Wicked City (1989, 1993)
WICKED CITY (1987) Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri Written by: Kisei Choo Based on book by: Hideyuki Kikuchi Ok, so one of these isn’t technically an anime. But it’s damn close enough and I think I would be a bit remiss in my duties if I didn’t review them together. The original Wicked City is the [...]
WICKED CITY (1987)
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Written by: Kisei Choo
Based on book by: Hideyuki Kikuchi
Ok, so one of these isn’t technically an anime. But it’s damn close enough and I think I would be a bit remiss in my duties if I didn’t review them together. The original Wicked City is the 1989 anime from Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Lensman, Program from The Animatrix and, of course, Ninja Scroll). It’s only his second feature length film, but it’s much better than you would expect.
Taki is leading a double life. In his everyday, human life he is a salesman. But in reality he is an agent for the Black Guard, a group of people who try to keep demons at bay. You see, there are two worlds: one is ours and the other, the Black World, belongs to the demons. There has been a peace treaty between the two worlds (unbeknownst to most of the Human World) that keeps the demons from fucking with the humans. Now it’s time to re-sign that treaty and there are some demons who don’t want the peace to go on.
Taki, who has a grudge against demon women, is forced to work with Makie, a beautiful demon woman who works for the Black Guard in the Black World. They are supposed to pick up Giuseppe Mayart, an old man who has to sign the peace treaty in order for it to bring about 500 years of peace between the two worlds. He’s a little guy who only seems to want to try having sex with demon women. It’s supposed to be pretty fantastic. (Funny thing is, there are times when he seems to be a demon himself. He admits early on that he’s over 200 years old. Do Japanese men live that long?)
Mayart annoys Taki and Makie until their initial barriers are broken down. The two want to just work together and get back to their respective lives. But things don’t always work out as planned. The two young Guards discover that they have more in common than they thought and, of course, start to fall for each other.
But demon lovin’ can be harmful to your health, as Mayart finds out.
This is a pretty dark story basically about racial tolerance along the lines of X-Men. The demons all have their own powers (Makie has laser nails that remind me of Wolverine/Yuriko Oyama, Taki’s lover at the beginning is a huge spider woman with the scariest case of vaginitis I’ve ever seen) and, while some think the demons should control the humans, there are others, like Makie, who think that they should live together in peace. Most humans don’t know that demons exist and, for now, that’s how it should be. The ones who do know want peace. It’s a very human-centric story. Apparently all humans are peaceful. We know that’s true, right?
And, in the end, love is all you need. That’s what it’s all about, really: love. Taki puts his charge in jeopardy just to save the woman he has been falling in love with. (Hell, if you saw a woman you loved being raped by tentacles, you would try to save her, too, right? Right?!)
It’s an old movie, so the animation isn’t as flashy as it could be today, but it’s very good. The constant use of blue is kind of cool and showed just how dark this story really is. Although it was a little weird towards the end when Taki was always blue and Makie was always flesh-toned. Do demons not reflect the night like humans do?
There’s plenty of violence and sex in this one, just like (I hear) most of Kawajiri’s films. (I’ve only seen Ninja Scroll and Program, so I can’t really judge…but those two had good amounts of both.) The violence is pretty hard-core, but the sex isn’t. Censors were still working over time in Japan back then, so the only vagina you could show was snapping vagina. The freakier the better.
Definitely check this out for a little old-school action.
Directed by: Tai Kit Mak
Written by: Roy Szeto/Hark Tsui
Based on book by: Hideyuki Kikuchi
The Hong Kong live-action version is a Tsui Hark production and is directed by Peter Mak, who has gone on to co-direct Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and an update/sequel to Lensman. He had done some horror flicks before Wicked City, but this is his first foray into the anime territory.
This version almost plays like a prequel to the anime. Lung (Jacky Cheung from High Risk and Ashes Of Time) is basically the Taki character. He is a businessman by day and a monster hunter by night. He starts off in Tokyo (where he nearly beds a giant spider woman minus snapping vagina–can’t show that in a live-action Hong Kong film) where his friend and partner, Ying (Leon Lai from City Hunter and Skyline Raiders) suddenly shows up to help him out.
Ying is a monster/human half-breed. His father fell in love with a monster (yes, they can look like humans…don’t get too many tentacle ideas) and, well, the rest is history. But now Ying is a barely trusted member of the anti-monster force.
Now, back in HK, Lung has to stop a corporate monster from selling humans a drug called Happiness. It’s one of those great drugs that makes you feel great and full of energy, but if you stop taking it you evaporate. But the man they think is selling it, Yuen (Tatsuya Nakadai from Ran, Yojimbo, Sanjuro and other Kurosawa classics), is not the man behind the whole thing. He actually wants the monsters and humans to live in harmony.
He’s got someone from Lung’s past on his side, too. Gaye (Michelle Reis from Swordsman II, The Legend and City Of Lost Souls) is a monster who was helping Lung with cases until he found out that he was in love with her. Then he suddenly broke off the relationship without telling her why. Will they learn to love again? Or will she betray him. Or will Ying betray all of them.
Surprisingly, this adaptation is just about as good as the anime version. There’s not nearly as much nudity (just a lot of teasing, damn ‘em…Michelle is freakin’ HOT!) or gory violence, but there’s enough violence to suit most HK fans.
The monsters aren’t as outrageous as the demons in the original, but how could they be? It’s 1992 in Hong Kong. The special effects back then weren’t all that great (as compared to American films where they were about to bring dinosaurs to life) and it’s hard to do in live-action what you can do in anime.
But the best thing about the whole thing is that they keep it serious. There’s no stupid humor coming from all of the monsters walking around. It’s pretty much played totally straight. Oh, there are some bad puns towards the end, but it almost seems like Ying and Lung are trying to make a game out of it so that they don’t go insane from the insanity going on around them.
The story here isn’t quite as interesting as the anime (basically just a Romeo & Juliet story), but it has its dark charm. It takes place just before 1997 when HK goes back to Chinese rule, and I think that really plays into the whole idea behind the story. These people have been under one rule for so long and now they are supposed to just flip over and let the Chinese take them over again? Not without a fucking fight. Or, at least, a lot of people leaving, which is what actually happened. I think that if this film had been made after 1997 China would have had something to say about it. They, after all, are the monsters.
If you’re a fan of this sort of thing, check it out. It’s a lot of fun (even if it’s serious) and the acting is pretty good.
Both films should be on the list of any anime fan.