Wicked City (1989)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Devil Hunter Yohko

The Wicked City (1992)

Hades Project Zeorymer

Wicked City

Lava Lamp

Our rating: three LAVA® motion lamps.

Wicked City
"Dang! I shouldn't have bought the
'Charlton Heston Custom Edition'!"
There was a time when the only Japanese animation (anime) tapes you could get were pirated. In those days, which we're pretty sure were during the late Pliocene epoch, we used to pick up untranslated copies of Fight! Iczer One and Project A-Ko at conventions. We would pay way too much for them, and the quality would be crappy, but we were happy with it! You young people these days get dubbed and subtitled versions, videos, laserdiscs, DVDs... you have it so easy and you don't realize it!

Maybe it's time for Old Man Scott and Old Man Chris to take their naps.

The attraction that anime had for us was that much of it was animation for adults, what with all the gory violence and casual nudity. It would be safer to say that all the gory violence and casual nudity made it animation for 12-14 year olds, because those were the people who were buying up the pirated tapes. Frankly, most anime is pretty formulaic and shallow, though the visual qualities make it worth watching -- and that brings us to the anime version of Wicked City.

Set in (what was then) modern-day Tokyo, Wicked City presents us with two parallel universes: our own and "the Dark World," a dimension inhabited by demons. Over the years, agents from our world have maintained a treaty with the Dark Worlders to co-exist peacefully. All of this is of course unbeknownst to the public and the secret is guarded by agents on both sides known as Black Guards.

Wicked City
If this doesn't give you a reason to use
a condom, nothing will.
The main character of Wicked City is the human Guard Taki. In the first scene he takes a woman back to his apartment, where they "get jiggy with it," as you kids say. Before Taki can properly enjoy his post-jiggy cigarette, the woman transforms into a spider-like demon and tries to kill him. This kind of thing happens a lot in the Tokyo of this movie.

Later, Taki is teamed with Makie (mah-kee-ay), a Dark Worlder Black Guard who works as a fashion model in our world. The two of them are given the assignment of protecting a diplomat named Mayart, who has to sign a treaty with the Dark Worlders. Unluckily for our heroes there are Dark World rebels out to kill Mayart, and it seems like all of them are Makie's ex-boyfriends. Complicating matters is the fact that Mayart is a major league hentai, or pervert, who spends most of his time explicitly propositioning Makie for sex, or trying to ditch his armed escort to patronize massage parlors.

Wicked City is one of the more grotesque pieces anime movies this side of the infamous Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend. In fact, it makes us wonder what the hell is up with the Japanese: if you think Leatherface is creepy, you should try staring down one of Wicked City's slimy demons as they do unspeakable things to a very naked Makie. These animators mix their violence and their perversion in ways that would make the MPAA shudder. This combination of sex, violence, and Cronenbergian body horror is fairly standard for director Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who also made Ninja Scroll and Demon City Shinjuku.

Wicked City
Dark World: The exciting new fragrance
for discriminating MIBs.
Animated atrocities aside, Wicked City is a wonderfully stylistic work; it has been compared with Blade Runner, but we would liken it more to the nighttime sequences in Terminator and Terminator 2 -- just put demons in place of the robots. The film's only visual shortfall is the fact that it was made before computer animation could be done as cheaply as it can now. The hand-drawn lines and effects just aren't as clean and precise as those in the more recent Ghost in the Shell.

As one IMDb member pointed out, Wicked City is by no means a date film or animation for kids. However, fans of Demon Hunter Yohko and the like who are ready for something a little grittier may find it to their liking.

Review date: 04/27/1999

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