Wicked City (1987 film)

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Wicked City
Wickedcity.jpeg
Japanese film poster
Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Produced by Kousuke Kuri
Yoshio Masumizu
Screenplay by Kisei Choo[1]
Based on Wicked City: Black Guard
by Hideyuki Kikuchi
Starring Yūsaku Yara
Toshiko Fujita
Ichirō Nagai
Takeshi Aono
Music by Osamu Shoji
Cinematography Kinichi Ishikawa
Edited by Harutoshi Ogata
Production
company
Distributed by Japan Home Video
Release date
  • April 25, 1987 (1987-04-25)
Running time
82 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Wicked City (妖獣都市, Yōjū Toshi, lit. "Supernatural Beast City") is a 1987 Japanese OVA neo-noir horror film produced by Madhouse for Japan Home Video. Based on Black Guard, the first in a series of six novels of the same name by Hideyuki Kikuchi, the film is the solo directorial debut of Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who also served as the screenwriter (attributed to a pseudonym), character designer, storyboard artist, animation director and a key animator.

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.

Plot[edit]

The existence of the "Black World" - an alternate dimension populated by supernatural demons - is known to very few humans. For centuries, a pact between the Black World and the world of humans has been observed to maintain peace, and terms must be negotiated and renewed every few hundred years to continue relative harmony. A militant faction of radicals from the Black World stops at nothing to initiate chaos between the two worlds. Their chief enemies are the Black Guard, an organization designed to protect the relations of both worlds in secret.

Renzaburō Taki, a salaryman electrical goods salesman by day, and a Black Guard agent when needed, has casual sex with Kanako, a young woman who he has been meeting at a local bar for several months. Kanako reveals herself to be a doppelgänger from the Black World Radicals and attempts to kill Taki, but he resists her attempt and she escapes. The next day, Taki is assigned to protect Giuseppi Mayart, a two-hundred-year-old man with fantastic spiritual powers. Mayart is to be a signatory for the ratified peace treaty between the Human World and the Black World in Tokyo, and a major target for the Radicals. Taki is also informed that he will be working with a partner from the Black World.

While awaiting Mayart's arrival at Narita, Taki is attacked by two Radicals, but is saved by his partner - a beautiful fashion model named Makie. Taki and Makie eventually meet Mayart, who quickly reveals his perverse behaviour to them. The trio take shelter in a Hibiya hotel with spiritual barriers to protect it from Radicals. While playing chess to pass time, the hotelier explains to Taki, who is unsure of his responsibilities within the Black Guard, that he will only value his position once he knows what he is protecting. During a skirmish with a Radical, Mayart sneaks out of 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 Mayart’s threats 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 Kanako, who attempts to kill them again. Bolts of supernatural lightning appear and kill Kanako, and Taki and Makie fall unconscious. They awaken inside a church, and have a romantic night of copulation.

A final attack by the Radicals comes against Taki and Makie, and it is partially deflected by a surprisingly healthy Mayart, who reveals he was protecting his so-called bodyguards, not the other way around as they had been led to believe. Mayart and Taki almost succeed in defeating Mr. Shadow, the leader of the Radicals, but the final blow comes from Makie, whose powers have increased tenfold due to her being impregnated by Taki. Mayart explains that the two are essential to forming a new peace treaty; Taki and Makie were selected to be the first couple from both worlds that can produce half-human, half-demon children, and their bond will be instrumental in ensuring everlasting peace between the two worlds. Although angry with Mayart due to him and Makie not being informed of the Black Guard’s plans, Taki admits that he is falling for Makie and, as per the hotelier’s advice, wants to protect her and their child. The trio leave to attend the signing ceremony. Taki remains in the Black Guard to ensure the protection of both worlds and his loved ones.

