Final Girl

“You disturb me” (to Nadeki, “Wonderful Killer”)

In common with other physically talented female action stars, many of Nadeki’s performances have a disturbing quality, perhaps inviting a subversive reading of their part in the film narrative.  This was especially true for the film roles of Yukari Oshima and Michiko Nishiwaki.  In helping to define the role of “fighting femme fatale,” they also infused this with a Japanese “Otherness” – frequently made explicit by national or ethnic signifiers.  While their Chinese counterparts featured prominently in police roles embodying legitimate but ultimately delegated authority, the Japanese performers in their most noteworthy parts expressed unbridled personal power.  Unlike “authority” roles that generally dictate adherence to convention and dutiful asexuality as devices to maintain impressions of impartiality and legitimacy, “power” roles dictate no such constraints.  Consequently, several of Michiko Nishiwaki’s parts featured frank sexuality or erotic pairing of sensuality with suffering or death (“In the Line of Duty III,” 1988; “Princess Madam,” 1989; “The Real Me,” 1991; “The Avenging Quartet,” 1993), while Yukari Oshima’s best parts sublimated sensuality into physically provocative martial arts encounters – occasionally with sadomasochistic (“Angel,” 1987; “That’s Money,” 1990) or dominance-sacrifice themes (“Dreaming the Reality,” 1991; “Angel Terminators II,” 1993).

Nadeki Fujimi, while playing her share of dutiful law enforcers, appears to have embodied a third variant on female power roles – closely aligned with the construct of the “Final Girl” developed in Western film studies of horror and “slasher” genre films.  As literally the “final” female character to confront and defeat a monstrous adversary, the avenging, combative “Final Girl” arguably betrays her gendered presence in action and suspense roles by becoming, in effect, “masculinized.”  Influenced by cine-psychoanalysis, this line of theory construes the combative female avenger as a “phallic” figure.  Through her direct, interrogatory gaze, use of penetrating weapons, and assumption of other traditionally male-gendered action conventions, it is argued that this figure provides an appealing, yet reassuring familiar character with which the male spectator can identify.  Although gendered female, gender itself is not foregrounded and may be secondary to the viewer’s identification with role.
The majority of Nadeki’s films were made well into the 1990s ascendancy of Cat. III themes in which horror and slasher sub-genres featured prominently.  Indeed, Nadeki’s last four films (“Pink Panther,” “Erotic Passion,” “Rock on Fire,” “Satyr Monks”) all featured graphic sexual assaults (although not on her character) and equally graphic revenge mutilation or killing.  Three of these were Cat. III titles with abundant and occasionally abusive sexual behavior.  The Final Girl theory provides one of the few coherent analyses of female action roles in such film contexts.