Kekkou Kamen Anime, Manga and Live-Action

April 8th, 2004

My face is masked, but I bare my body for justice!

Kekkou Kamen, misspelled as Kekko Kamen for the anime release, is one more utterly bizarre story brought to you from the warped mind of Go Nagai, the creative genius behind Cutey Honey, Devilman, Mazinger G, Devilman Lady and more. But of all these, Kekkou Kamen wins on several levels – it’s the least plausible (and that’s saying something, if you’ve ever seen or read any of the others!), has the most naked women and is just the most utterly, indescribably *strange* anime and manga I’ve ever encountered. I absolutely love it.

The story takes place at Toenail of Satan’s Sparta Academy, an incredibly strict private high school, where physical and emotional torture are use to motivate the student body to excel. “Toenail of Satan” is the Principal’s actual name, btw. We follow the travails of hapless student Takahashi Mayumi, whose inferior grades and hot body make her a prime target of all the “punshiment specialist”s hijinks. To protect Mayumi, and the other students, a mysterious naked woman has appeared on the scene – she bares her body for justice, she says, but keeps her face covered because she’s embarrassed.

Kekkou Kamen-oneesama, as Mayumi calls her, always comes in the nick of time and uses her Spread Legs Attack to defeat the foe. The foe usually being some drooling pervert of a teacher who is just on the edge of sexually abusing Mayumi or one of the other female stdents. (The boy students appear to be only beaten, not sexually abused.)

And yet, (she says, knowing that after the prevous paragraphs everyone’s lips are curling in disgust,) despite all this, Kekkou Kamen is really incredibly funny. Mostly because it’s so amazingly awful and offensive that to take offense is impossible.

The anime is actually laugh-out-loud hysterical right from the beginning, when the first punishment specialist is “Gestaopoko” a S&M Nazi-themed dom with a whip and questionable fashion sense. Kekkou Kamen defeats her by remembering something she heard – that S&M Queens *really* want to be whipped themselves…. There is tons and tons of Yuri implication and overt Yuriness in the anime, which makes it worth buying. There’s also a terrific moment when the characters blast the fourth wall to hell by telling us that there’ll be more anime if this volume sells well. ^_^ It didn’t and there wasn’t.

The manga is a little more horrible and abusive, but so eyebrow-raisingly weird, that again, its hard to be offended. In the manga, we finally learn who Kekkou Kamen really is…and there is no way you’d ever be able to get it from the anime, so don’t bother…she doesn’t even show up as a character in the anime. Basically, by the end of the manga, every girl in the school is naked and masked and all are claiming to be Kekkou Kamen, but eventually, when she does show up, she does manage to save the day *and* Mayumi, once again. Yuri-wise there’s mostly akogare-type adoration and hero worship on Mayumi’s part, but I don’t really get any strong Yuri sense from that. There’s one totally butchy teacher, with a cross-dressing (and passing) younger sister, but again, the lesbo vibes are low-level at best. A shame too…I think this manga *needs* at least one openly lesbian character. If Go Nagai ever re-does the KK manga for the new century, I hope he adds one. ^_^

That takes us to the original Live-Action movies, of which there are three. These live-action movies were all unremittingly low-budget and poorly acted, with awkward scripts and BAD staging. So, of course, I adore them. The first movie is pretty close the the basic plot of the manga and the guy who plays Toenail of Satan is magnificently bad in the role. He’s perfect. The woman who plays Kekkou Kamen was some JAV star and pin-up, so her playing naked was fine. Her acting is …adequate, but really, who cares? The end of the movie is hysterically bad, and there is some Yuri subtext.

The second movie is the strongest in Yuri…there’s even a little actual girl/girl (not too much, don’t get your hopes up) thing going on, but with lots of subtext and one cool, butchy teacher. The same acting/script/low-budget thing applies to all three movies, so don’t think that they got better as time got on, either. ^_^

The third movie is actually kind of sad and funny, with lots of Go Nagai in-jokes, as Toenail of Satan’s family shows up to visit. Most of them are spoofs of other Go Nagai characters. And Kekkou Kamen falls in love, sadly with a guy, but whatever. There’s a funny scene at an amusement park, as KK tries to eat ice cream through her mask, and the ending, during and after the credits is absolutely insanely funny, as the girls of the school persuade a beaten and defeated Toenail of Satan to come back to the school and start playing soccer with him. As they run down the train platform, T of S’s last act is to plummet off the platform, then reappear, abashed, then he and the girls all share a good laugh. The End. No, really.

And, now, at last, there is a new KK Live-Action movie release to the theaters, which premiered this past week in Tokyo! The trailer makes it look hopelessly artless and fun, even if it has no obvious Yuri.

Ah…the trailer reminded me – I have to mention the *song.* The song that you hear in the trailer, and as the theme to the anime (sung by Kekkou Kamen’s voice actress Shinohara Emi, aka the voice of Sailor Jupiter/Kino Makoto in Sailor Moon, and Rosa Chinensis/Youko in Maria-sama ga Miteru) is amazingly funny. And in the manga, *Kekkou Kamen* herself sings the song as she fights, which makes it just that much better. I’m so very glad that they kept it for this movie, because it’s wonderful and camp and just about defines this whole series in a nutshell.

So, there you have it – Yuri in the anime, a little in two of the movies and not really any in the manga. Enjoy, but probably not. ^_^

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