Cast[edit]

Character Japanese English
(Streamline, 1993)[2]
English
(Manga UK, 1993)[3]
Renzaburō Taki Yūsaku Yara Greg Snegoff as Taki Renzaburō Stuart Milligan (Stuart Miller)
Makie Toshiko Fujita Gaye Kruger Tasmin Hollo (Tammy Holloway)
Giuseppi Mayart Ichirō Nagai Mike Reynolds George Little (George Littlewood)
Mr. Shadow Takeshi Aono Jeff Winkless Ray Lonnen (Ronald Baker)
Kanako (Spider Woman) Mari Yokoo Edie Mirman Liza Ross (Lisa Robinson)
Black Guard President Yasuo Muramatsu Robert V. Barron Graydon Gould (Philip Gough)
Hotel Manager Tamio Ōki David Povall as Hodgkins William Roberts (Bill Richards)
Jin Kōji Totani Kerrigan Mahan (uncredited) Brian Note (uncredited)
Soap Girl Arisa Andou Joyce Kurtz (uncredited) Pamela Merrick (uncredited)
Clinic Director Kazuhiko Kishino Edward Mannix (uncredited) Douglas Blackwell (uncredited)
Ken (Bartender) Ikuya Sawaki Jason Klassi Adam Henderson as Joe (uncredited)
Demon Temptress Asami Mukaidono Eleni Kelakos Liza Ross (Lisa Robinson)
Doctor Masato Hirano John Dantona (uncredited) Adam Henderson (uncredited)
Taki's Coworkers Unknown Melora Harte
Steve Kramer
Pamela Merrick (uncredited)
Bob Sessions (uncredited)
Demons Unknown Michael McConnohie (uncredited)
Carl Macek (uncredited)
William Roberts (Bill Richards)
Secretary Unknown Alexandra Kenworthy Tasmin Hollo (Tammy Holloway)
Narrator N/A N/A Bob Sessions (uncredited)

Production[edit]

Yoshiaki Kawajiri had just completed his work directing The Running Man, a segment from the portmanteau film Neo-Tokyo (1987), and was asked to direct a 35-minute OVA short film based on Hideyuki Kikuchi's novel. Writing under the pseudonym "Kisei Choo", Kawajiri's original draft of the screenplay began with Makie's saving of Taki from two demons at Narita, and ended with Taki's first battle with Mr. Shadow and rescue of Makie. After Japan Home Video were shown the first 15 minutes of completed animation, they impressed enough with Kawajiri's work that the runtime was extended to 80 minutes. Kawajiri saw this 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.[1][4]

Release[edit]

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. On July 26, 2015, Discotek Media announced at their Otakon panel that they have acquired the movie and will re-release the movie on DVD in 2016 with a new video transfer and with both Streamline and Manga UK English dubs.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

The film does not have a critics' rating at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, but has a 67% "Fresh" rating among users.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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."[9]

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."[10]

Chris Hicks of Deseret News called the film "truly awful", citing the film's "misogynistic streak" as its most offensive aspect.[11]

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."[12]

Theron Martin of Anime News Network said that "in all, Wicked City isn't great fare, but if explicit, sexually-charged supernatural action stories appeal to you then it should fit the bill quite nicely."[13]

Related films[edit]

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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wicked City (Audio Commentary with Mike Toole) (DVD). Altamonte Springs, Florida: Discotek Media. 1987. 
  2. ^ "Wicked City (movie)". CrystalAcids. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  3. ^ Wicked City (UK Ending Credits) (DVD). Altamonte Springs, Florida: Discotek Media. 1987. 
  4. ^ Wicked City (Interview with Yoshiaki Kawajiri) (DVD). Altamonte Springs, Florida: Discotek Media. 1987. 
  5. ^ "Discotek Adds 1976 Gaiking, Wicked City Anime". Anime News Network. 2015-07-26. 
  6. ^ Wicked City (Yôjû toshi) at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ Solomon, Charles (February 25, 1994). "MOVIE REVIEW : Animated Bondian Bondage". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  8. ^ Howe, Desson (January 28, 1994). "‘Wicked City’ (NR)". the Washington Post.
  9. ^ Harrington, Richard (January 28, 1994). "‘Wicked City’ (NR)". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ Savlov, Marc (February 4, 1994). "Wicked City". The Austin Chronicle.
  11. ^ Hicks, Chris (November 23, 1993). "Film review: Wicked City". Deseret News.
  12. ^ Arrington, Chuck (December 3, 2000). "Wicked City". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  13. ^ Martin, Theron (March 13, 2016). "Wicked City DVD - Remastered Special Edition". Anime News Network. Retrieved March 14, 2016. 

External links[edit]