September 10, 2012

Movie Mondays: Wicked City

Title: Wicked City
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Writer: Kisei Choo (created by Hideyuki Kikuchi)
Distributed By: Manga Entertainment
Starring (English): Gregory Snegoff, Mike Reynolds, and Gaye Kruger
Release Date: April 25th, 1987
Rating: R

[Editor’s note: Apologies for the lateness of the review. This time it’s entirely my fault. And my hacking and wheezing and stuffed up nose.]

On the underside of the world, beyond most people’s observations, is a darker side where strange things happen with demons from the Black World. And just as the title suggests, Wicked City is the underside of anime beyond the mainstream’s observation, where bizarre sex and violent, neo-noir action occurs.

There are some films where what you see is what you get, and Wicked City is certainly that. If you’re expecting a dark, neo-noir tale with elements of horror and bits of science-fiction, you’re certainly going to get it. Tokyo is turned into a dark urban sprawl without the setting being so gritty that it becomes ridiculous. It doesn’t hurt that the art direction is well done. Just like with Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D adaptation, this adaptation uses coloring and lighting for maximum impact. There’s lots and lots of shades of blue in this film, which gives it the feeling of one of those surreal nights in the city. There’s a good mix of settings, from the city itself to even a church, and the rest of the art itself has held up pretty well for over 25 years.

Speaking of things holding up well, the animation itself is still effective to this day. Although it occasionally relies on the still/repeating shots that plagued eighties anime, most of the action is fresh and creatively choreographed. The demons have some…let’s say…interesting talents and physiques, which the team puts their best effort into making both the art and animation very fluid (pun unintended). And even the characters’ mouths aren’t over exaggerated when they speak (with decent enough voice acting).

When it comes to the art and the style, Wicked City is brilliant. Unfortunately, the story can’t catch up with the rest of the film.

The premise itself is good. Think of it almost as…a hentai Men in Black. Agent Taki is assigned one simple but utmost important mission. To protect Giuseppie Mayart for 24 hours before he signs a peace treaty between Earth and the Black World. Makie, an agent from the Black World, is also assigned to protect Mayart. In many ways she’s like D. Beautiful, very introverted, deadly, and a non-human loyal to humans. Of course, the mission isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not only is Mayart actually a pervy old man who wants to escape the two’s protection so he can have fun, every deadly radical from the Black World is coming after him.

While the premise combined with the production seems like it would be a surefire classic, the script doesn’t deliver. Not in dialog, which is fairly solid and even has some good humor thrown in every now and then. But the plot, which seems strong in the beginning but starts to disintegrate with every passing minute. The first third of the film shows a lot of potential, but the plot starts to meander way too much with scenes that don’t develop the story or the characters. And by the last third, the story completely disintegrates with its – SPOILER ALERT – “it was planned all along” ending. With a well-written story line it can be a smart twist that ties it all together. But with Wicked City it just creates more plot holes than it might’ve intended to fill in. Not to mention that you wonder why they went through all that trouble when they could’ve just told them from the start. SPOILER ENDED

Then there’s the more erotic aspect of Wicked City, and trust me when I say that a good portion of the time is spent on some Freudian sex scenes. I wouldn’t call Wicked City a hentai film for the same reason I wouldn’t call an NC-17 film an X rated film. In Wicked City, the sex scenes serve the story line, rather than the other way around, and it isn’t hardcore. However, even though it certainly isn’t the most explicit anime out there, the scenes can be awkward to even the more erotically exposed person, especially since a majority of them have to do with rape.

While Wicked City is one cool film with slick, horrish noir style, it’s ultimately a very disappointing film. Especially considering that this is a Kikuchi adaptation directed by Kawajiri. There’s plenty of action, sex, and style, but those alone don’t elevate the film to an anime classic with a weak story pulling it down. If you want to check out some sexed out Lovecraftian noir, then perhaps you should track this down or Youtube it. But just don’t expect anything to blow you away.

Andrew Hudson



  1. Ah “Wicked City”. Such mixed feelings about this movie.
    Kinda hold it in the same regard as “Demon City Shinjuku”.
    And if you want even better anime-with-some-odd-sex-that-isn’t-hentai…. everyone needs to check out “Ninja Scroll”.

    Great write-up Andrew!

  2. llj

    Kawajiri was probably one of the most distinctive animation voices in Japan in the 80s…or perhaps even all time. Say what you will about the scripts in his movies, but you’ll never mistake his work for anyone else’s.

    I really dig the b-movie vibe of 80s anime. I find a lot of them are great viewing at 1:00am with a bag of chips and a can of beer.

    The funny thing about all this is…Wicked City IS now considered something of a classic in some circles!

    This really needs a BD release.

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