Wicked City is not what I thought it was going to be.

Story

 The story follows Renzaburō Taki a member of the Black Guard who are entrusted with protecting our world from the Black World, an alternate dimension with inhabited by supernatural demons. Taki is tasked with a mission. To protect Giuseppe Mayart, a 200-year old mystic who is a signatory to the renewal of the peace treaty between the human world and the BlackWorld. He's also assigned a partner Makie, a Black Guard from the Black World.

This is a pretty unique story, it's like a buddy cop movie that leans heavily in the horror genre. I do wish it was longer because there is a rich lore here that could have been fleshed out. How did the peace treaty come about? Why and how did Taki and Makie become members of the Black Guard? Who initiated the peace treaty? How did some of the Black World demons become radicalised? There are so many questions I have that couldn't be answered in 90 minutes.

Voice Acting 

The stand-out voice performance for me was Ichirō Nagai who plays Giuseppe Mayart. This actually came as a shock to me as he is one of my least favourite characters. I say his performance is the stand-out because of how transformative it is, Mayart doesn't sound the same at the beginning and end of the movie. It's almost as if he is two different people and it's not only his demeanour that changes but his voice does too and Ichirō Nagai is able to switch between the two without disassociating from the character.

I also have to give props to Yūsaku Yara and Toshiko Fujita who play Taki and Makie respectively. Their performances though more wooden than Ichirō Nagai's, still carry weight which comes across towards the end of the movie when the story becomes more intense and ramps up.

Writing/Direction 

Wicked City goes by really quickly, with a runtime of 82 minutes, time will fly while you watch this, and while I do wish it was longer to flesh out the story, I was kinda happy when it was done. This movie is definitely more style over substance because there isn't a lot of substance.

I applaud the direction because you have scenes that are framed more like a live-action film than an animated one. There are some creative angles that give the movie visual depth that is lacking with the story. While the movie does give gradual exposition towards the end, it leaves more questions than it answers. I kinda feel like the premise was wasted. After I watched the movie, I found out that it was based on a book series and I'm curious as to whether the book fleshed out the story especially given the fact that this movie is based on the first book and there are six in the series.

I also have to comment on the sexual violence that Makie endures. It's pretty explicit, and honestly? I wasn't expecting that and was taken aback a little. It also made me incredibly uncomfortable. And a lot of it was unexplained and frankly unwarranted and gratuitous. It took me out of the film a few times especially because there is a lack of consent in one of them. (Don't worry he got what was coming to him). Eventually, I did get over the initial shock and was able to get into the story. I do wish I knew about it before going in.

Animation 

From what I can tell, vintage anime has the same type of aesthetic and it's one that I personally resonate with. In my Perfect Blue review (which you can read here. Shameless promo I know) I stated that the movie as whole looks old. With a muted, slightly cooler colour palette and less structured animation. It has a certain visual appeal. And given the context of the story, the visual style makes sense. Given the murky world that the characters inhabit, having a world around them that doesn't look polished adds to the experience.

Telling this story in an animated format makes the most sense visually because the demons and monsters in this movie would not have translated to live-action in the 80's. You have characters that have spikes and tentacles coming out of them and the animation styles also lends itself to the horror elements that the film has. Especially when they're coming out of shadows and dark corners.

Let me show you what I mean.
 Wicked City | Prede's Anime Reviews

Having a cooler colour palette makes sense when you have characters like THIS running around in the movie.

Much like Perfect Blue, Wicked City doesn't shy away from violence or uncomfortable scenes. I knew within 10 minutes that this  IS NOT a movie aimed at kids. I mean given the plot...

Score/Soundtrack

I have more to say about the sound design than I do the score. It is very much a product of its time and I'm not mad at it. It kinda sounds like early morning cartoon and the at times cringe sound effects add character to the movie as well as tension. I didn't really pay attention to the score and from what I recall, it was serviceable and set the tone for the scenes as well as the movie as a whole.

Overall Thoughts

I found this movie, the same way I found Perfect Blue (I've actually found quite a few series and movies that are now on my watch list, thanks to YouTube comment sections) and what primarily drew me in were the visuals and I have to say that the animation is what I like the most about the movie. As far as everything else? I'm on the fence about it.

While I was writing this review, I saw a review on the film's Wikipedia page that pretty much sums up how I feel about it, from Theron Martin of Anime News Network.
"Wicked City isn't great fare, but if explicit, sexually-charged supernatural action stories appeal to you then it should fit the bill quite nicely."
It's not that I don't like Wicked City, I just I'm pretty indifferent towards it. While it's a cool movie visually with an interesting story, there isn't a lot of substance. And given the amount of sexual violence that happens, it's not a movie that I am going o run back to anytime soon.

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