Anime used to have a reputation for being perverted, dark and ultra-violent. Today of course its reputation is probably more for saucer-eyed schoolgirls showing their panties, but we're going back to the 1980s here. Both reputations are of course only true for a fraction of the anime industry's output, but that doesn't mean they're without basis.
Wicked City is one of those. It's a classic of demons, tentacles, rape, torture and some fairly disturbing imagery that's what H.P. Lovecraft might have come up with if he'd been more interested in pornography and masturbation. Oh, and it's great.
I've mentioned that the plot involves demons, but what's unusual is that they've been interacting with our dimension for thousands of years and mankind negotiates peace treaties with them. Our hero is Taki Renzaburo, who normally works in an office but secretly moonlights as a Black Guard. These people might be either demon or human and it's their job to police the boundary between the worlds. This is an incredibly dangerous job, but fortunately Taki has a gun so powerful that its recoil will smash you backwards hard enough to leave a blast crater in concrete walls. Furthermore he's about to get a partner (Makie) whose fingernails can extend for several metres and decapitate people.
A peace treaty is about to be signed, you see. Taki and Makie are going to be assigned to protect the 200-year-old human (!) who's setting it up... but unfortunately he's also a comedy pervert who only comes up to your waist and never stops talking about porn, girls and prostitutes.
So that's the set-up. What's important is the tone. Wicked City is like a freakshow combination of Lovecraft and obscene sexuality, with vagina dentata and some imaginative ways of doing horrible things to people. The nudity is so excessive that it gets silly, but it makes for a heady cocktail of excess and over-the-top imagery. The entire final act takes place in a church, for instance, and I actually laughed at how far they pushed the symbolism. Other things you can see in this film are a demon spider woman whose nether regions could bite the head off a cow and are capable of stopping traffic with what for all the world looks like gouts of semen. This is her making spider's webs. Of course. There's also a demon with a man-eating shadow, plus of course an excessive (even for me) quantity of sex and nudity. If you've ever been curious about the idea of sex with big-breasted demon women, this is your baby. Warning: it rarely ends well.
It's based on a novel, believe it or not. This isn't just random sex and violence, but instead a proper story with themes that it's pushing as hard as everything else here. It's even romantic! I couldn't believe it. All this rape, mutilation and outre vaginal horror... and in the end, it turns out to believe in love. What's more, it works. I'm sure it shouldn't, but it does. The film even successfully turns this into the emotional core of its twisted story.
One thing that really helps it, I think, is the vulnerability of its lead characters. You'd expect Taki in particular to be a sort of James Bond figure, given his propensities for sex, violence, gambling and secret agent stuff, but he's absolutely not. On the contrary, you expect him to die at any moment. He's a loser! He's an inveterate gambler who'll stake his cash on stupid bets. He gets his arse kicked by demons and I still don't understand why he wasn't eaten before the opening credits. He can't even win at chess. They push this pretty far and the result is a sense of genuine danger, not unlike what James Cameron does in Aliens when Ripley goes back for Newt. I won't pretend that Wicked City is even remotely in that film's league when it comes to emotional power, but the rare thing both films achieve is to convince you that their heroes are going to die. When Taki goes off on his own to confront some unknown number of hostile superpowered demons on their home territory, I'd have measured his life expectancy in minutes, if not seconds.
There's a goof with the chess game, though. A bishop moves like a rook.
I liked this film a lot. It's easy to go over the top with sex and violence, but it's hard to do it with such flamboyant style and at the same time serve an emotionally meaningful story. The nudity's deliberately ridiculous, of course. I'd guess most women would regard it as offensive and/or unwatchable, especially given its twisted notions of sexuality, usually portraying it as a weapon if not actually as punishment. However it's romantic too. Eventually I'd even call it optimistic. Incidentally it got a 1992 live-action Hong Kong action movie remake
that's not even the same genre as this but manages to be rather good anyway, while Todd McFarlane has cited it as an influence on Spawn. Anime films aren't usually much cop, frankly, but if you can see past the extreme content, this is clearly one of the good ones.