Wicked City (1987 film)
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|Directed by||Yoshiaki Kawajiri|
|Produced by||Kousuke Kuri
|Written by||Kisei Choo|
|Based on||Wicked City
by Hideyuki Kikuchi
|Music by||Osamu Shooji|
|Edited by||Harutoshi Ogata|
|Distributed by||Japan Home Video|
|Running time||80 minutes|
The story takes place towards the end of the 20th century and explores the idea that the human world secretly coexists with the demon world with a secret police force known as the Black Guard protecting the boundary.
The existence of the "Black World" is known to very few people. For centuries, a pact between the two has been observed to maintain peace, and terms must be negotiated and renewed every few hundred years to continue relative harmony. This time around, there is a militant faction called The Radicals that will stop at nothing to prevent the signing of a new treaty.
Two agents of the Black Guards are charged with insuring the success of the treaty: The human Taki Renzaburo is an electronics salesman by day, and a Black Guard agent when needed; his partner Makie, who masquerades as a model, is a beautiful and skilled woman from the Black World. Their mission is to protect Giuseppi Mayart, a two hundred year-old man with fantastic spiritual power, whose presence at the peace treaty signing in Tokyo is critical. The Radicals wish to kill Mayart to upset the peace between both worlds.
Attacks on Makie, Taki and Mayart begin even before the three meet, and the situation does not improve, despite taking shelter in a Hibiya hotel that supposedly has strong spiritual barriers to keep people of the Black World away; on top of this, Mayart sneaks out after a skirmish at the hotel. Makie and Taki find him at a soapland in the grip of a Black World woman who has sapped his health, prompting a frantic trip to a spiritual hospital under Black Guard protection.
Halfway there, Makie is taken prisoner by a tentacle to be punished for her "crimes" against the Black World by being repeatedly raped, and Taki is forced to leave her behind, but as soon as he knows Mayart is safe in the hospital, he rushes to where his partner is being held, despite the threat that he will be thrown out of the Black Guard.
Taki is led to a dilapidated building far from the hospital, where he finds Makie being gang-raped. While Taki is successful in freeing Makie after eliminating a succubus and other demon agents, they are relieved of their Black Guard duties and are captured by a spider-like woman Taki has encountered before; both are knocked unconscious, but they wake up alone in a church (as the Spider Woman was killed), and seek comfort in each other's bodies.
One last attack by the Radicals comes and is partially deflected by a surprisingly healthy Mayart, who reveals he was protecting his bodyguards, not the other way around as they had been led to believe. Mayart and Taki almost succeed in defeating Mr. Shadow, but the final blow comes from Makie, who suddenly displays an overwhelming power, a gift from her joining with Taki. Mayart explains that the two are essential to forming a new peace treaty as they are compatible for producing the first half human/Black World child, thus ushering in a new race and hopefully ensuring everlasting peace between the two worlds.
Taki is reinstated in the Black Guard, uncertain about his feelings for Makie and what is expected of them, but is optimistic about the future he will help protect.
|Character||Japanese||English (Streamline)||English (Manga UK)|
|Renzaburo Taki (Taki Renzaburo)||Yūsaku Yara||Gregory Snegoff||Stuart Milligan|
|Makie||Toshiko Fujita||Gaye Kruger||Tasmin Hollo|
|Giuseppi Mayart||Ichirō Nagai||Mike Reynolds||George Little|
|Mr. Shadow||Takeshi Aono||Jeff Winkless||Ray Lonnen|
|Kanako/Spider Woman||Mari Yokoo||Edie Mirman||Liza Ross|
|Jin||Kōji Totani||Kerrigan Mahan||Brian Knight|
|Black Guard President||Yasuo Muramatsu||Robert V. Barron||Phillip Goug|
|Hotel Manager (Hodgkins)||Tamio Ōki||David Povall||William Roberts|
|Soap Girl||Arisa Andou||Joyce Kurtz||Pamela Merrick|
|Temptress||Asami Mukaidono||Eleni Kelakos||Liza Ross|
|Healer||Edward Mannix||Douglas Blackwell|
|Bartender (Ken/Joe)||Jason Klassi||Adam Henderson|
|Taki's Coworkers||Melora Harte
|Monk||John Dantona||Adam Henderson|
||This section possibly contains original research. (March 2008)|
Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri had just completed his work directing the very dark and gritty segment The Running Man from portmanteau anime Meikyu Monogatari (1987) and was asked to direct a 35 minute short on Hideyuki Kikuchis novel. Kawajiri completed the short and after Japan Home Video saw a screening of it, they wished him to make it feature length. The producers Kenji Kurata and Makoto Seya expressed their opinion that the director shouldn’t extend it unless he wanted to. Kawajiri was such a fan of the world, he saw it as an opportunity to explore more characterization and created more animation for the start, the middle and the end. The project was completed in under a year.
