Wicked City was a 1987 Japanese OVA horror film-noir directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novel of the same name. Streamline picked it up and dubbed it in 1993.
Jerry Beck recalls that when he and Carl Macek began Streamline Pictures they created a “short-list” of films they really wanted to distribute under this new venture. “Laputa, Akira, Lensman, Neo-Tokyo, Castle of Cagliostro, Fist of the North Star, Golgo 13 and Wicked City were on that list from day one,” says Jerry. “Wicked City was the one that was the hardest to acquire, and that’s why it came out five years after we started doing business. After we dubbed Wicked City, I knew it was time to move on.”
This is the last Streamline Pictures film Beck worked on as production manager. After assembling the theatrical release materials (prints, posters, publicity, etc.) Jerry handed the reigns of physical distribution to his replacement, Wendy Horowitz, and departed the company.
Here’s what the critics had to say about the picture:
“One of the strongest features to come out of Japan’s anime, sex-and-violence cartoon movement, Wicked City looks wild, unfolds imaginatively and damn near even makes sense.” “Though actually more adolescent than adult oriented, Wicked City nonetheless represents a step toward maturation, at least among the anime that have so far made it stateside.” “What seems like a less-than-coherent scenario makes more sense as it climaxes, revealing a few solid, thematic reasons for what initially seemed to be inexplicable behavior, gratuitous sex and reckless sci-fi gimmickry. The mutation motif also pays off story-wise. And there’s even a neat moral and spiritual subtext to the whole bizarre enterprise.” “Kawajiri’s overall design is quite nicely realized. Color is especially well-used, with each stage of the story cued to a complementary hue. Steel and electric blues chill our initial entry into the dangerous, sin-filled city; icky earth tones accompany the queasier biological mortifications; destructive, inter-dimensional power surges come in violent, violet bursts; and the ethereal endgame is washed in purifying white. And, as happens with the best Japanese animation, Wicked City’s technology-hobbled pacing eventually invests the film with a peculiar poetry of motion. The rhythms of everything here, from dismemberment to love to stuff that unnervingly fuses both, are certainly out of sync with live action and with any American ideals of full-length (or just plain full) animation. But if you can gear down into its hypnotic flow, Wicked City envelopes you in its own unique dimension of mind and of time — and in 90 minutes, could supply you with a year’s worth of nightmares.’
Bob Strauss, Animation Magazine, v.7 #4, March-April 1994, pg. 16
“A stylishly graphic sexual thriller of espionage and sci-fi.”
Richard Martinez, Axcess, v.1 #2, [January-February] Holidays 1994, pg. 123
“‘Wicked City’ works animation wonders. Most people in the U.S. still see cartoons as kid’s stuff; nice to look at but certainly not for mature adults. A cartoon for adults? Impossible! Welcome to the 90s, folks. Welcome to ‘Wicked City.’ ‘Wicked City’ is the latest release from Streamline Pictures, Inc., the California-based company that specializes in translating and distributing Japanese animated films, or ‘anime,’ in the U.S.” “The fluid animation in ‘Wicked City’ puts any cartoon on TV today to shame, and can give Disney films a run for their money. Distinct and realistic facial expressions, eye-popping detail and incredibly life-like movements make ‘Wicked City’ a spectacular piece of work. The film also has strong characterizations.” “Like most examples of adult-based anime, ‘Wicked City’ is very sensual, a trait that may shock Western audiences. These scenes, however, are more erotic than pornographic. The sex scenes are subtle and well-directed, sometimes symbolic. Even the overt scenes avoid graphic depictions.”
Erwin Raymundo, The Cauldron (Houston, Univ. of St. Thomas), v.26 #11, 16 March 1994, pg. 4
“… graphically stunning, amoral, overflowing with sex and violence and supernatural otherworldliness […] Check out how and from where the Spiderwoman in “Wicked City” spins her web.”
Scott Munroe, Chairs Missing, #18, Dec. 1994, pg. ?
“The animation is bold and eye-catching, combining expressionism and realism — and, for international accessibility, Asian and Anglo features in the characters’ faces. The setting may be Tokyo, but the mood is Hollywood noir.”
Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Sun-Times, April 22, 1994, pg. 35
“Just like live-action movies, the two characters begin to fall for each other despite their clashing backgrounds. The inevitable sexual tension (and graphic sex scenes) between the main characters and cheesy synthesized music during moments of animated tenderness escalate the likeness to certain mainstream movies. What is different, however, is the freedom animators have to change their characters into whomever they want., In City, this liberty is used to its full advantage.” “The inhabitants of the other world, disguised as human beings, change themselves into multi-headed serpents, disfigured gryphons or disconnected eyeballs with monster teeth. At any time, shadows turn into tar pits, roads vanish into the continuum between the worlds and underground tunnels are overcome by spider webs. The animation, however, makes Wicked City resemble a two-hour adult episode of older cartoons. The stylish characters seem straight out of MTV’s Liquid Television, and the landscape shots almost look real. The film is fast-paced, colorful and involving, but cartoon sex still looks funny.”
Steve Ornes, The (Dallas SMU) Daily Campus, November 30, 1993, pg. 6
“Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s Wicked City is an anime classic full of action, intrigue, fantasy and alien encounters that give a whole new meaning to unsafe sex. Anime (Japanese animation) has been gaining popularity in the past de-cade largely because the Japanese animators have recognized that animation is an art form and not strictly a kids’ entertainment medium — a concept that has caught on very heavily in the Disney-dominated American market. To find out why anime is becoming so popular, check out Wicked City.” “The story is interesting but it takes a back seat to the animation, which is a blend of crisp images in the style of Nagel (a fair comparison since a Nagel print hangs in Taki’s apartment) and a surrealistic style reminiscent of H. R. Geiger (in the shape-shifting scenes). Pirated copies of Wicked City (under the title Supernatural Beastie City) with English subtitles have been shown by anime clubs in America for some time, but anime lovers can thank Carl Macek […] for adapting Kawajiri’s film to this English-dubbed version, so viewers can follow the story without any annoying subtitles to detract from the fine animation.”
Shane Patrick Boyle, The (Houston) Daily Cougar, November 12, 1993, pg. 9
“The Japanese cartoon movement called anime is shot through with in-sane sexuality and grotesque violence. […] And, generally, anime is difficult for Western cartoon fans to get into. It relies a lot on computer animation, which translates into odd pacing rhythms, repetitious imagery and maddeningly inexpressive faces. Despite all of these drawbacks, a handful of the films prove more intriguing than numbing — like the latest anime feature to be released here, ‘Wicked City.’ Sporting a new, English language dialogue track, Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s sci-fi sexcapade is as imaginative as it is goofily Freudian — and action-packed enough to keep 14-year-olds enchanted.” “‘Wicked City’ suffers from the previously enumerated anime defects […] But the film more than compensates with a gruesome visual cleverness and a snazzy story in which nothing turns out to be what it seems.”
Bob Strauss, (Los Angeles) Daily News, February 25, 1994, pg. 11
“Fans of earlier Japanimation will not be disappointed with this stylish, graphic, psycho-sexual thriller from one of Japan’s leading animation directors. Of course, the key words here are graphic and psycho-sexual, with sexual being the key-key word.” “Although not as stylistic or flashy as previous animated entries, Wicked City finds a certain credibility in a simpler approach. That is not to say the film lacks punch, for Wicked City has its fair share of action and unexpected twists (refer to the opening). Through a combination of the disparate genres of the spy-thriller and the horror film, Wicked City combines elements of both James Bond and John Carpenter’s The Thing to generate the funhouse effects. It is a wild ride. Be aware that this type of animation is not for children and may not even be for some adults. The warning on the advertisements state that Wicked City contains images of extreme violence and graphic sexual content. Coincidentally, these are the reasons that I highly recommend Wicked City.”
Andrew Wade, Daily Utah Chronicle (Salt Lake City), November 18, 1993, pg. ?
“Set in an alternative reality in Tokyo, Wicked City is the Japanese animated answer to the buddy movie; a bizarre adult story of inter-continuum intrigue, psychic power, soul-melding sex, and passionate love.” “While Wicked City is not as graphic in its violence as some recent animation, it does create a believable and interesting, albeit dangerous, world for its story. The animation itself is extremely detailed and but for a scene with a shmaltzy song (for the principals to fall in love to), the direction is deft.”
