• Angel Guts



    Released by: Artsmagic
    Released on: 3/29/2005
    Director: Various
    Cast: Various
    Year: Various
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    The Movies:

    The Angel Guts series, all based on some unusual erotic horror manga by Takashi Ishii (who would later become familiar to Japanese film enthusiasts as the director of the Black Angel films, the Gonin films, and Freeze Me) are not particularly accessible films – at least not by the standards of western viewing audiences. On the surface, they blend sex and violence (something still rather taboo on these shores) and they all deal with the act of rape, never shying away from depicting it either.

    While at first glance these films are nothing more than the crass glorification of sexual violence towards women, when one takes a closer look at them and gives some thought to the context in which the events in these films occur, it does become obvious that although these stories are told very graphically, there’s a lot more to them than first appears. The ‘guts’ in the title of the series doesn’t represent a woman’s innards but in fact refers to the courage they portray by surviving their predicaments. Hardly something you’d want to show at a rape survivor support group meeting, but not quite the gratuitous sexploitation that the titles can infer either.

    HIGH SCHOOL COED

    Tetsuro, Kajima and Sadakuni are a trio of no good biker punks who are out to do nothing but cause trouble around town. When they force a car off its path, they mug the male driver and brutally rape his female companion. Once this is done with, we see some scenes of Tetsuro in his home life. Oddly enough, he’s quite gentle with his family, his teenage sister specifically who he is almost a guardian to in many respects.

    One night, while out on a rape spree with the boys, Kajima forces himself on a girl (a high school girl, to be specific) that reminds Tetsuro a little bit too much of his own beloved sister, and the three bikers are all of a sudden not such good friends anymore. Things cool down and Kajima tells Tetsuro that to make it up to him and prove his loyalty and friendship to him that he must rape that same girl, and that he must do it in front of the other two guys. Tetsuro agrees to Kajima’s terms, but when it comes time to do the deed, things change and head in an all together different direction leading up to a bloody conclusion that will test their loyalty to themselves and to each other.

    As much a film about the loyalty of the three gangsters and Tetsuro’s love for his sister as it is about serial rape, High School Coed is a nasty little movie that has a strange heart underneath its violence. The sexual violence in this movie leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, and it draws an interesting paradox in portraying Teturo’s actions towards his family, compared to those he doesn’t know.

    RED CLASSROOM

    The film begins with the screening of a film of a high school girl being brutally raped in her classroom. A photographer named Muraki for a popular men’s adult magazine is one of the men in attendance, and he is struck by the performance that the female lead gives in the film. He becomes interested in her and sets out to find out more about her. He eventually finds her, finds out her name is Nami, and that she is all grown up now. Nami confides in him the fact that her performance in the film he saw was only all too real – she was neither acting, not was she there of her own free will – when he watched that porno film, he was watching her actually being raped. She’s been plagued by the films popularity her entire life and would do anything to disassociate herself from it. Muraki offers to photograph her legitimately to help her overcome the stigma she has had to live with all these years, and Nami is overjoyed with the idea.

    Unfortunately, a situation arises and when Muraki is supposed to meet Nami so they can work together, he ends up getting there a lot later than he had hoped and by that point, all of the baggage that Nami has had to carry around has come boiling to the surface.

    The use of color as symbolism is important in understanding where this movie is going, and it does a good job of portraying the events in a rather unusual context. Nami is a very sympathetic female lead and what she goes through in this film is horrific – the movie makes sure we know that and while her brutalization takes up a good part of the film’s running time, the underlying pathos and morality cannot be understated.

    NAMI

    Nami is a very well known female reporter for a high profile Japanese news magazine. When the movie begins, she’s working on a series of articles entitled ‘Rape And Its Consequences’ that looks at why rape happens and how those it happens to are able to move on (or in some cases, aren’t able to move on). For research purposes, Nami interviews a few different women who have survived rape attacks, and she’s not afraid to ask some rather probing questions about how the feel about the whole ordeal. One victim, who just wants to be left alone, is literally chased by Nami and her photographers and she goes after her subjects very aggressively.

    Her publisher allows her to operate this way because her articles sell copies. Nami continues to act this way because she has an unhealthy obsession with rape and may even carry her own rape fantasy that she is unable to come to terms with in a normal, healthy way (if there is such a thing), even going so far as to take matters into her own hands while in the shower one night, thinking about her research. When Nami’s hunt for the perfect rape story brings her to the local hospital and then down into the morgue where she comes face to face with a victim who can’t take it anymore, Nami snaps too and her fantasies take over.

    Slightly more erotic (the shower scene is hot stuff, even if it is twisted when you really think about what’s happening) and once again full of a strange moral, Nami lets more of the violence happen off screen this time, which works in its favor as a serious statement. There’s still no shortage of beating, raping, and nastiness on display as the interviewees relive their experiences for Nami’s readership and her own personal fetish.

    RED PORNO

    The most explicitly titled of the four films reviewed, Red Porno follows yet another woman named Nami who helps out a friend in need at her job, filling in temporarily at her request. What Nami doesn’t realize until she shows up for work is that the job is modeling for a bondage magazine named, you guessed it, Red Porno. She’s even less stoked about the situation when she finds that she’s going to be tied up and photographed in the nude.

    Nami isn’t comfortable at all with the idea but survives the shoot unscathed (fighting and shrieking the entire time, which seems to affect her photographers not one iota) but her life is thrown into a whole different world of pain when her photo graces the cover of the magazine and it hits the newsstands. She’s none too keen on the fact that a lot of people are recognizing her, and one fan is starting to get a little too close to Nami’s personal life for comfort.

    Again playing around with primary colors as symbolism (reds are a big one in this entry obviously), Red Porno is a mean spirited little movie that almost seems to be asking its audience why it continues to watch. Its look towards the Japanese bondage porno industry seems to be with disdain in much the same way that Cannibal Holocaust seemed to be saying something about Africa Addio, but Red Porno falls into the same trap that Cannibal Holocaust did in that it stoops to the same levels as its subject matter. While Ruggero Deodato was lashing out at the Mondo films popular in Italy by presenting real death on screen, Ikeda Toshiharu points his finger at the bondage industry by showing nasty scenes of bondage. It’s an odd form of commentary and not an all together affective one in my opinion, but at least Toshiharu didn’t kill any turtles in his film.

    CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

    The Angel Guts series are strange. They deal with and comment on rape by portraying it explicitly in much the same way that Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible did, but with an odd Japanese coldness to them that make them a little hard to digest at first. If you sit down and really think about what is happening to the characters and why though, the films become less about exploitation and more about self examination. Why the subject of rape continues to fascinate not only Japanese audiences but viewers from around the world is a strange and poignant question, and one that isn’t really answered with any of these films but one that isn’t shied away from either.