Official theatrical and DVD poster
|Directed by||Masaaki Yuasa|
|Screenplay by||Masaaki Yuasa|
Kick-Heart (キックハート) is a 2013 Japanese anime short film that uses surreal animation and storytelling to tell a love story between a professional wrestler and a nun. The film was directed by Masaaki Yuasa through Production I.G studios, who ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the short. The short screened on Toonami in 2013 and has screened at several festivals such as the BFI London Film Festival.
The short opens with Masked Man M taking on an extremely obese female wrestler in the ring. She traps him in her skin folds, but Masked Man M manages to escape. The obese wrestler taps out to Lady S, who kicks Masked Man M in the chest - a move he appears to greatly enjoy. This prompts him to accidentally swap out with his partner Chicken, who tries and fails to attack Lady S. She proceeds to beat him while an envious Masked Man M watches, begging for Chicken to swap out with him. Chicken succeeds, but at this point Lady S also swaps out with the obese wrestler, to his dismay. Masked Man M manages to beat the obese wrestler, which angers The Boss. He storms down to the dressing room to confront Masked Man M and Chicken, as Lady S was supposed to win the match. The Boss just barely misses the two as they flee the arena, Masked Man M carrying a box of Lady S dolls he stole.
Masked Man M, whose real name is revealed to be Romeo Maki, manages to make it into a bathroom where he changes his clothes and drives to a vending machine that distributes pornography. He tries to purchase a BDSM themed magazine, only for the machine to loudly thank him for his purchase - alerting all of the people that live nearby. Romeo takes off with his magazine and arrives at the rundown orphanage he operates. The children happily greet him and Romeo is introduced to the novice nun Sister Juliet. The other staff members extol Sister's academic achievement in the field of psychology, while Romeo finds himself instantly attracted to her. Meanwhile, one of the other staff members, an elderly nun, brings in the dolls Romeo brought home... as well as the BDSM magazine. The children are then shown playing with the toys while one boy discovers the magazine. Sister Juliet quickly confiscates the magazine (which is wrapped in plastic) and hands it back to the little boy a few moments later. The elderly nun takes it from the boy, which panics Romeo. However Sister Juliet has swapped it out with a regular wrestling magazine that features Masked Man M on the cover.
Later that night Romeo receives a call from The Boss, who tells him that Lady S has specifically asked to fight him. The winner will receive $50,000 in prize money. Romeo agrees, and, the next night, he eagerly goes out into the ring as Masked Man M. The two proceed to fight one another, much to Masked Man M's joy. The fight progresses until Lady S traps Masked Man M in a headlock, suffocating him while telling him "This is what you want, right?" She brings him to a near death experience while telling him that he should just remain in his fantasy world. However, the children from his orphanage are attending that night and beg Masked Man M not to give up, which spurs him to touch one of the wrestling ring ropes with his foot. This forces Lady S to release him from the headlock, but she then proceeds to continually beat him. Lady S overestimates the power in one of her jumps and ends up getting knocked out by the impact when Masked Man M moves out of the way at the last minute. He holds her down and almost wins, but, at the last minute, is signaled to throw the match, which he does. After the match Masked Man M's popularity takes off and Romeo returns to the orphanage where he realizes that Sister Juliet is Lady S, as she has used the money to fix the place up.
The First Crowdfunded Anime
Kick-Heart was the first successful anime project from a major commercial animation studio in Japan to use crowdfunding (via Kickstarter) to finance its production. The success of Kick-Heart helped open the doors for other creators in Japan to create a new wave of original projects. Creators have said that crowdfunding gives them more creative freedom as opposed to the more conservative production committee approach.
- Kokoro Kikuchi as Mage-chan
- Kyouko Chikiri as Posse
- Makiko Nitta as Sister
- Mitsuaki Kanuka as Boss
- Miyuki Satou as Vacuum Fat
- Shinobu Matsumoto as Devil Chicken
- Wataru Takagi as Father
- Yoshihisa Kawahara as Announcer
- Yuko Kaida as New Ace
- Stephanie Sheh as Lady S.
- Richard Epcar as Masked Man M.
- J.B. Blanc as The Boss
- Ellyn Stern as The Sister
- Stephen Weese as Devil Chicken/Parrot
Twitch Film gave a positive review for Kick-Heart, stating that its artwork style more resembled the work of Bill Plympton rather than the traditional anime styles. Otaku USA also praised the film, remarking that it "really goes back to the basics of visual storytelling and tells its tale with very little dialogue".
An estimated 618,000 to 708,000 people viewed the Toonami broadcast of Kick-Heart.
- Original Design at the Animation Block Party Festival, Brooklyn New York (2013, winner)
- Best Animated Short Film at the Fantasia Festival (2013, winner)
- Drawn and Quartered: Animated Shorts at the Fantastic Fest (2013, runner up)
- Runner-up Best Animated Short, Narrative Competition at the Cut-Out Film Fest, Querétaro Mexico (2013, winner)
- "Masaaki Yuasa's "Kick-Heart"". Kickstarter. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Green, Scott. "Production I.G Updates Status of Masaaki Yuasa's "Kick-Heart"". CrunchyRoll. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- "Masaaki Yuasa & I.G's 'Kick-Heart' Runs on Toonami Tonight". ANN. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- "Kick Heart to Screen at BFI London Film Festival". ANN. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Vijn, Ard. "Interview: Yuasa Masaaki Talks About Anime! Part 1 of 2: KICK-HEART". Twitch Film. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Vijn, Ard. "Review: KICK-HEART Kicks Hard, Tickles Heart". Twitch Film. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Schley, Matt. "Kick-Heart Anime Film Premieres in Tokyo". Otaku USA. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- Green, Scott. "Over a Million Tune in to Toonami's "Evangelion 2.22" Broadcast Surprise airing of Masaaki Yuasa's crowd funded anime short "Kick-Heart" had 708,000 watching". CrunchyRoll. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- "FANTASIA 2013 AWARD WINNERS!". Fantasia Festival. Retrieved 28 September 2013.
- "The Fantastic Fest 2013 Award Recipients". Fantastic Fest. Retrieved 28 September 2013.