Richard Tuthill, The Dateline (Univ. of Houston-Downtown), November 1993, pg. 23
“While Wicked City has never before been officially released in the United States, it has long enjoyed an underground reputation among fans of Japanese animation, many of whom have bootleg video copies in their private collections. Made in 1987, Wicked City was among the first of the cartoon sci-fi fantasies to allow sex and violence to dominate the story, acknowledging that it was those very elements that made the genre so popular with young, mostly male, filmgoers. […] The original version is finally showing up on stateside screens, and if it doesn’t seem particularly shocking in the wake of other re-cent Japanese imports, it will neverless leave anyone who has never seen one of these movies with mouth agape. When the Senate committees fret about violence as entertainment, this is what they’re talking about. As these films go, however, Wicked City is one of the more impressive; styled as a futuristic film noir, it is handsomely drawn and designed, and the characters are a lot more than the usual monotoned voices (dubbed by American actors) and exaggerated bodies.”
Terry Lawson, Dayton (OH) Daily News, January 28, 1994, pg. ?
“First off, this ain’t no Toon Town, and if Mickey Mouse were here he better be toting a Mac 10. The futuristic worlds of Japanimation have pushed themselves deep into the area of action, fantasy, violence, and sex. No longer are the days of nice guy heroes like Speed Racer and his stiff legged brother Racer X the kings of the animation road.” “Wicked City is probably one of the best examples of Japanimation out right now.” “But violence isn’t the movie’s only strongpoint, the characters are true to form and interesting.” “This is definitely a must see for those of you who are fans of Japanimation as well as those of you who are interested, but are unfamiliar with the current trends in animation from Japan.”
Gavin Santillan, Factor X, #44, March 1993, pg. ?
“The most daring animations never make it to TV at all, of course, but the market for sexually explicit, violent animations is getting bigger, too. Anime, a style of animation from Japan, didn’t exist here before 1989, when several distributors began importing anime films. These films now have a small but growing cult following. Anime films are often lyrical and exquisitely drawn, and can get, well, really gross. Wicked City, released last year by Streamline Pictures, has been doing a lively business on the art film circuit. It features lurid science fiction fantasies that combine violence and very far-out, explicit sex.”
Damon Darlin & Joshua Levine, Forbes, v.153 #5, February 28, 1994, pg. 95
“A dark psychosexual thriller with tinges of James Bond, Basic Instinct and Evil Dead. Plenty of action, sex, violence and intrigue.”
Peter A. Burke, Genesis, v.22 #1, August 1994, pg. 92
“Purporting to be an espionage thriller pitting good-looking secret agents — who frequently lose their clothes — against shape-changing (but good-looking) terrorists from a supernatural parallel world, this uninteresting neo-film noir is really just an excuse for quasi-explicit sex and graphic grotesquery.” “The animation is a mixed bag. A hazy Tokyo night scene befits film noir’s moody atmospherics, and the flick of a match and flight of an airplane seem truly lifelike. But sometimes the perspective is off: a character in the foreground looks ten feet tall while someone talks behind him. The ‘best’ of the animation is often the hardest to watch: razor-toothed, eyeballed tentacles swimming out of chests; torsos becoming throbbing vaginas; cavernous vaginas sprouting steel traps. The film’s gaze is exclusively male; although there are lots of shots of bare breasts and buttocks, there are none of men’s privates. And all the women have the same bodies — perfect ones.” […] “Beavis and Butt-head might get a rise from it.”
Peter Szatmary, Houston Press, November 11, 1993, pg. ?
“For untrammeled visual chutzpah, it’s hard to top anime director Kawajiri’s future-goth noir thriller. This lean, adult horror entry comes across like a weird bonding of John Carpenter’s THING and every cop-buddy film you’ve ever seen.” “From the first erotic-violent set-piece in which a Black World succubus-spiderwoman scampers after Taki (yet manages to maintain garters and stockings with aplomb), the film propels itself with non-stop imagistic verve. Some of the cels are nothing less than galvanizing, as when scores of blood-red tentacles burst from a marble-white statue of the Virgin Mary during a duel in a church.” “Kawajiri is a master at portraying a haunted megalopolis in which mortals and monsters live in blood-lashed — and often cynically rueful — co-existence. A superb bonding of Nippon themes of kinetic carnage and cooperation, WICKED CITY rates as one of the all-time champs of grotesque anime. This is one of Streamline’s better dubbing jobs: perfectly suited to the film noir look of the images is the hard-boiled tone of the English dialogue, written and directed by Greg Snegoff, who also voices Taki.”
