Sunday, December 5, 2010

Goku Midnight Eye I & II (1989)

We are in the year 2014 of a cyberpunk-y future of the late 1980s. Detectives of the Special Investigation division of the Tokyo police are trying to keep Hakuryu, the new mad scientist supervillain in town, under surveillance. It's more difficult for them than you'd think, for the department suddenly develops the highest suicide rate outside of moths flying around a campfire.

What the police don't know about Hakuryu is that he owns a sizeable menagerie of bio-technological freaks, one of which is a bare-breasted woman with peacock feathers growing out of her back whose feather eyes can hypnotize just about everyone to death. When the Special Investigation unit is down to their last - and only female - member, private eye and ex-cop Goku (Shigeharu Matsuda) decides to find out what killed his friends before the last of them will die too.

A break-in into Hakuryu's high rise confronts Goku with various parts of the mad scientist's menagerie. Unfortunately, a big strong guy, sleep-inducing robot mosquitoes and a cross between a naked woman, a cat (though the movie talks of her being a dog one time), and a motorcycle who spits laser beams (she's also working as a stripper) are are a bit too much for one shirtless but tie-wearing detective to conquer, and so our hero soon finds himself face to breast and feathers with the peacock woman. It's a meeting Goku only survives by poking out his left eye and jumping into Tokyo Bay.

This would probably be the end of our hero, but a shadowy benefactor saves his life and improves Goku remarkably with a cybernetic new eye that not only carries the 80s version of the Internet right into the lucky guy's brain, but also enables him to control everything computer-controlled from trucks to satellites. But wait, there's more! The Mysterious One also gives the detective a telescopic shock poking stick, all the better to high jump through Tokyo and poke holes in people with. Looks like Goku is well equipped for a rematch with his enemies.

The second Goku movie finds our hero hired by a girl with highly unpleasant family relations and a secret government background to help find her brother before his cybernetically improved body turns him into a mad mass murderer. The case is further complicated by the girl's tendency not to tell Goku the whole truth about anything, ever, and the military's attempts at killing the cyborg before anyone else can get to him.

Well, there's no problem an inter-dimensional rocket shot out of a flying car can't solve, or so I've heard.

The Goku movies are two manga-based OVAs directed by the glorious Yoshiaki Kawajiri (responsible for anime like Wicked City! Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust! and more in that style). Especially the first one holds everything the director's name promises, possibly even more. As is Kawajiri's wont, he bombards his viewers with a highly effective combination of an 80s machismo gone bizarre, the erotically loaded grotesque in its most imaginative form (the cat-motorcycle-lady gets a rider in form of a little person in plate mail in her final appearance to make her incredible mix of weird kinks even weirder) and as much blood, explosions and breasts as any guy's inner twelve year old could ask for, all presented through some great character design and in a rather breathless pace.

What's really fascinating (and not atypical for Japanese exploitation movie culture inside and outside of anime) about Kawajiri's work is that he seldom loses the control over his material. His films may contain a flood of the incredible, the strange and the sleazy, yet he nearly always manages to funnel their waters into something amounting to a parseable plot that often manages to be interesting or exciting enough that I could imagine it to make for an entertaining film even without the utter weirdness surrounding it. Of course, having the solid plotting and the grotesquery is even better.

The first of the two Goku movies is the superior one. That's not to say the second one is bad (it does after all feature a killer cyborg, a flying car, mad military men, incest and the best rocket ever), it's just looking downright conventional in comparison to the stuff the first movie throws at the audience without losing its stride.

It's all good, though, and I'd recommend both Gokus to everyone who thinks it might sound even vaguely interesting.


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