Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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The Distance from Human to Demon

One of the things I love about 80s anime is how often it seems to present a clear window into a sub-conscience. It's hard to imagine there was much if any studio or censor interference in 1987's Wicked City (妖獣都市), a noir erotic phantasmagoria that starts with vagina dentata. When a vulva with teeth is just the appetiser on the fucked up sexual buffet you know you're in for a ride. Many were quick to label it as misogynistic but the film is more accurately described as a moody, paranoid portrait of intimacy, not hatred so much as fear of the body, male and female.

Set in a dark, cyberpunk-ish city in a world where humans co-exist with demons, the story concerns an upcoming peace summit between the two. We meet the protagonist, Taki (Yusaku Yara), when he goes home with a woman (Mari Yokoo) who looks human but turns out to be a spider demon whose genitals want to make a meal out of his.

It's worth noting that there was a real human woman who was attacked and killed by the demon who took her place without Taki knowing. He survives the encounter and, like everyone else who's raped or mutilated in the movie, seems to just shrug the whole thing off. He doesn't seem to mind when he's assigned a partner who happens to be a beautiful female demon named Makie (Toshiko Fujita).

The two of them are Black Guards, special police tasked with handling infractions between the demon and human worlds. Their job in the film is to protect a human diplomat and/or spiritual leader named Mayart (Ichiro Nagai) who's seen as integral to the success of a proposed treaty.

Mayart turns out to be a weird, lecherous, child-sized old man and his broad personality dominates in his scenes. By comparison, Taki and Makie are almost like still images of perfect people. There's a sense of a weird family dynamic with Mayart giving full reign to his Id under the presumption that Taki and Makie will always care for him. It's like Taki and Makie are ideals who answer Mayart's needs for protection and acceptance on matters the dreamer expects his parents would be too disgusted to accept. By dreamer I might mean writer/director Yoshiaki Kawajiri or the creator of the manga, Hideyuki Kikuchi. But I also might not mean any real person--it's hazardous to presume too much about an artist; for the purposes of discussion, it's better here to think of a hypothetical dreamer who has this very nightmare-like vision called Wicked City.

The plot continually finds ways back to sex scenes that are partly titillating and partly disturbing; there's a continual push and pull between enticement and repulsion. Makie and Taki are attracted to each other and are frank about sexuality. Only the fact that Makie is a demon makes her more of an "other" than Taki from the audience's point of view, and that's important when we can't be sure exactly what demons think or feel. But really we can say that about any other human being--no-one can really look inside someone else's head but people still instinctively need each other. This co-exists with unreliable anatomy. We can work out, we can wear great clothes and make-up, but there's always a chance something could go wrong, whether it's pimples, baldness, sudden explosive diarrhoea, etc. For a young person, there's the anxiety involved in sex related to the inevitable strangeness of another body. In Wicked City, we have the two ideals, Taki and Makie, and then we have the amorphous and malevolent bodies of their enemies that variously threaten to penetrate, absorb, and mutilate the protagonists.

This movie puts it all out there and I love it. I also love how much blackness there is in the movie--the impenetrable shadows of dark alleyways and churches. Probably it saved a lot of money on paint but it looks great, as does that wonderful saturated look of car tail-lights and the highlight gleams on the sides of people's faces. This movie, like many other anime films of the period, looks better and better as time goes by.

Twitter Sonnet #1151

A second click selects the looking disk.
Convening late the words expressed the dark.
A pixel pulsed to monitor the risk.
Observe the open window's 'X' is marked.
A lemon wedge denied a new install.
Communication caught the router's day.
A spilling scroll collects the printed call.
The moving paper hears what printers say.
Unchosen meals conduct the train abroad.
In feeding rails the iron wheels decrease.
An ether bridged a net for file cod.
A loading screen effects a long surcease.
A diff'rent cable led the folder through.
Computer paths are fraught with glitter glue.
Tags: #1151, anime, fantasy, film noir, horror, wicked city, 妖獣都市

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