The True Story Of Sukeban: Violent Girl Gangs Of '70s Japan

By Cyn Felthousen-Post
Left: Press photo for 'Criminal Woman: Killing Melody,' 1973. Right: Mari Atsumi in 'Mona Riza Okyo,' 1971. Source: jailhouse41.tumblr.com

Violent schoolgirls on the loose, ruthless brawlers in cute outfits, teens with concealed razor blades -- the young female street-gangsters known as sukeban are the most interesting and sensational subculture of post-war Japan. Sukeban caught the public's fascination, becoming not just an obsession of news reports but also fodder for a wave of lurid films -- and the sukeban character type is still an ingredient of comics and animation (manga and anime) today. 

If you don't think you've ever seen a sukeban character -- remember Gogo Yubari, the chain-slinging, sword-swinging schoolgirl from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. I (2003)? Sukeban.

And don't be misled by the movie posters and stills in this article. The sukeban -- like the pimps and drug dealers who inspired characters in Blaxploitation films of the same era -- were real. Authentic sukeban photos (that aren't actually movie stills) are rare. We're indebted to the blogger jailhouse41.tumblr.com for preserving and sourcing these amazing movie poster and press photo scans.