I won't call this the best Kekko Kamen movie, because I don't know what that would mean for a semi-pornographic superhero parody franchise that's often at its funniest when it's at its most sleazy and stupid. Normal critical standards don't apply. Nevertheless this film is clearly operating at a quality level far above par for the series. It's the longest and the most original. You could contemplate rewatching it, which is rare indeed for this franchise, but what's more you could even mistake it for a proper movie. Its plot isn't just a few trips around the usual torture-fight cycle of Kekko Kamen films, but instead has two parallel love stories, parodies of other shows and proper humour that's both funnier and stranger than the usual "look, nudity!"
It starts traditionally. Kekko Kamen's doing her thing, which of course means a nude fight scene as she takes on half a dozen security guards simultaneously. This looks surprisingly okay. That's something I'm coming to associate with Yutaka Akiyama's Kekko Kamen movies... non-incompetent fight scenes and a heroine who's actually a bit scary with those nunchucks. One of the people in this film, Mayumi Ozaki, isn't an actress but a female professional wrestler. Anyway, all this violence finishes with a modified version of Kekko's flying vagina attack, in which she gets all the guards between her legs at once. The schoolgirl she saved runs up to Kekko and hugs her, but wait! There's something down the corridor! Kekko runs off to investigate and discovers the school's handsome new music teacher playing the piano. Needless to say, she's so smitten that she manages to pitch the girl she's just saved over a guard rail and never notices, although in fairness she'd already been running along with the girl dragging on the ground behind her like a sack of sand.
This reminded me of Airplane!. However that's just the first visual gag in a film full of weirdness, not the least of which is a subplot in which a naked superhero turns into a blushing schoolgirl trying to pluck up the courage to go out on a date. She writes a love letter and squeals "nya!" At the end of their first date, Mayuzumi-sensei apologises for being so forward as to give her a kiss. This could actually have been even more crazed, since Kekko has a habit of wrapping herself in her red cloak when she's with Mayuzumi-sensei and so the surrealism is less than it might have been, but it's still completely nuts.
They go out in public together, by the way. The filmmakers actually shot some of these scenes in public places, with passers-by in the vicinity. That's... uh, new, although it would have been funnier if Kekko hadn't had her red cloak.
Then you've got the school. This is a proper sequel to Akiyama's last Kekko Kamen film, so for instance Satan's Toenail is wheelchair-bound, suicidal and played by the same actor. However the most startling effect of this sequelisation is that our heroine's efforts have made Spartan Academy a nicer place! There's almost no gratuitous torture, the rules are less strict, non-crazed teachers are now being hired and Masochist Megumi isn't getting enough whippings. In other words, Akiyama's thrown out almost everything on which the franchise normally depends. Of course all the schoolgirls (except Megumi) worship Kekko Kamen and have a disconcertingly realistic attitude towards her in which they'll talk her up to Mayazumi-sensei and seem to have decided that there's nothing strange or even noteworthy in running around naked and hitting people. They feel like real teenagers! This is deeply weird in a franchise like this. These schoolgirls aren't behaving as if they're in a Go Nagai film, but instead are sticking up for their best friend and reminding me of my sister at that age.
Of course we have villains. You have to have villains. Satan's Toenail's nieces show up to tell him that he's a disgrace to the Satan family and to try to put things right. This is where the parody comes in, usually (but not always) of other Go Nagai manga. We have:
1. Cutey Bunny (i.e. Cutey Honey), who fights with a sword (yes) although they've given her an eye-catching cut-away outfit instead of trying to make her look like Honey-chan. She reminded me of the queens in the pervy CLAMP version of Alice in Wonderland.
2. Princess Tsukiko, Cutey Bunny's sister, and it's Tsukiko who gets to do the Cutey Honey disguise transformation. She's wearing a micro-kimono and no underwear.
3. Satan's Toenail's mute cyborg manservant in biker gear, who looks to me like Naojiro from The Abashiri Family who showed up for the last five episodes of the 1970s Cutey Honey TV series.
4. Bibiruman (i.e. Devilman), who's got the correct blue and red outfit and can even flap his furry black wings by pulling a cord on his chest. He's got a split personality (also true to the original), which causes him to become fearful and super-apologetic whenever anyone turns on the lights.
5. Chijiremi. Where have I seen her before? At first I thought she might be Devilman Lady, but Go Nagai didn't create that until 1997. My bet is that she's a one-off villain from Devilman and/or Cutey Honey, which would explain the fur bikini and two-foot-long bat ears.
6. Dandy Pair, i.e. the Blues Brothers but without trousers, one of whom is wearing a fetish gimp thong.
7. Baron Dual-Sex. I've no idea where (s)he's from, but there's someone very similar in the 2004 live-action Cutey Honey movie who might be drawn from the same source.
Oh, and at one point we meet Lum from Urusei Yatsura in the school infirmary, eating electricity. That's an eye-catching bikini she's wearing, by the way. Obviously all this is going to mean nothing to anyone who hasn't watched more anime than is good for them, but it'll still be an entertainingly strange line-up even if you're unfamiliar with what's being parodied. The Dandy Pair only get about thirty seconds screen time for instance and in it do nothing of consequence, but even in that time they had me laughing.
What I'm getting at here is that this movie is an absurdist comedy. Kekko Kamen's always had a surreal streak, but Akiyama's two films in the franchise are being genuinely funny with it as well as silly. You've got gags that remind me of Monty Python, e.g. the characters who'll randomly interrupt scenes, such as the senile old git and the baby lady. Others seem more like Airplane!, e.g. the alarm clock. However all those are at most influences and there are yet more gags that aren't even remotely like anything I've ever seen before, e.g. the snake glove puppets. There's a revelation about them towards the end that's brilliant, by the way, although frankly the entire last last act is so mad and inspired that it would be a crime to spoil it. I couldn't believe that there was still another ten minutes to go after the boob ballet, but that was before I'd seen Kekko Kamen as Jesus and Satan's Toenail apologising to his fans for not being a better villain and blaming Japan Home Video.
The nudity's what really makes it unique, though. There's something rather glorious about seeing a film treating nude superheroics as another level of comic surrealism instead of just an excuse to lower the IQ level. They're not just trying to provide a wank opportunity, although in fairness the Kekko Kamen films were never about that until the three Maria Ozawa ones in 2007. I still think Yutaka Akiyama's gay anyway. However that said, the nudity's surprisingly good this time. Some large-ish breasts and oiled wrestling. Hmmm.
This is a good live-action Kekko Kamen movie. I know, I know. I'm as surprised as you, although I'm not complaining. It's the last of Japan Home Video's three 1991-93 Kekko Kamen films, before Art Port picked up the reins in 2004, but more importantly it's also the second and more ambitious of the two series entries from writer-director Akiyama. It's combining something not unlike a plot with a surprising range of jokes, while also doing things with the theme of "who is Kekko Kamen"? I was impressed.