Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Wicked City, Yoshiaki Kawajiri's

 4 of 5 viewers "Liked" "Wicked City" (1987, Japan)
Creature reviews have been minimally altered in an attempt to maintain their voice:

Lord Battle - "Wicked City follows a pair of Blackguards (kinda like CIA) who have to protect a two-hundred-year-old Italian mystic because he is the only one who can make a treaty between the Human World and the Black World possible. If that's hard to imagine just think the Men In Black (yes Will Smith) protecting Donald Trump on his way to shake hands with Kim Jon Un. I first watched Wicked City on VHS as a teen and apparently all I remembered of the film was animated nudity. Now 10 years later, it didn't quite make the same impact as before but I really enjoyed the neo-noir vibe, especially seen through an X-Files tinged 90's lens. I just wanted more interesting demons/characters and less exposition." - 3 Stars

Eddie the Gamer Ghoul - "Dis was a Romeo N Juliet meets da Gyver wift a dash of DevilMan fer good measure. Favorit character... da pervy sage dude. Giuseppi kicked an' gropped ass. Hehe! Couldn't tell ya why but dis movie made me wanna go watch old Godzilla movie's. Not a bad movie fer da late 80's but nothing Imma purposely watch twice." - 1.5 Stars

Huntress - "From what I've heard about anime, I thought the norm was outrageous plots and circuitous relationships. So I was kind of surprised by the straightforward storyline in Wicked City. But looking back, everything paled in comparison to the monsters. I'll be thinking about the creature designs for a long time." - 4 Stars

Wandering Panda - "Demons, softcore hentai, and an overly perverted super powerful old man. What more do you want from anime?! Oh I know, a female spider demon with vagina teeth! This movie is amazing and could never be made today, and if it was it wouldn't be as good. Wicked City is truly overlooked by the modern anime community and deserves more attention. Do yourself a favor and dig up a copy, you won't regret this golden age anime." - 5 Stars

Math Mage - "An espionage thriller about anti-miscegenation.” - 4 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

Horror anime tend to fit into one of three categories. The first are stories about terrible things happening to people for almost no reason (Another, Death Parade). The second are stories in other genres that have horror elements (Attack on Titan, Shakugan no Shana). The third are horror stories that pretend to belong to another genre but are clearly horror on further reflection (Betterman, Madoka). You may have noticed that all my parenthetical examples are series, and this is because, while horror anime are quite rare, horror anime feature films are vanishingly so. A list of anime horror films would be dominated by entries from the late 80’s and early 90's, with only a few outliers. So when a group specializing in horror feature films wants to watch anime, they go 90's. Which brings us to Wicked City; an animated film adaptation of a short novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi*. Appearing around the same time as Ninja Scroll, it was popular for the same reasons (gore and nudity). If I were to be as cryptic as usual I would describe the film as “An espionage thriller about anti-miscegenation.” A description that manages to be unhelpful while still spoiling the “twist”. The film is about members of an MIB style organization that polices demons, specifically the human (Taki) and his new demon partner (Makie). Their job is to protect a dirty-old-man stereotype until a peace treaty is signed, battling demonic terrorists and boredom** until their relationship blossoms into true love over the course of like 9 hours (most of which they spend unconscious or being tortured).

I wouldn’t make a big deal about that (most action films have tacked on romance) except (Spoilers) that them falling in love is the point of the film. In order to encourage coexistence between the two worlds a plan was hatched to create demon-human hybrids and these two falling in love is the last step. This intricate plan over 1000 years in the making, hinges on two total strangers falling in love overnight. So the strategy to make that happen is to lie to them, get them targeted by terrorists, convince them to sacrifice themselves to protect a fool who’s supposed to be guarding them and go to some strip clubs. I’m not a romance expert, but this seems like a terrible plan, especially when their “bodyguard” nearly gets killed, and has to be rushed to the hospital. The original novel had many of the same problems***, but given the changes they made for the film already they could have fixed those issues.

Those changes are actually pretty extensive. Removing Taki’s psychic powers weakened his agency, though making Maki less alien made her character less one-dimensional. Other positive changes include removing the scene where Taki and Makie flirt by competing to see who is better at finger-banging prostitutes (though they kept the vagina-monster that attacks immediately afterward). In all, I enjoyed this film less than 17-year-old me did but it was still enjoyable. Call it a guilty pleasure.

* Of Vampire Hunter D fame
** Seriously, there is an extended scene of Taki being bored.
*** Kikuchi writes like he’s publishing the novel 1 chapter at a time even when he isn’t. This leads to some wild inconsistencies with background characters suddenly becoming pivotal, new main characters introduced three quarters through the book, and crucial information delivered in third person narration after it would have been helpful.

- Math Mage

The Overlook Theatre materialized in a residence for a screening on 5/3/2018
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not affect the rating.

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