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Case Number 06585: Small Claims Court

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Kekko Kamen

ADV Films // 1991 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // April 14th, 2005

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All Rise...

Even a dynamic, denuded damsel who fights injustice in the altogether couldn't hold Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger's attention.

The Charge

She may have lost her costume…but she's never lost a fight!

The Case

I may be missing a very large boat here, but anime that heavily features female nudity in the context of light bondage should be either funny, surreal, or erotic. I think Kekko Kamen is trying to be funny, while slipping erotic imagery under the radar (in the guise of making fun of fan service in anime). The approach fails.

It should have worked on me. This cultured exterior hides a streak of juvenile depravity. Not actual depravity: I have no taste for the leather, latex, violence, sadomasochism, and ever-increasing spiral of extreme sensations that characterize hardcore today. But tasteless, juvenile antics hit the mark. Species is one of my favorite movies, and it is only because of Natasha's breasts. I find the bathtub scene in Plastic Little: The Adventures of Captain Tita titillating and masterfully done. I rate Eugenie as high art, mostly because Blue Underground had the nerve to print naked nymphs directly onto the DVD. In short, I admire those who know what they're peddling, and ditch false modesty to peddle it.

If you are going to focus on breasts and buns, either in the context of humor, erotic art, or plain old sexploitation, then do it. Don't unclothe your heroine, then contort her thighs and torso in an unnatural attempt at modesty. Don't use sheets that curve weirdly up over her breasts and down to his abdomen. And for heaven's sake, if you are going to show the pubic region, do not commit the following transgressions:

1) Block it out with a fuzzy patch of pixels.
2) Render the area in smooth, formless androgyny, as though your characters are live-action Barbie dolls without genitalia (the only flick that gets a pass is Dogma).
3) Mask the area behind a large smiley face with the word "censored" around it.

You made the decision to go to that anatomical region. You could have chosen a different angle or an altogether different approach. But it is unfunny and falsely chaste to artificially dodge the issue you created.

Go Nagai's Kekko Kamen commits all three of the above transgressions. But Kekko Kamen goes even further. Every nude scene is intercut with shots of a slobbering, googly-eyed principal and his equally expectant sidekick. It is as though Go Nagai is saying "Hey, you must be a deranged, socially inept pervert if you are enjoying these light bondage interludes featuring lovingly rendered, perky young women." I might enjoy them if every scene that approached eroticism wasn't intercut with the same stupid shot of the same stupid guys drooling and giggling. Sadly, I'll never find out. Take a cue from Jess Franco, who has the presence of mind to linger with the camera when it is called for and switch to fast cutting when that is the better approach.

Whew, I dove right into a rant there. Let's backtrack a bit. Go Nagai, the erotic-horror anime auteur who brought us the surprisingly enjoyable The Devil Lady: The Complete Collection and the less impressive Essential Anime Collection: New Cutey Honey, uses Kekko Kamen to poke fun at his own infamous blend of horror and blatant fan service. The anime features a school called Satan's Big Toenail of Eternal Punishment (or something to that effect) which is run by the aforementioned horndog principal and an ever-revolving series of "Punishment Administrators." When students misbehave or get bad grades, they spend time in the punishment room. Their clothes are ripped to shreds over a live video feed that goes to televisions in every student's room. But just before the panties come off, a mysterious, naked heroine called Kekko Kamen busts in and saves the poor student, using her Open Thigh Squeeze Attack or her Leaping Vulva Of Blinding Light technique. Vanquished, the Punishment Master leaves the school in disgrace, and Kekko Kamen awaits the next adversary.

The anime has amusing moments, such as Kekko Kamen's perversion of Sailor Moon's famous punishment speeches ("Even if God himself forgives you, I will not!") and the periodic wry commentary on fan service conventions (girls will be punished; we don't care what happens to the boys). But the anime is driven by formula, and the formula is not very interesting (even with frequent nudity; I applaud Go Nagai for noticing that women actually have nipples, which gives his work a verisimilitude lacking in 98% of anime, but I still wouldn't call Kekko Kamen erotic). In fact, once the first mildly amusing/horrifying/erotic punishment scene takes place, you know how the rest of the series will go. Eroticism, humor, and horror cannot thrive under the yoke of predictability.

The DVD treatment is sufficient for the content. The colors are slightly punchier than in the transfer of The Devil Lady, and the lines are fairly crisp. Grain, dirt, and a slightly faded tinge betray a dated print. It isn't pristine, but the transfer won't have you scurrying for the exit either. The English dub is cheesier and more exasperating than most dubs, while the Japanese voice acting is entirely too dramatic to suit the material. The lone extra is a series of production sketches that move forward in a slideshow that the viewer cannot control.

I'm beginning to suspect that The Devil Lady was a fluke, and that Go Nagai's work isn't very interesting. Though Kekko Kamen is a nice break from his darker stuff and is aware of its own ridiculous premise, it fails to find traction in the arenas of horror, eroticism, or humor.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: ADV Films
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
• English
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Anime
• Erotic

Distinguishing Marks

• Production Sketches

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