Todd French, Imagi-Movies, v.2 #4, Summer 1995, pg. 36
“1994 In Review. Dim domestic offerings, but great imports. 1. WICKED CITY kicks ass like no other film of ’94. Not so ambitious in terms of color palette and animation as AKIRA, nor quite as graphic as UROTSUKI-DOJI, the film is nevertheless in many ways superior to both, thanks to a solid hard-boiled plot that grounds the fantastic elements in a foundation of verisimilitude. Though the usual misogynistic violence is present, it is subsumed into the story by being focused on a character (Black Guard agent Makia) whose self-sacrifice raises her to heroic levels. Also fascinating is the way that Makia merges the cinema’s usual Madonna/Whore dichotomy into one character: she starts off as a femme fatale, then emerges as the mother of the savior of the world, and — here’s the kicker — she does this without losing any of the qualities which distinguished her in the first place. She’s just as lethal as ever; in fact, her first act after being ‘transmogrified’ (as the film call it) is to off one of the villains. Cool.”
Steve Biodrowski, Imagi-Movies, v.2 #4, Summer 1995, pg. 50
“Beautifully drawn, technically superior Japanimation, featuring over-the-top Lovecraftian creatures straight out of your wildest nightmares and wilder wet dreams. Libidinous evil forces try to thwart a peace mission that will join our plane of existence and ‘the other side,’ while an attractive male/female couple of James Bond types do their martial arts best to keep the beasts at bay. Japanese cartoons have come a mighty long way from the days of Speed Racer and Kimba, but the advances in style and artistry that have been achieved over the past few years are utterly astonishing. Wicked City sets a new standard for the adult animation genre by delivering bizarre images that are viscerally sharper than the bloody Fist of the North Star, the Mission Impossible-esque The Professional or the apocalyptic and inspired Akira. Kinky creature-sex, ultra-violence, arcane horror, high art — perfect.”
Regent St. Claire, INsider, v.X #VIII, April 1994, pg. “Visual Stimuli”
“The film lives up to the extreme violence and graphic sex tag that is placed on the promotional posters. This is definitely a visual treat. No punches were pulled. If a character is being killed, you see their bodies rip apart and mutate into something else. This futuristic tale will be your inauguration to the mature world of animation.”
Lani & Dwayne E. Leslie, LAFM (Los Angeles Film & Music), v.3 #24, February 1994, pg. 25
“Of all the “Japanimations” thus far, Wicked City is the most original, the one which best transcends the cultural barriers and creepy sexual obsessions that have afflicted so many of the other films.”
F. X. Feeny, L.A. Weekly, v.16 #13, Feb. 25-March 3, 1994, pg. 58
“The plot of Wicked City is a good deal more coherent than most anime imports; it even features a well-set-up twist that took me by surprise. The animation has an attractively luminous look, and the dialogue is a reasonable pastiche of hard-boiled and comic-book styles.’
Andy Klein, Los Angeles Reader, v.16 #20, Feb. 25, 1994, pg. 27
“One of Japan’s most popular animation directors, Yoshiaki Kawajiri composes scenes like a live-action filmmaker, with deft cutting, camera angles, etc.” “It’s important for Americans, some of whom tend to believe there is a connection between screen violence and violence in society, to remember that despite the intense sadomasochistic violence in these hugely popular animated films, the Japanese maintain one of the safest, least violent societies in the industrialized world.”
Charles Solomon, Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1994, pg. F4
“As in many ‘Japanimation’ features […] ‘Wicked City’ blends comic-book action with adult erotic interludes, frequently grisly in nature. On the latter front, ‘Wicked City’ comes through early on, when Taki shares an ill-advised tryst with an undercover Black World terrorist who transforms into a grotty spiderwoman. While ‘Wicked City’ can be interpreted as an allegory — mighty modern Japan’s dealings with an often economically envious West — the flick is far more interested in furnishing sex, violence, romance and sci-fi tinged action than political philosophy. Director Kawajiri’s kinetic animation, Kisei Choo’s lively but linear story line and American adaptor Carl Macek’s adroit dubbing combine to make ‘Wicked City’ more accessible than many of its more esoteric anime counterparts.”
Phantom of the Movies, New York Daily News, October 29, 1993, pg. ?
“Speed Racer grows up and gets kinky in ‘Wicked City,’ a stylish, sophisticated and erotic cartoon about inter-dimensional diplomacy and inter-species sex. Japanese animation has made enormous strides — some of them dubious — over the last 30 years, from the stiffly primitive ‘Speed Racer’ to the extreme and disturbing graphic sexual violence of ‘Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend’ (which has become something of a legend itself). Somewhere in the middle lands ‘Wicked City.’ Its producer, Carl Macek, whose Streamline Pictures has been importing adult Japanese animation for years, calls the film ‘a cross between ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Basic Instinct.” He’s not far off, except that it’s better than both of them.” “There are some outrageously Freudian conceits here — a female Black Worlder with teeth between her legs; another who sort of melts and absorbs the peace delegate right into her body. But ‘Wicked City’ is an entertaining marriage of story and effects — and sex — that gets you past the stiffness that accompanies this kind of computer-produced animation. Adult it is, Disney it ain’t.”
John Anderson, New York Newsday, October 29, 1993, pg. ?
“A half-century ago, Walt Disney’s artists pushed the boundaries of animation with films such as ‘Fantasia.’ Now, it’s the Japanese who rule as innovators in movie cartoon art. In story and style, they’ve proved over and over that animation isn’t just for kids — and that entertaining, thought-provoking animated features can be made for adults only. Now comes ‘Wicked City’ — a literate, involving thriller filled with innovative, eye-popping graphics, many of which will have you oohing and aahing out loud.” “In ‘Wicked City,’ sex is plentiful and plenty dangerous. Sexually transmitted diseases are never mentioned. Rather, men and women use sex as a tool in which to cold-bloodedly kill during intercourse. This looming sense of danger and some truly spectacular animated sequences provide for an absorbing and fast-moving 90 minutes.”
Bill Hoffman, New York Post, October 29, 1993, pg. ?
“First off, this is definitely not for kids, Trix are for kids, silly rabbits. This ain’t no Disney flick. Imagine, if you can, two words of supernatural societies coexisting for hundreds of years: one the Black World, inhabited by bizarre shape changing monsters. The other, Earth. When the signing of a peace treaty between the two worlds is threatened, the mysterious Black Guard is called in. Taki, a human, and Mikeyai [sic.], a Black Worlder, are begrudgingly partnered to guard Gesspi Myart [sic.], the aging, invaluable negotiator with a hidden agenda and a penchant for nudie magazines. Combining spy thrillers with gothic horror and, of course, sex, Wicked City is a whirlwind …with nonstop images of monsters, mystical societies on the verge of Armageddon, and more sex.”
Jeff Dillon, Overstreet’s FAN, #4, September 1995, pg. 97
“This flashy, sexually explicit and violent tale is a Japanese film from Yoshiaki Kawajiri, considered to be one of Japan’s most promising animated filmmakers. He has taken the art of animation to new heights in Wicked City, a panorama of darkness meant to emulate the horror of a Steven King movie, according to Kawajiri. The animation is dark, full of detail and surreal images set against a back drop of high tech. It’s eerie and perverse.” “Wicked City is a modernistic graphic psychosexual thriller as told by cartoon characters. That takes a little getting used to for most movie goers. But for those who are able to adjust, this art form is an intriguing way to tell a story. One thing I noticed about Wicked City — only the women bare all (bar nothing). Although the male characters were often shown in the nude, they were strategically covered. Perhaps the Japanese filmmakers aren’t as modern as they claim, after all.”
Glenda Vosburgh, (Dallas) Park Cities People, December 2, 1993, pg. 5
[N.b.: This review starts with a description of another movie with a similar plot.] “It is not the case with WICKED CITY. Now, that is a supernatural movie done as it should be!” “Everything about this animation, be it the music, the character designs or the storyline. We had heard that the action was slow to progress, but these were only rumors. It is fast-paced and never gives you a breather. The characters are magnificent, particularly Makie, with her very classy looks (the woman can look awfully good in a man’s business suit). The voices Streamline chose for each character are perfect and the acting is well above average for dubs. It should be mentioned that this is a movie for adults. It is violent and there are some graphic scenes.”
