I always liked Kawajiri's Wicked City, but until I read Kikuchi's novel I never knew what I was missing. And it was a lot.
Writer: Hideyuki Kikuchi
What They Say
Another world exists beyond the one that humans can see a world populated by demons. For centuries, demons have crossed into our world, some looking for a new life, adventure, or just a job. But many are intent on causing chaos and destruction, feasting on human flesh and fear. A tenuous Peace Treaty is the only barrier between the worlds, the only thing protecting humankind from utter devastation.
Every hundred years the Treaty must be renewed and the time for that secret ceremony is at hand. Violent demonic splinter factions that are hell-bent on destroying the ancient pact are preparing to assassinate a key figure who is vital to the signing ceremony.
Enter the Black Guard, a secret police force that protects the boundary between the dark world and our own. It's the job of two Black Guard agents Makie, a gorgeous demon, and Taki, a hard-boiled human to form an unlikely partnership, stop the assassination, and avert an all-out war. But to save both their worlds, they must risk not only their lives, but their very souls!
Since this is a review copy no discussion packaging is appropriate as well as that of any text issues. There are grammatical and typographical errors here that should be corrected in the final copy, although I have given up on seeing "less" and "fewer" used correctly anywhere anymore. However, the artwork by Jennyson Romero that accompanies the text is worthy of note. This highly sexual tale of human and demon lust and conflict is best left to the mind's eye and Romero's competent and lively illustrations provide just enough graphic description to enhance the story, but not rob the reader of the experience of imaging Kikuchi's tale on their own.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
My first contact with Wicked City was many years ago and many miles away. In one of my animation history classes, the instructor would faithfully show the Wicked City film (along with director Yoshiaki Kawajiri's Ninja Scroll and Demon City Shinjuku) every time the Japanese animation class was offered. He did so for a few reasons, one of which was to demonstrate that not all animation dealt with kiddie fare. After a few opening remarks by the instructor on paying attention to certain elements of character design in this title - another reason the film was shown, the auditorium lights would dim out and the film would begin. Within minutes, there would be some hushed gasps and titters and the temperature of the auditorium would rise with the flushing of those tender neophyte cheeks. As much as the instructor enjoyed the reaction the film got, he really did show it for the purpose of demonstrating a more adult sensibility in a coherent and purposeful story, along with a measure of graphic sexuality and creative character design that compliments it. Little did my instructor know that Kawajiri, as clever and inventive as he was in dealing with Hideyuki Kikuchi's source material, was selective in his treatment. Kikuchi delivered much more action, sexual and otherwise, in the novel.
The story, which takes place in the contemporary, concerns the renewal of the peace treaty between humans and demons, one that has been reconsidered and renegotiated throughout the centuries, keeping the two worlds distinct but with a measure of cooperation. However, current times are difficult for treaty renewal with humans making more and more deals with demons for wealth and power, and with an increase of demon appetites for human style sex and corporal consumption, all leading to attacks by anti-treaty forces which look to expand their respective interests. To protect the emissary to the Tokyo signing, Giuseppe Mayart, a man(?) of indeterminate age with a reputation that belies his physical attributes and behavior, two members of the Black Guard, a secret group made up of both humans and demons committed to maintaining order between the groups, are assigned to accompany him.
Unlike the Taki Renzaburo and Makie of the film, these two Black Guard agents of the novel show skills and powers that were only hinted at and, in the case of Taki's Psy Powers, were completely ignored in the film. Taki and Makie are powerful physically, psychically and, more important for this novel, sexually. This is nowhere better seen than in the scenes that take place in the club in Kamata, unfortunately not included in the film, to which Mayart escapes from Taki and Makie in pursuit of a sexy romp. But Taki and Makie catch up to him and, as seen throughout the novel, so have the demons. For those who have seen the film, this chapter will be a revelation. The Taki of the film, regaining his highly sexualized personna here in the novel, demonstrates his skill at sexual "digital manipulation" that shows just how prepared all Black Guard agents are in dealing with demon appetites (and described as a special Black Guard skill with such drollery that is difficult to suppress a laugh), while Makie, whose chosen human form is that of a most beautiful model, amuses herself with some psychically controlled masturbation of one of the human club hostesses. However, the real surprise comes with Taki's meeting with the demon that would become film maker Kawajiri's inspiration for the iconic character design for his film - the spider woman and her vagina dentata. While Kawajiri chooses to shock, Kikuchi chooses a slow and deliberate revelation of this demon's appetites and attributes, There is a lasciviousness here, a luscious and juicy lustfulness that could never make it to the screen.
For all the sexual exposition, there is an entertaining and engaging story here. Although it may be a toss up as to which element is in service to the other, Kikuchi does not stint on story. This is a wild demon-destroying ride, full of unconventional images and situations, most of which were never included in the film. Kikuchi's prose, ably rendered by translation and adaptation, is direct and descriptive, enriching scenes with background and detail. Sex scenes are written without the pretension and ostentation that makes laughable so much writing about sex of any type. But for all its directness, the writing manages a sexiness and sensuality that is a pleasure to read. Those who tastes are inclined to this type of material will not be disappointed, but readers unfamiliar may want to consider carefully given the nonconsensual sex scenes, the frankness of the material, and the unusual practices.
Although a complete experience on its own, Wicked City: Black Guard is the first of Hideyuki Kikuchi's Wicked City novels and well worth a look.
Wicked City: Black Guard is a must for Wicked City film fans and for more adventurous Hideyuki Kikuchi fans. There's nothing quite like this,