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MOVIE REVIEW : Animated Bondian Bondage

February 25, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Wicked City," an animated feature at the Monica 4-Plex, epitomizes the sadistic, misogynistic erotica so popular in Japan, both in animated and comic-book form.

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Like many Japanese features, "Wicked City" is set in a blighted vision of the not-too-distant future. A fragile peace exists between Earth and the Black World, a parallel dimension inhabited by powerful humanoids. Earthling Taki Renzabuto and Makie, a female Black Worlder, are assigned to guard Guiseppe Mayart, a European wizard whose presence is vital to the upcoming renewal of the interplanetary peace treaty.

Their assignment draws Taki and Makie into a standard series of gunfights, blaster battles and fist-fights. Their Black World foes sprout tentacles with "Alien"-like fanged mouths and turn their limbs into thrusting metal lances like the murderous android in "Terminator 2." Weirdest of all is a spider-woman with fanged genitalia who attempts to trap Taki. The film suggests a cartoon version of an early James Bond movie, with Taki as the sardonic anti-hero who outfights every foe and seduces every female.

One of Japan's most popular animation directors, Yoshiaki Kawajiri composes scenes like a live-action filmmaker, with deft cutting, camera angles, etc., although the Saturday-morning style animation and jejune story hardly warrant the effort. Kisei Choo's screenplay, as adapted by Carl Macek and Greg Snegoff, doesn't make much sense, but the young male audiences who attend these films in the United States don't expect nuanced plots.

It's important for Americans, some of whom tend to believe there is a connection between screen violence and violence in society, to remember that despite the intense sadomasochistic violence in these hugely popular animated films, the Japanese maintain one of the safest, least violent societies in the industrialized world.

\o7 MPAA rating: unrated\f7 .\o7 Times guidelines: It contains profanity, animated sex, rape and graphic violence, frequently directed against women.\f7

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