I guess I’m doing an unintentional theme week, when it comes to hard-boiled urban fantasy, as this time I’m taking a look at the anime film Wicked City, based on a novel by Hideyuki Kukichi, and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri.
Wicked City follows Taki Renzaburou, an agent for the Black Guard, an organization that helps keep the peace between the Demon World and the Human World, as a peace treaty comes up for renewal. Taki ends up partnering with Makie, a woman from the Demon World who is also a Black Guard agent, as they end up bodyguarding Giuseppe Mayart, a VIP whose presence is required for a renewal of the treaty between the Demon and Human Worlds. However, forces opposing the treaty are out to kill Giusseppe.
So, on the one hand, Wicked City predates a lot of what we consider to be the foundations of the Urban Fantasy genre by a lot – even Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, which it probably has the most in common with, came over 10 years after Wicked City’s release. On the other hand, unlike Night Watch, while there are tonal similarities, Wicked City is tonally a lot darker and often more psychosexual than the other films, starting with the infamous Vagina Dentata scene from the film’s start, and continuing with multiple sexual assaults on Makie throughout the film.
This makes for a very uncomfortable elephant in the room. On the one hand, Makie is a tremendously competent character, who is in more than a few cases better in a fight than Taki is. On the other, she gets sexually assaulted so much in this film. It makes the film a very hard recommendation – just because there is so much rape in this movie. Additionally, Giuseppe, well… he’s voiced by the same actor who goes on to play Happousai in Ranma ½, and he’s basically exactly like Happousai but without the underwear theft and with more groping.
It’s disappointing, because if you took all the sexual assault out this would be a really good buddy-detective movie, with a pair of mismatched detectives having to protect an uncooperative and obnoxious VIP while trying to find out who is trying to kill them – with the catch being the heavy involvement of demons and magic.
I do wonder if the novel is as rapey as the movie was, but as the English release of the novel (by Tor) is out of print, and goes for almost $500 used as of this writing, I currently am unable to find a copy to check that out.
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