Martin Ouellette, Protoculture Addicts, #30, Sept.-October 1994, pg. 40
“Wicked City is based on an original story by Hideyuki Kikuchi and was released in Japan in 1987.” “The music is by Osamu Shoji and fits the mood of the movie perfectly, as do two good songs sung by Hitomi Tooyama. Wicked City has plenty of erotic content plus a lot of violence. Recent reviews in various anime publications have compared it to the infamous Urotsukidoji. This just isn’t true in my opinion. Wicked City is an adult anime title, and the sex and violence in the movie are secondary to the plot, which is complex and suspenseful. The animation is amazing and should be seen by adults who are interested in seeing trend-setting horror-related anime.” “Since I can’t speak Japanese, it’s impossible to tell you how accurate the translation is, but I’ll warn you that some of the dialog is laughable. If you can get past this and instead get into the interesting concept of the story and excellent animation, you won’t be disappointed.”
Kim E. Marlo, The Rose, #42, October 1994, pg. 13
“In developing what has become the largest animation industry in the world, Japanese animators also are leading the way in terms of adult-style stories with images normally found only in live-action movies. Cinefantastique magazine recently described this an ‘an anti-Disney adult fear factory.’ This trend toward more explicit sexual material, within the greater trappings of fantasy, science-fiction and horror themes, has grown in the past few years.” “‘Wicked City’ is a tour de force from Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who is considered Japan’s most up-and-coming animation film maker. His film bombards viewers with breathtaking images of monsters, futuristic societies, other dimensions, explosive warfare bordering on the apocalyptic, and sexual situations in which humans and monsters repeatedly metamorphose into other entities.” “The sexual passages in ‘Wicked City’ are comparable to those of most R-rated erotic thrillers of the ‘Basic Instinct’ and ‘Sliver’ school, leaving just enough to the imagination, and are designed for those who don’t mind gritty adventure and startling imagery. In fact, they so inspired certain Hong Kong film makers that a live-action version of ‘Wicked City’ already has been produced, though without authorization from the Japanese.”
John Stanley, San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle, October 3, 1993, p. 29-30
“It’s only a cartoon…yeah, right. ‘Wicked City’ […] shows that sex, violence, obscenities and lots more sex can definitely exist in the world of animation. ‘Wicked City’ makes wannabe cartoon-sex movies like ‘Cool World,’ seem like kindergartner material.” “The animation throughout the movie is excellent; far superior to any previously released mainstream animated movie. The movie almost doesn’t seem animated at times, with cinematic tricks such as focal shifts and trick photography. The problem with the movie is its explicitness. A bare nipple here and there, or even a sex scene in the movie wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary. But it seems that someone is grabbing a breast every five minutes, and every ten minutes, two people (human and alien) are copulating just about everywhere. If the movie wasn’t animated, it would have to be cut back just to receive an NC-17 rating. The vulgarity is kept to a minimum, but there’s violence galore for the faction fans. From alien tentacles dismembering bodies to Taki’s souped-up, cannon-like handgun that blasts the hell out of the aliens and throws Taki through whatever wall he happens to be standing in front of when he fires it. If you want something definitely interesting and provocative in the form of animation, check out ‘Wicked City,’ but leave the kids at home.”
Chris Torres, The Santa Clara (CA Univ.) Review, October 14, 1993, pg. 2
“Another classic dusted off and dubbed by anime purveyor Carl Macek may lack the visual crispness of such higher budget films as Akira or Dirty Pair, but the 1987 theatrical release Wicked City still throws a good kick.” “Shot like a live-action film, Wicked City sports better moves than a ninth degree black belt plus some graphic sex (a la Urotsukidoji), gory violence and the repeated firing of a really cool gun. Now that you’ve finished this review, put down your magazine and get this tape! We’ll still be here when you get back.”
