Mid-Career: The Philippines
to South China
“Just call me Jane. Just plain
Jane.” (Yukari, in English, “Tapang Sa Tapang”)
With the rise of Category III productions in the
early 1990s, Hong Kong filmmakers turned increasingly toward graphic violence,
explicit sex and Western-style action. The market for martial arts
movies of the type Yukari had been making evidently decreased, and she
relocated to the Philippines where the audience was still strong.
While she had been originally known in Hong Kong as Yukari Tsumura
- the name under which she had made some of her best early films - and
only later as Yukari Oshima, she was known in the Philippines as Cynthia
Luster. She subsequently appeared in several additional Philippino
productions after those directed by Philip Ko (e.g., “Once Upon A Time
In Manila,” 1994, “Pintsik,” 1994, “Tapang Sa Tapang,” 1997). As
with all her Philippino movie appearances she was typecast as the supporting
romantic interest of the male lead - typically a Rambo-like figure.
The effect of this dissipation of Yukari’s power might be compared to imagining
the effect on Ripley’s character in the “Alien” series if she had been
subordinated to a male lead.
“What’s to look. Like an airport
runway, flat.” (“The Direct Line”)
By the mid-1990s it appeared that Yukari’s film
career was essentially dead in the water. She had appeared in a number
of awful soft-core pornographic films (with her clothes firmly in place)
(“Devil Girl 18,” 1992, “Ghost’s Love,” 1993, “His Way, Her Way, Their
Ways!” 1994, “1/3 Lover,” 1995, “Guardian Angel,” 1996). It stands
to reason that she would not have done this other than needing the work.
She also reportedly ran a talent agency (reputedly called “Funky Carnival”)
and helped launch the career of Sophia Crawford. After seeming to
take essentially any part she could - including some rather humiliating
roles - Yukari evidently clawed her way back into the mainstream with a
series of strong performances.
In the Taiwanese production “Drugs Fighters”
(1995) she delivers some of her best action sequences, followed with comparable
skill in “Tapang Sa Tapang” (1997). Her recent roles have once more
reverted to fight scene cameos (“Super Cops,” 1997, “Tiger Angels,” 1997,
“Leopard Hunting,” 1998, “The Golden Nightmare,” 1998) but are still energetic
and entertaining. She has also appeared in several recent low budget
Mainland Chinese or Hong Kong productions (“To Kiss Is Fatal,” 1998, “Double
Sin,” 1999, “It Takes A Thief,” 1999) in personally conservative roles
that may suggest an attempt to position herself as a more serious actor.
One remarkable exception has been a very low budget (shot on tape) remake
of “Vengeance Is Mine” (1997) in which Yukari has perhaps the most screen
time of any of her movies. She spends some of it displaying anger
toward men and the exploitation of women in the movie industry. It
may be noted that Yukari has now returned to the name Tsumura.
After rumors of an injury and conspicuous avoidance
of punching in her most recent action parts, Yukari appears to have made
a strong comeback with her latest appearance in “It Takes A Thief” (1999).
After several years of declining quotients of action, this film once shows
Yukari - now middle aged - at full throttle. Most of her trademark
forms and skills are back on display. She’s again punching and kicking
her way through multiple opponents, as well as rolling in the mud, during
an extended fight sequence.