When it comes to finding anime quite a lot the time it comes about from either online or at large events such as conventions. Sometimes however they come up closer to home, and this article covers an example this.
Sold on video cassette and now out-of-print in the UK, Wicked City is a rare find. Video anime tend to cover more cult-like titles and thus make for interesting viewing, although there are some issues of quality and you only get an English-language dub.
Wicked City began as a series of novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi back in 1985. The first of these novels was turned into an OVA (Original Video Anime) – a straight-to-video movie, in 1987. It was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who amongst other things would later direct the TV version of X (No. 70). The film was also later made into a live action movie in Hong Kong. Wicked City is a very controversial film: it contains graphic violence, strong language, rape, and the film has been accused by several critics as being misogynistic – and in Britain the worst bits were censored altogether (see Movie-Censorship.com for a list of changes).
A mixture of horror, fantasy and noir, Wicked City is based on the idea that there is our human world and a “Black World” inhabited by demons. Currently the two worlds are at peace, but there are groups on both sides who are keen on separating the two and causing war. An organisation called the “Black Guard” attempts to keep order and prevent humans from knowing about the Black World. The story follows two members of the Black Guard, male human Renzaburo Taki and female demon Makie, as they protect a lecherous 200-year-old expert on the supernatural, Giuseppi Mayart, who is about to sign a new peace treaty in Tokyo between the two worlds. All the time the Guards have to protect the dirty old man.
Concerning the film itself, as stated the main criticism levelled at it are claims it is misogynistic. To examine this claim, I made a note of all the women in Wicked City to see what happens to them. With regards to the female lead Makie, she is sexually molested, attacked by a tentacle monster (for more on tentacle anime see Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend, No. 49), and is raped, both by demons, and by the tentacle monster in the uncensored American release of the film.
Regarding the other women in Wicked City, one is fellow co-worker of Taki who only appears in one scene and nothing much happens to her. The other three are all demons, all of whom use sex as part of their weaponry and who all end up getting killed. One of these is a spider-like demon who has a fanged vagina; another tries to hypnotise Taki and creates the illusion that her entire torso opens up like a vagina; and the third is a sex worker in a “soapland” (where clients engage in non-penetrative sex, and the normally male client is “bathed” in things like lubricant for example) who tries to capture Mayart by melting her body over him when he grabs her breasts. It has to be said it doesn’t look good for Wicked City in terms of defending itself.
While the British removed some of the scenes that were more sexually violent, they were more than happy to make the dialogue ruder. Wicked City appears to have been the subject of “fifteening”, the act of giving a film a higher certificate rating in order to seem controversial. Wicked City already features murder and rape, isn’t that enough? Not in the view of Manga Entertainment who released it in the UK. In one scene where a plane explodes, Taki is heard to say “Fuck!” in the British dub, but just “What? How?” in the American dub.
In terms of positives, the quality of the animation is good considering the period it was made. It certainly delivers in terms of shock value. I wouldn’t say that Wicked City is a film I would normally not recommend to people, but in terms of rarity for me the video is a keeper.
Wicked City is available on video from Manga Entertainment. The uncensored American translation was released on Region 1 DVD by the no-longer-in-running Urban Vision Label.