Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Batgirl Theme Song

Maybe it's because the official video has a Quentin Tarantino vibe, but "Ukifune" by the Japanese rock band Go!Go!7188 is the perfect theme song for the late, lamented Batgirl series starring Cassandra Cain.  I don't know what happened to that video.  It's missing, but you can probably find it if you search.  It's animated, with a woman flying through a series of shoji doors and gunning down a lot of yakuza types before donning a leather jacket over her kimono.  He's Go!Go!7188 performing "Ukifune" live:

No weepy emo music for Cassandra Cain. Although to be honest, the lyrics when translated are kind of emo. But in Japanese, they sound bad ass, don't they? Like Cassandra Cain.

I'm a big fan of the character, obviously, and while I enjoyed her series, my honest assessment is it rarely reaches for greatness.  There aren't any stories that stand on their own as classics of the genre, or even seminal moments in the Bat-family history.  Occasionally, in the way mainstream books starring teen girl characters do, it settles for cutesy-wutesy moments and while violent, it never really becomes frightening and strange, like the "Ukifune" video itself.  I wanted it to scare me.  To get the most mileage out of a character whose very language is violence, you have to take the stories into some dark places and really unsettle people.

I mean, no kids allowed.

Reading it, I couldn't help but wish the Batgirl series would eventually live up to the character's promise.  With her disturbing origins and death wish, I felt it should be equal parts the animated sequence from the first Kill Bill, Jen Yu's tragic story from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the melancholic yet still amazingly action-packed Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. For every heartfelt moment of Barbara Gordon trying to get in touch with Cassandra's wounded heart there would be an equal and opposite one of Batgirl kicking the stuffing out of some nasty joker who really deserves it in some sordid setting.  At some point, Batman would say, "Whoa, slow down, little lady!" and she'd leap off a rooftop to her almost certain death only to land safely. Nearly giving ol' Batman a heart attack every time.

And absolutely none of that "I just want to be normal" junk.  No pining for shopping trips and school dances.  Cass, the obsessed prodigy.  She'd toss herself into the mission with a vengeance, with her guilty conscience and death wish intact. A love-hate relationship with Daddy 1 (Cain) and Daddy 2 (Batman). A total disregard for self and a single-minded obsession with being the best Batgirl she could possibly be.

But there'd also be that secret soft side, the humanity denied. She'd alternately embrace it and reject it, uncertain of who she is outside of the costume, but loving every minute inside. Because of her strange gift and the empathy that comes as its side effect, and her own disconnect from that humanity, she'd be emotionally hurt constantly, and take it out with her fists and feet on whoever Batman wound her up and pointed her at...

Batgirl was alternately entertaining and frustrating, and it floundered after a while.  Some false starts at new directions, quickly abandoned and then DC cancelled it.  We'll never really know what it could have been.  In the end, though, I decided it was a waste of energy worrying about what the series wasn't rather than appreciating it for what it was.  I can always make up my own characters and stories and explore these themes.  Still, I always wanted Batgirl to go for Akira Kurosawa when it seemed content to be Tony Scott.

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