DVD
Angel Guts
The Nikkatsu Series (Region 1 Edition)

Starring: Tatsuma Higuchi, Yuuki Mizuhara, Jun Izumi and Mayako Katsuragi
Artsmagic Ltd
www.artsmagicdvd.com
RRP US $79.95
ATU 017
Certificate: Not Rated (US)
Available 29 March 2005


I have to admit, when the five disc set of the Angel Guts films came through my letterbox, I was a touch concerned. Emblazoned on the front of the box were the word "Caution, contains strong sexual violence". Now for an asian box set to say that on the front cover? Well, let's just say that alarm bells were ringing very loudly.

The films themselves have very little in common with each other, apart from the fact that each involves the rape of different young woman called Nami. The name "Angel Guts" comes from the courage that each character shows to get them through the horrendous ordeals that they experience. Rape is a very prominent part of these films, and whilst the act of rape portrayed here are very brutal and uncompromising, thankfully they do not go into over-explicit detail. Even so, the films are not a very comfortable watch.

High school co-ed:

Whilst the title suggests the sort of tripe pornography you can find in your local sex shop, this could not be further from the truth. The film is concerned with a local biker gang who rob, rape and pillage the town. The film begins with a rather long winded rape scene with the gang's three members. The problem with this scene is that it does make you feel dirty and that somehow you are participating in this horrendous act - not good.

After the initial cornea roasting scene, we are then treated to a story of a gang imploding due to arguments and emotional conflicts with the lives that they lead. One fight that stands out sees one of the gang members stopping two gang members from raping a girl called Nami. But soon after he wants to apologise to the two members and ask for their forgiveness. The only way they will accept his apologise is if he rapes Nami himself, and curiously enough he agrees.

This is just one example of where this film heads and in the explosive last scenes, we see the gang break up and one member that we follow closely starts a fight with a Yakuza in a nightclub. Then cue the end of the film.

In short, this is a nasty piece of work which is as memorable as it is brutal.

Red Classroom:

This film has a more dark feel to it (Yes that is possible!) and to a certain extent tries to explain (or at least dig a little deeper) into the mixture of violence and sex.

The beginning of this film sees the principal man, Muraki Testuo, watching a seedy blue film of a schoolgirl being raped. He himself is a pornographer and he becomes obsessed with the girl in the film. So he decides to try to find the girl (Who is now a woman in her own right).

When he finally finds the girl (And guess what? her name is Nami) he discovers that a large number of men have recognised her from the film and she has in turn wanted them to forget about her and leave her in peace. The way she has achieved this is by giving herself to whatever obsessive desired they held within. Fortunately Muraki Testuo's intentions are honourable as he seems more curious about Nami than attracted by her.

However, when they arrange to meet the next evening, he gets delayed by the police and as Nami was starting to warm to him, she just leaves the rendezvous point.

It's a further three years till they meet again. Nami has thrown herself in with the most depraved men, offering herself to all takers in dark back-lot sheds. The twist at the end was certainly strange and some people may find it upsetting and whilst the only act of rape in this film, was the film Muraki Testuo watched at the beginning, the acts of consensual sex in this film are in some ways more disturbing. This film is a testament to the long-term psychological effects that, violent exploitation of women, can produce.

Nami:

Ok. This is one for all you investigative journalists out there. Nami is one such journalist and goes around searching for rape victims in an attempt to gain an insight into the effects of rape and the victims feelings. Aside form the obvious thought that this type of journalism is, in its own way, rape (she pursues the victims and keeps pressing them until she can get their stories), this film is a mixed bag of messages that are easy to see and uncomfortable on the stomach.

One of the first things that we notice is that the stories seem to awaken a dark sexual desire in Nami and some of the film is the viewer witnessing her satisfying these desires.

This is until Nami finds one rape victim who has been driven mad and during Nami's questioning she is forced to re-evaluate her own desires by the victim. She realises that her own fantasies bear no resemblance to the brutal horror that rape represents.

This is a very large slap to the face for people who may fantasise about rape in a disconnected way and may make them re-evaluate why they are drawn to such material in the first place.

Red Porno:

This sees Nami (she gets around a bit) stand in for her friend on a porno shoot that specialises in degrading bondage and (near) rape style shots. Nami is naturally frightened but comes out of the shoot feeling no harm has been done. This is until she appears on the front cover of the magazine Red Porno (geddit?). This makes her the focus of attention for a series of perverts and stalkers who get it into their head that because she is willing to be photographed, she is also willing to play out their sick fantasies.

One particular stalker manages to track her down and whilst she is scared of him, they soon share a bonding. But it all ends hopelessly. This film provides plenty of titillation for those with an interest in violent sexuality but it also conveys a deep moral warning, but you feel no better for it though.

Red Vertigo:

A very young nurse, Nami (shock!) is attacked and raped by two patients at the hospital she works in, she then gets home to find her fiancÚ in bed with another woman. Meanwhile a drunk called Muraki is having very large problems with his personal life.

As he tries to leave town, he hits Nami in his car. Thinking that he has killed her, he carries the 'corpse' to the car. When he realises that she is still alive, he attempts to remove her clothes whilst he is driving. After a small chase scene and a half rape (he can't perform) they somehow develop a relationship. This culminates in some very long and explicit sex scenes.

This is a very curious film and makes you realise why the box set is called Angel Guts. The strength that Nami shows in this film illustrates that with strength and forgiveness good things can happen. Also I think another message is that sex is not enough for a relationship to work. This piece really is a "make your own mind up" film.

All in all, this is one of the most thought and emotionally provoking, ten hours I have ever spent. The subject of rape is (very naturally) a hot potato that I believe will be in existence forever. These films are exploitative, but to counteract that, the messages that they give are also very strong. But one thing that I must say is that these films never make you feel at ease with the subject and will give you food for thought for a long time to come.

Not for everyone.

Simon Lee

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