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  Ultimate Teacher Cockroach carnage vs. Pussy power
Year: 1988
Director: Toyoo Ashida
Stars: Hiroko Kasahara, Naoko Takenaka, Yusaku Yara, Ichiro Nagai, Keichi Nanba, Naoki Tatsuta, Shinya Otaki, Shozo Isuka, Koichi Yamadera, Miki Ito, Nobuo Tobita
Genre: Comedy, Martial Arts, Animated, Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Emperor High School is the worst high school in Japan, rife with lawlessness, lax discipline and teenage delinquency. Newly arrived school principal and monstrous mutant half-man, half-cockroach (?!) Ganpachi Chabane (voiced by famed character actor Naoko Takenaka) is determined to bring the kids into line, by any violent means necessary. The one person tough enough to stand up to Ganpache's brutal bully-boy tactics is deceptively demure and beautiful karate-kicking schoolgirl Hinako Shiratori (Hiroko Kasahara). As leader of the toughest gang at Emperor High, she single-handedly foils his schemes. However, given Hinako's confidence stems an almost childlike dependence on her “lucky underwear” emblazoned with a cute kitty logo, Ganpache deploys a sure-fire weapon to take her down... public humiliation.

Adapted from a 1981 manga series written and drawn by Atsuji Yamamoto, Ultimate Teacher, a wacky fusion of sex comedy, post-apocalyptic science fiction and martial arts action, was among the first batch of anime released in the UK through Manga Entertainment. Here you have a rare instance where the British dub captures the bawdy tone of the source material better than the American release; replacing the latter’s description of Hinako"s "Lucky Kitty Gym Shorts" with "Velvet Pussy Panties." As such Ultimate Teacher fed into the then-prevailing, local media-fueled impression that all Japanese animation was perverted and weird. Yet stripped of its surrealistic sci-fi comedy trappings, the sex gags are really no different than those found in a Benny Hill sketch or Carry On film.

In many ways Ultimate Teacher represents the kind of cheerful bad taste, sex-and-violence obsessed genre romp Troma Films strive to make yet repeatedly fall short of the mark. Admittedly the ongoing obsession with schoolgirls and their underwear remains one of the more suspect aspects of Japanese pop culture, but the racy humour is so zany and over-the-top here as to prove largely inoffensive. Which is more than can be said of the bizarre running joke with where crudely caricatured "foreigners" serve as background extras. Because it’s funny to see spear-carrying Africans wandering the streets of Japan, right? The answer is: no. But luckily this is only one misfire in a relentless barrage of silliness.

Ultimate Teacher's undeniably weird plot makes marginally more sense when you know it is primary goal is to parody certain story tropes specific to the teenage delinquent manga stories that dominated Japanese pop culture in the Seventies. Pretty panty-obsessed heroine Hinako endures the same hard knocks, surprise skirmishes and "macho" life lessons as the average schoolyard antihero of a Seventies delinquent manga, only with the sci-fi strangeness and kink factor cranked up to eleven. However by the time Ultimate Teacher was released weird high school sex comedies were very much a staple of manga and anime. Japanese high schools are traditionally so well behaved that these kinds of outrageously bawdy school fantasies appealed tremendously to teenagers. Go Nagai pioneered the subgenre with Shameless High School (1969) and Kekko Kamen (1974), both of which were adapted as both anime and live-action features, while the Eighties saw the rise of a "softer" though no less zanier high school fantasies like Urusei Yatsura (1981) and Project A-Ko (1986). However Ultimate Teacher's view of high school as a twisted mutant battleground where kids are out of control and teachers employ increasingly extreme scare tactics not only prefigures modern classic Kill la Kill (2013) but reflects Japan's overblown obsession with delinquency in the Eighties. At the time the media ran all sorts of scare stories about violent kids and brutal teachers, fueling an atmosphere of paranoia and oppression that seem to be Ultimate Teacher's primary targets.

Toyoo Ashida, best known for directing macho all-action anime like Fist of the North Star (1984) and Vampire Hunter D (1985), stages the same wild staccato action sequences found in those works. Only with a wildly surrealistic bent that has assassins disguise themselves as microwave ovens or don Cupid costumes to take pot shots at Hinako. Nevertheless for all Ashida's efforts and general anything-for-a-laugh approach neither the comedic nor action aspects really kick into high gear. It does not help that Hinako is not an especially personable heroine. Nor does she prove the commanding, charismatic figure the anime keeps insisting she is, given other characters routinely bail her out of a tight spot right through to the fittingly nonsensical finale. The closing theme is performed by then-big name J-pop band Kome-Kome Club whose lead singer-songwriter Tatsuya Ishii went on to an interesting if short-lived live-action directing career with family fantasy Kappa (1994) and mermaid romance Acri (1996).

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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