On the surface this looks like everything you’d expect a film by Yoshiaki Kawajiri to be, male lead has to be muscular and well-built and the women while they are attractive are always the type casted character to be lined up for sexual abuse in some form or another by the antagonist of the movie. While that is the case Wicked City has some level of enjoyment to it, production wise and design wise this movie is highly creative this is one of Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s well known early works that established him as a big name in the 80’s & 90’s of anime.
Based off the novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, the story focuses on how by end of the 20th century the human world secretly coexists with the demon world (otherwise known as The Black World) with a secret police force known as the Black Guard protecting both sides. Wicked City follows Taki Renzaburō who by day works as an electronics salesman but by night he acts as a member of the Black Guard to ensure the peace between both human and demon worlds are absolute, he’s teamed up with Makie, once a member of the Black World who by day takes the guise of a model but by night works as a member of the Black Guard to protect Giuseppi Mayart, a two-hundred-year-old man with fantastic spiritual power who’s role in this movie serves as part of the peace treaty signing in Tokyo. Along the way both agents are constantly at the throats of The Radicals who are trying to upset the harmonic balance and stop the treaty from being signed. So it’s up to both these agents to protect Mr. Mayart from the Radicals which will affect the outcome of our world.
The characters are pretty well set up, Taki Renzaburō who at first seems a little stiff and dry comes off as likeable and determined to protect those around him and do his job. Makie’s a good character who sadly goes through the shit-end of the stick throughout the movie where she is constantly victimized by the antagonists of the movie and whatever is thrown at her, however she comes across as mysterious and quiet but very stern and the chemistry she displays with Taki is a good one. Giuseppi Mayart’s character is a dead giveaway; it’s a usual trait that in some anime there would often be a short old man who is super obsessed with sex and young women and Mayart does that and does not restrain himself by any means. However despite being a horny old man 50% of the time throughout this he comes across as a mentor for both Taki & Makie and to make sure that the peace between both human and demon world are absolute and that everything succeeds, Mayart’s bigger advantage to his character his snarky and laugh-out-loud dialogue which helps make you like him a little better.
The Animation for this movie is excellent, done by Studio Madhouse as mentioned this movie has elements of both neo-noir and horror and the way the movie is stylized really helps bring to life this dark and at times quiet looking world. The action displayed throughout here is carefully executed and leaves you enough time to see the characters exact finishing moves on each other and stand back and see how detailed everything is, which is a key element Madhouse have to their work is every frame, look, character and design is so carefully and excellently detailed that nothing appears unfinished and undone. Character designs by Yoshiaki Kawajiri himself appear very real as how a real person would look, the male characters are designed in a certain way to where they appear either masculine or rail-thin and the female characters are beautiful. They are at the time what a woman would appear in a movie by Kawajiri, tall, & thin with a perfect face and body and sadly some of them are not given enough time to develop much of a personality other than just a walking store mannequin. The monster designs however by Kawajiri are weird and creatively beautiful, weird in that you have one monster who’s stomach then becomes an open, cum oozing vagina to where the woman basically “fists” herself and where she is demanding she wants more and creative in that you have monsters that range from tentacles and walking body parts that feel like something straight out of John Carpenter's The Thing. One of the impacts the monsters in this movie have had is that they have served as an influence to comic book artist/writer Todd McFarlane for creating Spawn, so there is much to like from the designs.
Streamline’s Dub holds up pretty well. Gregory Snegoff plays Taki Renzaburō with a natural tone, makes him sound like a stern and commanding figure to root for and gives off an attitude that brings this character to life a little bit. Gaye Kruger is okay as Makie, although she is too whispery half the time and doesn’t add much depth to her character other than what’s written on paper but she manages to give a good performance even she has to act like she is being sexually victimized. Michael Reynolds as Giuseppi Mayart is spot on casting; Michael Reynolds has always had range when it came to voicing characters. From Widimer in Dogtanian to Genral Galt in Teknoman, Reynolds has a distinctive voice that is very difficult to replicate today, Hearing Michael Reynolds as Giuseppi Mayart is great because he plays him both very sly and perverted to stern and a little bit cynical and does an excellent attempt to make the voice match the design of the character. Other voices such as Jeff Winkless, Dave Povall, Robert V. Barron, Edie Mirman etc do pretty good work in this and make the characters sound as you’d imagine them to.
The Manga UK dub which I’ve only heard a little bit of isn’t very bad, but it misses a lot of opportunities. Stuart Milligan as Taki is an odd choice because he goes for the forced jersey sounding approach which is a bit of a turn off when you hear it, Tasmin Hollo is pretty decent as Makie & George Little as Giuseppi Mayart isn’t too bad. Not much to comment on as I’ve only heard this dub during rare opportunities.
While this is not one of Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s best films it’s at least entertaining and recognisable because it stands out pretty clear,
it’s a product of its time and it’s watchable at the very least.
Sami Sadek is a lifelong Transformers and Anime fan, and can often be found propping up bars or appearing in the background of Auto Assembly vids. He has also talks on Youtube, Tumbls on Tumblr, doodles on Deviantart and is a regular co-host on this very site's Cyberritz. He has never had a swordfight atop a church whilst a crow watches. Honest.