Dead Cells horror anime podcast: Wicked City

Hi there. This is typicallydia on Dead Cells, part of You may notice an abrupt shift from the Dead As Hell Horror podcast, where this show was once known as ReAnimeTion. Here we are now alongside my other home Dead Air with Wes ‘Dead Air’ Knipe, and I must say it’s nice to be here. The commute was killing me.

So. Dead Cells. Today we are going to talk about Wicked City. One of the seminal ‘japanimation’ from a time where bootleg VHS reigned at parties and in highschoolers basements in the mid-late 90s. I say ‘one of’ since Legend of the Overfiend was beyond seminal, and one that I may or may not talk about on the show. I’ll think about that one.

Wicked City is a 1987 standalone OVA directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri who also brought us Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – two titles that are certainly on the Dead Cells list, alongside Demon City Shinjuku, another one of those that we watched stoned on sugar and Jolt Cola on VHS back in the day. Before I was aware, I was watching his work on Gatachaman, or Battle of the Planets, which it was known in syndication. I urge you to perv his extensive credits online with no doubt you have watched something he’s had a hand in.

Unlike many anime, I prefer watching the english dub. The voice acting is actually not bad. Both versions are equally entertaining and not much of the storyline is filtered. It is also the first way I watched it, so it has a special place in my tiny cartoon heart. Specifically, the voice and lines of Giuseppi Mayart who has got to be a bizarro 21st century Yoda if there ever was one.

He is filthy though, be warned. Worse than the oversexed type with no filter that will say any dirty thing that comes to mind and is eternally trying to get laid. But then, the show does start with a sex scene less than five minutes in, so… there’s that. By the end, his power far outweighs his clammy perverted old man exterior. Somehow, even before the final fight where he is truly awesome, his personality’s rubbed off on you. Take that thought straight to the gutter..

Mayart is a 200 year old spiritualist and magi who is sent to Tokyo to assist in signing a new peace treaty between humans and the demonic “Black World” that exists alongside ours. The treaty is renewed every few hundred years, but this time the Radicals, demon types who are not interested in peace, want to stop it. Enlisted to protect Mayart are special agents of the Black Guard. Renzaburō Taki is the human male and a damn good and honorable Black Guard when called upon. His only real weapon other than agility and strength is his gun. He is a salesman by day- a fine job for a single Japanese man who wiles his days away playing MahJong and entertaining female friends –  as his counterpart’s cover job is modelling. Equally fitting as Makie is an ultra beautiful, super tough woman from the Black World who lucky for us is more interested in peace. Her power, other than being super sarcastic, agile and crazy tough are demon fingernails that can grow, lance-like and pierce her enemies. Picture red adamantium with what appears to be unlimited length and you get the picture.

I came for the demonic story line, but i stayed for the monsters. While awfully misogynistic, recall this is a time when this art was not necessarily intended for north american audiences, nor was it intended for women. While the Spider Woman may strike a special fear into the hearts of men and boys, I dig the hell out of her and mourn her very insectile death. That said, the treatment of women may appear terribly brutal but there is a sense of gentleness and beauty even in the most horrific scenes. There is an awkward adoration of the female in the form of vagina dentata, giant pussies grown into chests of female monsters that engulf male prey, a succubus type that engulfs Mayart into her flesh as if she were made of melting wax. While Makie is raped by a demon as punishment for betraying her Black World brothers and sisters, there is only the suggestion of a penis as she is bound by tentacles. Fairly typical of cock-phobic anime that didn’t want to be branded pornography. While the treatment she receives orally is quite brutal, the resulting rape scene is more erotic than traumatic. Recall, she is being punished and to see her being treated poorly spurs Taki into rescuing her and calls his developing feelings for her to the forefront. If her kind had walled her up or simply killed her, he may well have walked away.

There is little blood to be seen. Most of the gore is in the form of bewildering transformations, sexual violence, saliva, jizz, tears and spider web type vaginal secretions. There are a few scenes of gutting and punching through enemies, but even there, visceral goo is largely absent. That is not to say there is any lack of gore. It is almost as if you are tricked into thinking you have seen blood when in fact you saw a body ripped in two, light or smoke, spit or something else entirely. Not unsatisfying for the gorehound, though you will have been cheated.

The music is very typically 80’s with ominous syth melodies and occasional incidental music woven in. The animation style is in line with other Madhouse releases, notably Demon City, Street Fighter and Ninja Scroll. Fans of those, and the near motion comic style cutscenes used in action will enjoy the variety. The colour palette veers into blues and blacks, which makes sense given it’s dark and futuristic bent. In the film noir flavour, many of the scenes are meant to be dimly lit or overly bright and the colour schemes change to adapt to ambient light. This is a change from contemporary horror anime which tends toward reds and browns, and more visceral colours.

I really enjoyed this one when i first watched it and must say it has aged wonderfully. I bought my DVD from CDUniverse about eight years ago and certainly rewatch it every few years. There is a version on YouTube at the moment, but it is well worth the money.

Fans of Bladerunner, Pitch Black and Aliens will see definite parallels, and if you like a nice fast-paced crime action type feel to your occult horror, this is the ticket.

Next, we get back into the 21st century and talk about Deadman Wonderland because the first episode sold me. I am catching up on Parasyte too, so some input will be forthcoming.

If there is something you want me to watch, leave a note on the site or soundcloud.  This is Dead Cells, and I am typicallydia – you can find me on twitter, tumblr, instagram, or wherever you hang out online.