Takahashi Mayumi has the ill-fortune of being a student at the Sparta Institute of Higher Education under a headmaster called Satan's Toenail. The new Punishment Teacher is a leather-clad Nazi dominatrix from Auschwitz Academy, whose uniform boasts an "S" and "M" (one on each breast) and whose disciplinary technique involves bondage and whipping off her victims' clothes. Her name's Gestapo-ko. What's the dim but buxom Mayumi to do? Why, squeal and plead as she gets stripped naked every week before being rescued by that heroine of truth and justice, Kekko Kamen! This delightful lady wears red boots, red gloves and a face-mask made from a pair of red stockings... and absolutely nothing else.
Kekko Kamen is another classic from the mighty Go Nagai, that colossus of anime who invented entire genres in the 1970s. He created the Giant Robot show with Mazinger and the Magical Girl genre with Cutey Honey. However these days he's better known, not to say notorious, for going to farcical extremes of sex and violence. The rest of the world laughs nervously and backs away. Japanese anime has a reputation for being a high water mark in perversion, violence and insanity, but Go Nagai is outrageous even for anime. Every human being on the planet should check out the likes of Violence Jack, Hanappe Bazooka and Kekko Kamen if only to enjoy the online reviews. Let me quote.
- 1. "This Go Nagai offering is pretty simple... it's basically a nasty little exercise in violence and perversity, something I suspect is always on Go Nagai's mind. However I can also state that there is nothing of value to be found here, so anyone with any sense of quality or sophistication can move on."
- 2. "Now this actually sounds like a serious story. And in the hands of someone with even minimal amounts of skill and taste it would be. But this comes to you through Nagai-brand perv-o-vision."
- 3. "I borrowed this video because, on some deluded site, I'd read a good review. When I learnt it was a Go Nagai film my optimism exploded. But perhaps this was going to be the one that changed my opinion of him? Well, it did... this video is even more gross, cheap and disgusting than any of his previous efforts."
Clearly from reading the above, Go Nagai is a must-watch. There are two possible responses to Kekko Kamen. The first is to roll your eyes at its puerility and dismiss it as worthless trash from a creator who needs locking up and an industry that's lost its marbles. The other is to laugh like a loon. Me, I laughed. More importantly I think Go Nagai's in on the joke too. If not, I think we could all be extremely scared. Kekko Kamen also happens to be a parody of Japan's first superhero TV show, Moonlight Mask. It was originally a one-shot manga in 1974, but it became so popular that Go Nagai ended up continuing it for four years. Further instalments in the franchise include reprints, photobooks, a worrying number of live-action movies and of course anime.
"Oh My [expletive]," was my reaction to episode one. One hardly knows where to begin. Forget the nudity. It's always nice to get nipples, but once you've seen two animated breasts you've seen them all. We've all watched Cutey Honey, or if not, we should have. More startling is Kekko Kamen's ultimate attack, which had me staring bug-eyed at the screen. Then the episode got worse! I really hope my interpretation is correct and that Go Nagai is indulging his overdeveloped sense of irony, because if not then the man needs locking away. Cutey Honey never plumbed Go Nagai's full depths, being an empowering feminist classic that happened to have been made by a pervert, but here the whole joke is that they're pushing the nudity and scary fetishes almost to the point of being hentai. Personally I found it more startling than mere sex, which is a perfectly normal activity that tends to be a bit boring as visual entertainment. In contrast Kekko Kamen is outrageous, although never shocking unless you see yourself as some kind of guardian of morality. If that's the case, then you'll probably regard it and this review as the work of Satan.
Did I mention the lesbian overtones? The show contains boys, but their only function is to cheer at the nudity. Regrettably the latter episodes are less twisted and kinky, being more like a proper show with actual characterisation, although the teachers are still outrageous perverts. There are however tentacles. (If you don't know about Japanese tentacle porn, consider yourself lucky.) There's also an amusing theme song which plays whenever Kekko Kamen enters battle, which we don't hear nearly often enough. Go Nagai wrote the lyrics. I think you can work out the rest.
This show is proud to be sleazy, but in an oddly innocent way. The anime industry can get truly unpleasant at times, turning out hentai to turn your hair white, but Kekko Kamen is almost charming. No one gets hurt or even has sex, let alone getting raped or killed. It's even modest about its crotch shots. Children would love this show, although it might give them some strange ideas about grown-ups.
Go Nagai can get downright brutal when he wants to, but Kekko Kamen is one of his more light-hearted offerings. It's proud to be worthless from any standpoint involving plot, depth or taste, instead being a deliberate exercise in camp and comedy so low that it's heading for the planetary core. Incidentally "Kekko Kamen" could be roughly translated as "great mask". Stay tuned for reviews of the live-action movies!