Though I'm a fan of Oshii's movies, I'm always conflicted about recommending his movies to those who have made a diet of traditional Hollywood films. Many of his films integrate Hollywood style sequences with his preferred style of pacing; which is typically very deliberate and slow. "Assault Girls" is no different, although he does shake things up a bit with the movie's structure. Those who have familiarized themselves with Oshii's work know that extended takes and long monologues are signature of his films. With "Assault Girls" he modulates these elements into chapters. The pre-chapter introduction opens up with a 10 minute monologue that provides a basis for the story, the creation of the game Avalon, as well as giving Oshii a chance to make statements about "Pax Technologica" in a globalized society. The voice over is a bit mumbled and subtitles, which are disabled at this point in the film, would have helped in penetrating the dense editorial text of this narrative. However, after rewinding a few times for clarification, I found the lengthy introduction to be thought-provoking and my favorite segment of the film.
Following the introduction we get five chapters that take us through a sort of mini-plot that finds four competing characters having no choice but to put aside their quarrels in order to battle the big boss of the game Avalon, who otherwise could not be defeated alone. Over the course of the five chapters we get the three cinematic "flavors" that Oshii is known best for: a big-bang opening battle involving three sexy female gamers fighting off oversized sand worms; an entire chapter devoted to long silent takes of the gamers wandering the world of Avalon somewhat aimlessly; and finally, a very amusing chapter where two gamers settle a dispute in one-to-one combat (yes, Oshii does humor every now and then). Chapter 3, the infamous chapter that has our four gamers wandering the dessert of Avalon, feels like a skippable chapter (15 minutes in length), especially since the symbolism, that might make the sequence more meaningful, completely escapes me (there are numerous shots of a snail that, for all I know, could symbolize the slow nature of the sequence itself). But if you can get past Chapter 3 (or if you decide to just skip past it), you might decide that "Assault Girls" makes for an entertaining and even fun "short-film". Newcomers to Oshii's work might understandably be put-off or put to sleep. However, those of us who enjoy absorbing his philosophy through film and animation, have a better chance at being satisfied by this appetizer. I think.
FUN FACT: The points earned for killing one of the sand worms in Avalon have digits that are equal to Pi.