The film was released in Japan on April 19, 1987 by Japan Home Video (JHV) and received a western release dubbed by Streamline Pictures under the name Wicked City on August 20, 1993. After Streamline Pictures lost the distribution rights, it was licensed and distributed by Urban Vision. A censored version of the film was distributed by Manga Entertainment in the UK with a different dub. Both the Streamline and Manga UK dubs were released in Australia, with the Manga UK dub being released on VHS in 1994. In 1995, Manga Video released in Australia a bundle VHS consisting of Wicked City and Monster City, this version containing the Streamline dub. In 1997 when Madman Entertainment was named distributor for Manga in Australia, the Streamline dub was released on a single tape, and the Manga UK version was phased out.
Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times stated that the film epitomizes the "sadistic, misogynistic erotica" popular in Japan. He noted that Yoshiaki Kawajiri composes scenes like a live-action filmmaker, and complimented his deft cutting and camera angles, but felt that the "Saturday-morning style animation" and juvenile story did not warrant the effort. Solomon also opined that Kisei Choo's screenplay was inscrutable. Solomon concluded his review by touching upon the belief that there is a connection between screen violence and real-life violence by pointing out that Japan is one of the least violent societies in the industrialized world.
Desson Howe of The Washington Post, who observed the level of violence toward females in the film, characterized it as a "post-Chandler, quasi-cyberpunky violence fest". Howe found the film compelling for its "gymnastic "camera angles, its kinetic pace and imaginative (if slightly twisted) images." He also found the English dubbing laughable, though he saw ominous subtext in various bits of dialogue and other moments in the film.
Richard Harrigton, also of The Washington Post, saw the film as an attempt to create the Blade Runner of Japanese animation, citing its distinctively languid pace, linear storytelling and gradual exposition. Harrington also detected a Brave New World subtext, and calling it "stylish and erotic, exciting in its limited confrontations and provocative in its ambition."
Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle gave the film two and a half out of five stars, calling it a "better-than-average" treatment of the "demons from an alternate universe" subject matter. Savlov stated that the film was easier to follow than Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, due to Wicked City's more linear and rapid storyline, and the lack of flashbacks and cyberpunk jargon that Savlov disliked in the genre. Savlov also appreciated the clarified animation. Savlov commented, "This may not be the second coming of Akira, but it's a step in the right direction."
Chuck Arrington of DVD Talk, reviewing the DVD of the film, recommended that consumers "Skip It", citing the transfer errors and scratches on the print, the at-times washed-out colors, and the uninteresting lengthy interview among the DVD's extras. Arrington thought that the visuals and the fight scenes were generally done well, and that the dubbing into English was acceptable, though exhibited some "wooden elements" endemic to all anime titles. Regarding the sexual violence in the film, Arrington found it excluded recommendation for most viewers, commenting, "Though not nearly as gruesome as Legend of the Overfiend, Wicked City is definitely not for children and not really for adults either."
Wicked City, a Hong Kong live action adaptation of the film was made in 1992 financed by Golden Princess Film Production Ltd. The film was directed by Tai Kit Mak, produced by Hark Tsui and starred Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai, Yuen Woo-ping, Roy Cheung, and Michelle Reis.
The story takes place in Hong Kong in a conflict between worlds of Humans and "Rapters". Special police in the city are investigating a mysterious drug named "happiness". Taki, one of the police, meets his old lover Windy, who is a rapter and now mistress of a powerful old rapter named Daishu. Taki and other special police track down and fight Daishu, but later find that he hopes to coexist with human. The son of Daishu, Shudo, is the mastermind. In the end, Shudo is defeated, but Daishu and Taki's friends die too. Windy leaves alone.
- "Wicked City (Yôjû toshi) (1987)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- Solomon, Charles (February 25, 1994). "MOVIE REVIEW : Animated Bondian Bondage". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- Howe, Desson (January 28, 1994). "‘Wicked City’ (NR)". the Washington Post.
- Harrington, Richard (January 28, 1994). "‘Wicked City’ (NR)". The Washington Post.
- Savlov, Marc (February 4, 1994). "Wicked City". The Austin Chronicle.
- Hicks, Chris (November 23, 1993). "Film review: Wicked City". Deseret News.
- Arrington, Chuck (December 3, 2000). "Wicked City". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- Wicked City at the Internet Movie Database
- Wicked City at AllMovie
- Wicked City at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia