Cult Cinema: Volume 2
In terms of cult cinema, anime, which encompasses a wide variety of genres within the blanket term of Japanese animation, can be difficult to categorize. Thankfully, its fans are not, because they all adopt the same high-pitched tone of indignation whenever you point out that jerking off to 14-year olds covered in semen and ectoplasm is weird even if the schoolgirls are animated.
Of course, anime isn’t defined solely by hentai, the cartoon pornography that immediately pops to mind whenever the genre is mentioned to someone not dressed as Naruto or Pikachu. Sci-fi anime, exemplified by Akira and Ghost in the Shell, is also popular, as are horror titles, medieval epics, and romances set in coffee shops and bakeries for all the twees to watch on their Hello Kitty iPods.
But one of the most popular genres is the feudal action thriller, as seen is Ninja Scroll. The 1994 film, since turned into a TV series, contains many of the elements that define this particular genre of anime, including childishly romantic love, stunning action scenes, and at least one rape.
Cult: Feudal Action Anime
Adherents: 15-year-olds on 4chan, creepy old men banned from porn stores for unpaid late fees.
Basic Tenets: Honour and nobility, romantic love, demonic magic rape
Key Example: Ninja Scroll (1994) – Directed and written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Ninja Scroll is, essentially, a cross between an Akira Kurosawa samurai film and the scarier parts of Willow. Junei, a wandering mercenary, finds himself embroiled in a plot to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate using monsters and demons and backflips. Alongside Kagero, a woman with poison skin, and Dakuan, a shriveled version of Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, Jubei begins a half-hearted crusade against the forces of evil.
This entertaining film has everything a good feudal anime needs, namely a scene where a monstrous penis invades a squirming Asian, followed by enough flashing lights, loud noises and action scenes to keep the audience awake after they’ve ejaculated.
But even better, it has an adorably sweet undercurrent of romance, as Jubei and Kagero begin to fall for each other. Sadly, their love is doomed, both because Kagero’s touch is fatal, and because she got humped by a rock monster and is likely full of sharp quartz shards, so conjugation of their love would be like fucking a cutlery drawer. Normally, this juxtaposition of adult themes with a Babysitter’s Club love story might seem off-putting, but not with anime. But the genre thrives on this sort of contradiction, one that would certainly lead to a child porn conviction were it live action instead of animated. Like any good cult, feudal anime (and anime in general,) is too weird to attract mainstream attention, but fascinating enough to build a following. It’s just a pity they have to dress like Pikachu.
Ninja Scroll is available on Special Edition DVD.
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