Although later remade as a striking Hong Kong horror film by Tsui Hark, the original anime version of Wicked City is the one to see first. Its opening scene, later restaged by Hark and co-director Mak Kit-Tai, is an infamous example of tentacle horror-porn: suave secret agent Taki Renzaburo (voiced by Yusaku Yara) spends a steamy night with a femme fatale who, after sex, transforms into a hideous spider-woman with a fanged vagina!
A stalemate of sorts exists between the humankind and denizens of the Dark Realm, while “Black Guard” agents from both worlds play deadly espionage games amidst the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. With an official treaty set to be signed, Taki is partnered with deadly alien babe Makie (Toshiko Fujita) and charged with protecting Guiseppe Maiyart (Ichiro Nagai), the 200 year old, horny demon dwarf sent to supervise proceedings. The mission proves far from easy, since the lecherous goof is forever trying to grab Makie’s ass or visit a sex parlour, while shapeshifting assassins lurk around every corner. Against all odds, Makie and Taki fall in love, but their forbidden liaison threatens to wreck the peace process. Or does it?
“Tentacle horror-porn” came to dominate the UK anime scene in the early Nineties, when blood splattered sagas of demon rape sagas like Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend (1987), Adventure Kid (1992) and La Blue Girl (1992) caused tabloid outrage. Many of these were misogynistic trash, but Wicked City was always a cut above. Its scenes of sexual horror and freakish mutations are no less depraved, yet the set-pieces are astonishing, the characters impassioned and likeable, and the whole movie marks a fascinating fusion of disparate horror styles.
Here, the gut-wrenching splatter of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) merges with the sexual horror of early David Cronenberg and the fast-paced anything goes outrageousness of Hong Kong ghost stories, which combined with the a fresh slant on the morality of Hammer gothics creates a bold prototype for 21st century horror. Which is makes it all the more disappointing, now we’re actually reached the 21st century, that nobody has tried to follow it. As in the original novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, this plays ingeniously on the fantasies of bored Japanese salarymen, mirroring their daily grind from sterile airports to humdrum hotels, with pulse-pounding detours into seedy motels and sex parlours for kung fu fighting and dangerous sex.
Weird sex is very much to the fore, from the slimy parasites that invade and grossly warp human flesh, to the phallic tentacles that ravish Makie’s every orifice. Women are viewed as exotic creatures of potentially monstrous sensuality, as memorably illustrated when Makie allows villain Jin (Kouji Totani) to masturbate her until she suddenly strangles him with her living hair, or the demonic hooker who absorbs Giuseppe into her naked body. Again, the potential for misogyny is there, but subverted. Feminine sexuality becomes something baroque or wondrous, and ultimately a source of transcendence as Makie evolves into a new holy mother, one defined by sexuality instead of virginal purity. Amidst all the depravity, the love story emerges as genuinely touching and a clever twist reveals the monstrous machinations have all been part of grand plan to get the human boy and demon girl together and thus birth a better world. It’s a rare sex-horror anime with grand ideas to match its gross-out verve.