Wicked City: Special Edition - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Urban Vision
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 82
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Wicked City

Wicked City: Special Edition

By Chris Beveridge     November 14, 2000
Release Date: November 14, 2000


Wicked City: Special Edition
© Urban Vision


What They Say
There is Earth, our familiar world, and then there is the Black World, a parallel dimension that very few people are aware of. For centuries, a pact between the two worlds has been observed to maintain peace, and terms must be negotiated and renewed soon to continue the relative harmony.
This time around, there is a militant faction that will stop at nothing to prevent the signing of a new treaty for interdimensional peace. Two agents of the elite organization known as the Black Guards-defenders of the balance between the two worlds - are charged with insuring the success of the treaty. Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll) blends stylish eroticism, graphic horror and pulse-pounding action as these two race to consummate the peace treaty in time!

The Review!
Originally released in 1989 (though all the packaging indicates a 1992 copyright in Japan), Wicked City definitely qualifies as one of the big flicks that made its way to US shores and caused a splash. For better or for worse, this is the type of movie that gave anime its name in terms of content in style for many years. Dark, brooding, violent, sexy and sexual. It also was another stepping stone in the career of the director, who has made many films in this style over the years.

Audio:
During my initial viewing of this show many moons ago, I hadn't yet become the subtitle enthusiast I am now. At the time, and to some extent even now, I enjoy the dub of this show. Thankfully though, the DVD does contain the Japanese track, so I admit to only spending a little bit of time checking out the English 5.1 track, which did sound quite good. The stereo Japanese track sounded essentially like a mono track, as the majority of this film is indeed dialogue, punctuated by some fast action sequences. Both tracks sounded solid and no noticeable issues with it to my ears.

Video:
Similar to their previous release of Vampire Hunter D, Urban Vision and the authoring house, Laser Pacific, have done the best they can with the materials available. This show is quite old and either they weren't able to obtain better materials from Japan or it simply may not exist anymore. The truly bad areas are focused around the beginning, with a variety of nicks and scratches (which do appear periodically throughout the film) but there's a level of grain through the first 20 minutes or so as well, which does seem to level off after awhile. The areas where this naturally makes the most difference is during the really deep blue/black areas. And much like Vampire Hunter D, this movie is bathed in these colors. A lot of sections really do look quite good, but overall one would hope for more.

Packaging:
Not straying from what works, Urban Vision has used the cover we've seen for a couple of different VHS releases, with Taki facing a couple of different demons and the background of the city and his partner behind him. The back cover gives a good rundown of the show as well as clearly labeling all the extras and features. The insert provides a few pieces of information about the show as well as listing the chapters.

Menus:
The menus are pretty straightforward with no animations or music accompanying them. Selections are accessed quickly and everything is laid out in a pretty common sense way.

Extras:
This is definitely an area where the disc shines and earns its special edition label. The original Japanese theatrical trailer is great to see, looking at how they promote the show is always interesting to me. The character biographies are pretty well done also, but where this disc gets good is in the new 13 minute video Q&A session with the director. This looks to have been done quite recently (2000 Anime Expo or ComicCon maybe) and contains some pretty interesting bits into how the movie got made, some of the issues with it and how the directors style influenced his other movies. What I found really interesting is that the movie was originally done with a 35 minute run time and that all told, they completed it in just under a year. Amazing really when you think about it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
During my first viewing of Wicked City in the late 80's, it left a mark much like a few other movies during that time, such as Akira and Vampire Hunter D. It fit in quite well with what was coming out from Streamline at that time and those who were into it and getting their first exposure to anime were soaking it all up.

Of course, those were all dub only releases back then. Urban Vision released Wicked City to subtitled VHS a couple years back, but I never got around to grabbing that and checking it out. So after ten years, I've finally been able to see the original language version.

And I liked it. Yep. Typically I'm not much of a fan of the sexy violence laden horror anime like this. So many of them are derivative of other works that it's just mind numbing. Wicked City does fall into this category as well, but it's just very well done and very slick looking. It's almost old school anime based on the time it came out.

The story takes place over the course of one night after the introduction piece. Taki is one of the young hotshots of a secret organization that deals with the demon world. The demon world has been known about and dealt with for over 5000 years, and every couple of hundred years a peace deal is signed out among leaders to keep the peace. Naturally, the latest signing is taking place now, and Taki is called in to perform his duties as a Black Guard and watch of the demon emissary that's in the city.

And yes, this somewhat deformed little man is a lech. He wants to hit every geisha house and playboy club he can get to. Some interesting results when he does get there though. Taki's not alone in guarding him though. The demon world has sent their own version of a Black Guard to partner up with Taki. And as if by design, she's quite possibly one of the most beautiful women Taki's ever seen.

The two then begin their assignment over a variety of locations, spiriting the emissary from place to place, trying to keep ahead of the terrorist demons who don't want the new deal to be signed. Having it all take course over one dark night does add a bit of tenseness to it and heightens the anxiety as you know the demons are going to keep trying.

The character designs for the most part are great. The only one I didn't care much for was Taki, but at least he wasn't drawn as a pretty boy. The women, especially Makie the demon guard, are exquisitely drawn. Makie definitely fills out her business suit nicely.

Set design is also very detailed and mysterious, giving a sense of something around each and every corner. The animation throughout is pretty fluid and movie-level style. There's some exceptionally nice fluid moments during the first encounter of Taki and the demons at the airport, when they're still in human form.

Wicked City has some solid action, a few bits of character development and a real sense of style to it. It's not surprising it's one of the theatrical classics out there. Good stuff. Recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Original Japanese Theatrical Trailer,Character Biographies,Video Interview with the Director

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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