Aaron Vanek, Sci-Fi Universe, #5, February/March 1995, pg. 76
“Japanimation has been taking this country by storm for quite a while, and it’s easy to see why. The Japanese seem to regard comics and animation as a higher art form than Americans. This is evident in Wicked City, the new release from Streamline Pictures. Wicked City is one wicked movie …” “The art in Wicked City is incredible. From the scenery to the shape of shifting Black Worlders, Japanese animation has come a long way from the earlier versions of Speed Racer. This full-length feature is chock-full of moral struggle, violence and explicit sex scenes […] while the well-written story maintains that love will ever triumph over lust — truly a fine piece of animation. Just remember, it’s not for kids.”
unsigned, Spazz, #9, 1994, pg. 26
“My very favorite of all the Streamline-distributed pictures I’ve seen thus far — thanks to this horror-thriller’s raw jaw-dropping imagery, imagination, and much-better-than-average animation writing. (Less-than-coherent plotting, or perhaps translations, is a recurring anime weakness.)” “Production-wise, the usual anime sex-plus-mayhem is augmented with gorgeously-moody animation and a plethora of wildly-surreal scenes — including a spider woman with a consuming passion, bad guys who melt into steaming goo when killed, a turnpike tunnel choked with giant spider-webbing to ensnare cars, deadly hitmen who explode into writhing masses of eyes and tendrils during fight sequences, and so on — this latter stuff kind of like an animated version of John Carpenter’s THE THING in all its wriggling, writhing horror. Sexy, scary, weird, involving — good stuff!”
Robert DuPree, Subliminal Tattoos, #2, [August] 1994, pg. 65
“Wicked City is a beautiful example of the growing enhancement of Japanese animation over the last few decades.” “For the first time, viewers over the age of ten are pushed to worry about the fate of an animated character. This vicious and erotic Gothic love story uses mind shattering animation techniques. Wicked City should have no difficulty holding its own in theatres.”
Jake Bennett & Elizabeth Solaka, Surreal; Underground Entertainment, Winter 1994, pg. 32
[“Top 10 Anime” column #1]: “Wicked City. This one is everyone’s favorite and will probably remain in the top 10 for a while. The smooth detailed art keeps everyone’s attention, making this one of the best anime tapes on sale.”
R. J. Matthews, Video Focus, #5, November/December 1994, pg. 
unsigned, The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope, v.2 no.7, Jan. 15-March 15, 1994, pg. 17
“At midnight you awaken, heart racing, throat dry. This is not the world you know, but one close by, separated by the width of a blade, the thickness of a scream. Cobblestones have the wet give of viscera, gutters flow with tears and bile, buildings reach desperately toward a blood umber sky, and ahead, a doorway like a maw beckons. Others have opened this portal — Barker, Bosch, Rbt. Williams, Basil Wolverton — they have glimpsed the horrors of the body and the rapture of the flesh, but not dared pass through. Nor will you; that way madness lies. But surely some have, and returned? Wicked City […] might be evidence. Unlike others in its genre — and in Japan, Animated Supernatural Body Horror is a genre, a burgeoning one — Wicked City has a story to go with its crudescent imagery.” “Suffice it to say that the madonna ex machina ending begs for a deconstruction along the axes of race and gender; meanwhile, the acting is adequate and the dub refreshingly free of mouth-flap syndrome — so there are no aural distractions to the visual overstimulus.”
Jeff Yang, The (New York) Village Voice, November 23, 1993, pg. ?
“With its languid pace and gradual exposition, Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s ‘Wicked City’ aims to be the ‘Blade Runner’ of Japanese animation. Considering the frenetic pace and sci-fi absolutism of so much of that fare, this is a relief, though Kawajiri seems as paranoidally straitjacketed as his colleagues when it comes to sex. And sex figures in this animated feature on several levels.” “The story itself is sci-fi noir, with a Brave New World subtext that’s familiar in Japanimation, but thankfully absent the usual apocalypse angle. What sets ‘Wicked City’ apart is its deliberate pace, a sense of linear storytelling as opposed to an excuse for sex and war. Outside of the Black Worlder transformations, the graphics tend toward realism. At 90 minutes, Kawajiri’s film proves stylish and erotic, exciting in its limited confrontations and provocative in its ambition.”
Richard Harrington, Washington Post, January 28, 1994, pg. ?
“The movie is compelling for its gymnastic ‘camera angles,’ its kinetic pace and imaginative (if slightly twisted) images. The best way to watch — and appreciate it — is from an extremely campy distance.” “You have to constantly remind yourself this is only a cartoon.”
Desson Howe, Washington Post, January 28, 1994, pg. ?
Next week: We’re almost there!