money to steal data along with a large sum of money. Unbeknownst to Saki, Mari’s mother is in an intimate relationship with her target. The crime soon comes with a heavy price as Mari becomes the target of a gang’s aggression, in order to retrieve what was stolen from them.

The film for most will act as a notable departure from the standard fare that Asami normally stars in. Having gained some infamy working within the horror and exploitation genres, it seems a bit odd to cast her in a role which she has yet to prove her talent. In spite of working out of normal typecast, Asami is able to turn in one of the strongest and most sincere performances of her career. It is great to see an actor be able to take their strengths within genre film and transfer it into a more dramatic role. Asami’s character still exudes confidence and feminine prowess, which was what won her a cult following in the first place. Seeing the actor still exude the same strength of character in a serious drama piece acts as the production’s most definitive attribute. The rest of the cast rounds out nicely, most notably in the young Rimi Machida, whose sincerity towards those around her compliments the rest of the cast well.

The script for “Tungsuka Butterfly” is perhaps the weakest element of the production. The story seems rather cookie cutter, with none of the plot twists really doing anything that has not been done before. Even backed by some strong performances, the film lacks strong moments of dialogue or any sort of narrative twists to further push intrigue in its subjects. The script could have used some punching up, just to help further define the characters. There are various characters with a dark past, but as an audience, we are asked just to accept them in their current state. The film could have used more exposition, which could have been established through strong character dialogue. With no one having definitive lines that push the narrative of character with a dark past, the narrative falls flat. Thankfully, within the simply written characters, the actors’ performances and direction do overcome this a bit.

The film’s visuals are somewhat limited by the budget, but does not really deter from the end product. The passable cinematography, accompanied by an unmemorable soundtrack, further push the end product into mediocrity. Much like the script, though, the lack of strong points, does not ruin the overall production, it just makes the whole production rather bland.

I will admit being a big fan of Asami, after consuming the entire “Deco Truck Gal” series in a single sitting. I was instantly endeared to her as an actor, she always has a strong presence that is reminiscent of the starts of the Pinky Violence Era of film. “Tunguska Butterfly” showcases Asami at her best, and will hopefully act as a jumping off point for her to thrive in her career being able to work outside of genre film. However, other than Asami’s performance, the rest of the film is forgettable, and will be overlooked by those who are not attracted by the lead.

For those who hold Asami in high regard, the film’s shortcoming can be overlooked in lieu of celebrating her continued growth as an actor. For fans of the genre films she starred in previously, it is great to see a favorite take her experience within genre film and apply it in another production. As a fan of horror and exploitation, it is sometimes unfortunate to see great actors stuck in the genre and their typecast, unable to transcend their image within said genre. Fans of Asami would do well to seek out this production, at least in part to show support for the continued development of the modern day “pink film goddess”.

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