Joker: Marginal City, directed by Hideaki Kushi and Osamu Yamasaki. 37/42 minutes. April 21, 1992.
Here is another one-shot OAV that is fan-subtitled. It was produced by Studio Sign, and distributed in Japan by Happinet Entertainment under the Cyclone label; but it was apparently never licensed for a U.S. release. It was probably too in-group for America; adapted from a manga by Katsumi Michihara (art) and Yuu Maki (writer) that was completely unknown in the U.S. Also, its humor about homosexuality would have been a hard-sell in America in the early 1990s.
It’s about a police officer/superman who is a genetically-engineered/cyborg shapeshifter who can absorb the DNA of any person who “he” touches, and become a duplicate of that person. Therefore Joker can be either male or female, and this is certainly romantically explored. Joker is a member of a Special Police Task Force, authorized to not only capture criminals but to judge them and, if necessary, execute them. As a male, Joker has Robocop abilities. As a female, Joker is such a stereotypically weak female – and not just posing — that this was offensively non-PC even in 1992. Joker has a human partner, Rin Rikudo. When Joker is a man, they are pals with Joker as Rin’s gay lover right over Rin’s objections that he doesn’t swing that way. When Joker is a woman, romance ensues.
The OAV opens with an introduction showing Joker in his male take-no-prisoners mode. (I’m not sure why he wears designer sunglasses other than that they make him look super-cool.)
A white- (or pale blue/lavender) haired but young serial killer is slaughtering young prostitutes and taking their hearts. The police (apparently not Joker’s Special Police Task Force unit) consider the case. Rin is the stereotypical young nerd; his superior is the macho ripped stud. “He’s only going after young women. What a waste.” Apparently none of these police wear uniforms, since Rin is the best-dressed in a suit & tie. (Even if his tie is untied.)
(Note that the subtitles identify Rin’s superior as “Inspector”, but on the sound track Rin consistently calls him “senpai”, which is not a title but an informal address of respect to a usually-older role model. If Batman was Japanese, Robin would address him as senpai.)
Rin and his sempai are called to an incident in an alley in Ward 4. This is the killer’s latest victim; still alive despite having her heart cut out. The killer is seen watching them. Rin’s senpai uses the excuse of looking for the next potential victims to ask any passing attractive women for their measurements and favorite panty colors. Joker appears and drags Rin off. (Since Rin has no interest in Joker as a gay lover, and they’re not buddy-cops assigned to work together, what is his motivation for their relationship?)
The following romantic scene with Rin leaves no doubt that Joker as a woman is an especially girly-girl. Incidentally, this OAV must be set during Tokyo’s monsoon season. It’s always either raining heavily or darkly overcast.
Joker lures the killer out. He’s also super-powered, with Wolverine’s adamantine claws. But where Joker is a cyborg, he’s an android! (Shades of Bladerunner.)
Joker asks where Dr. Bayfarm is, showing he apparently knows more about what’s going on than the killer does. They fight. Joker is wounded and goes to Rin’s apartment to recuperate. Note that Joker can’t tell Rin what’s going on. This shows that Rin and his department of the police are not part of Joker’s Special Police Task Force.
The killer is also injured and is rescued by Rin, who he mistakes for Dr. Bayfarm. Why? Do Rin and Dr. Bayfarm look alike? Rin recognizes the killer as neither man nor woman. When the killer speaks more than a few words, it becomes clear that “he” has a woman’s voice, and is really an “it” rather than a “he” – a neuter.
All right; the big secret is revealed. Dr. Bayfarm is trying to create the Perfect Human in his giant test tubes; neither (or both) man and woman, with super-powers and admantine claws. But no heart. That’s why the killer android is stealing human’s hearts. It wants Dr. Bayfarm’s heart. But since it doesn’t know where he is, it’s stealing prostitutes’ hearts in the meantime. (Does this make sense?)
Joker and the nameless android fight. Rin arrives and shoots the android. The android turns from a sexless Perfect Human into a really grotesque monster. (Dr. Bayfarm must be really kinky.) The three fight some more. Rin kills it for sure at last.
“Why? Why was it born? Why did Dr. Bayfarm create it?” “It must have loved Dr. Bayfarm so much it wanted to kill him.” Huh? The end.
Not really, because after a 3 ½-minute closing credit crawl, there’s a coda explaining that Rin never saw Joker again, but he imagines that Joker is somewhere in the city, searching for Dr. Bayfarm. This “explains” the lack of any clear resolution to this story. (This may have been clarified in the manga, but since we never saw the manga in America, we’ll never know.)
Joker: Marginal City up to the end of the closing credits is only 37 minutes long. But someone wanted this to be a 42-minute OAV — presumably so it could be marketed as a full-length movie, defined as 40 minutes or more. The padding is an otherwise-pointless 5-minute “Special Report” of recycled footage that we just saw, explaining nothing.
Next week: Forgotten OAVs #48: “Digital Devil Monogatori”