Wednesday, 14 January 2015

J-Horror January: Hell City Shinjuku (aka Monster City) (aka Demon City Shinjuku) (aka Makai toshi Shinjuku) (1988)

Hell City Shinjuku (aka Monster City) (aka Demon City Shinjuku) (aka Makai toshi Shinjuku) (1988)
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Starring: Hideyuki Hori, Bradley Lavelle, and Hiromi Tsuru
Running Time: 82 min

  I love Japanese animation and what I love about it is that for years it has pushed a lot of boundaries of horror and sometimes good taste.  I remember, as a teen, marveling at the ultra-violent, "Fist of the North Star" and "Vampire Hunter D"; as well as shaking my head in awe and disgust watching tentacle penises attack people in "Urotsukidôj: Legend of the Overfiend".  So I thought I'd take a look back and watch one I hadn't seen before.  With that many titles for one film, it's got to be good.

  Genichiro is battling the evil villain Rebi Ra to stop him from opening a portal into the demon world and take over the city of Shinjuku.  Rebi Ra has a plan, that if he can take over this small town with his demons now, then in ten years, he will be able to unleash more demons and take over the world.  This is referred to playing the "Long Game"  Genichiro is trying to stop this, but unfortunately since Rebi Ra has sold his sold to the devil, he is too powerful and Genichiro dies trying to save the city of Shinjuku. Genichiroooooooo! In a very "Highlander" looking sequence, Rebi Ra enjoys his victory and unleashes this demon on the city, not the world, just the city. Small steps when taking over things with demons.  This portal opens up and causes a disastrous earthquake to the city, in addition to releasing a shitload of demons.
  9..., 10 years later, Genichiro's son and lazy roustabout Kyoya is watching TV at a bar and sees that the President of the World and his daughter, Sayaka are arriving in Japan after finally putting to bed some long time foreign conflicts.  Unfortunately, Rebi Ra has taken this opportunity to attack the President of the World with a bouquet of Demon tentacle flowers!  The world is shocked but Kyoya doesn't care and heads back home to practice his martial art style, Kempo on some pop cans.
  While practicing cutting cans with his wooden sword, Kyoya is visited by his father's teacher and bodyguard to the President of the World, Aguni Lai.  Aguni Lai asks Kyoya to help to save the President and the World from Rebi Ra.  Kyoya refuses saying that Rebi Ra is too powerful and that he would get massacred.  Aguni Lai tells Kyoya that the president's daughter, Sayaka will find him and that she needs help stopping Rebi Ra.  Kyoya tells the old man to get bent and leaves.
  However after he leaves, Kyoya runs into Sayaka and she begs him to help her but again he refuses and tells her to give up and go home.  She knows that she can't and tells him that she must at least try and save her father and the world, then storms off in a huff, by herself.  She walks all the way to Shinjuku, which is pretty much in shambles since the earthquake of demons hit them 10 years ago.  The property value there really plummeted.  Anyway, she finds a guy who says he can help her and knows where Rebi Ra lives.  She follows him into a dark alley and then is accosted by the guy and his cyberpunk buddies.  Fortunately, before it gets all rapey, Kyoya shows up and deals with these scoundrels.  He then agrees to help Sayaka find Rebi Ra and try to stop him and his demon army from taking over the world.  Can they do it?  Can this everyman character and beautiful girl stop a city full of demons or will the world finally feel the wrath of the 10 year plan that Rebi Ra has been so incredible patient to unleash?

 
  This isn't my favourite anime horror that I've seen but it does have some cool looking visuals at times.  Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust) does create a sorted collection of unsavory demons and nightmarish creatures to inhabit the devastated city Shinjuku and there is even some sexy tentacle moments at times for fans of that style.
  Also, the battles are pretty good.  The animation style is very 80's, of course, but the battle at the beginning is pretty cool looking as well as the final confrontation.  This reminded me a lot of watching video game vignettes from like Final Fantasy VII and other adventure/action games.


  Unfortunately I did find the story rather bland and far too simplistic.  There is a bad boy with a heart of gold who helps a beautiful girl, who along with the help of a wisecracking sidekick and mysterious man in a long coat to battle/defeat the ultra powerful villain.  Although I may have just described every plot line from the 80's, there wasn't anything that really memorable about this story for me and left me wanting more.  I like the concept but the execution is forgettable. 
  Also, I was expecting so much more terrifying things with a city full of demons.  I just felt that there wasn't enough tension going on.  Sure, there was all these creepy creatures that were threatening but there wasn't a moment that I felt there was any real peril for the main characters.
  Additionally, I remember why I prefer subtitling to dubbing.  The most horrifying thing about this movie was the awful voice work.  I feel bad for the actors because the person translating the dialogue didn't seem to care to make the effort to make much sense of the words at times.  There are a lot of "fuck" added in to really push the envelope and make it seem edgy but it wasn't necessary.  I wonder if seeing it again with subtitles would make a difference? Just a thought.


  Overall, this film was alright but nothing fantastic.  The story was simple and characters were really flat but it does have some good visuals that will keep your interest for a while.  This wouldn't be my first pick, if I were looking for an anime to watch but it's not the worst pick either.



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