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  Love City He's a funky psychic superman
Year: 1986
Director: Koichi Mashimo
Stars: Yuki Ueda, Banjou Ginga, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Ichiro Nagai, Issei Futamata, Joji Yanami, Kenyu Horiuchi, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Mami Koyama, Miyuki Ueda, Nachi Nozawa, Takeshi Watabe
Genre: Action, Thriller, Animated, Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Little psychic girl Ai (voiced by Yuki Ueda) and her protector Kei (Hirotaka Suzuoki) are on the run from rival gangs of “Headmeters” - humans whose DNA have been restructured through nanotechnology to give them psychic powers. Feuding leaders Mr. Leigh (Kiyoshi Kobayashi) and Lyrochin (Ichiro Nagai) want Ai for the genetic secrets she contains, so the good guys join forces with ex-cop turned private eye Raiden Yoshioka (Nachi Nozawa), sexy bunny girl - and onetime enemy turned ally - K2 (Mami Koyama), and a feisty feline in cool shades, to battle an outbreak of otherworldly invaders in sleek future Tokyo.

Flawed in parts and essentially one continuous chase, Love City remains a slick, fast-paced sci-fi product of the bubble economy anime boom. Based on a manga by Shuto Itabashi (an artist who later drew one of the X-Files manga), the mix of psychic kids, biker action and genetic experiments gone awry was later overshadowed by Akira (1988), but this remains a tautly scripted thriller, full of ingenious concepts, exciting action and outlandish visuals. In terms of style, this is far removed from Akira’s in-your-face “realism”, sort of like Scanners (1981) as re-imagined by the French “cinema du look” movement, with time-outs for J-pop musical interludes, teen romance (dreamy flashbacks to Kei’s beachside encounter with his lost love), in-jokes (a TV station called THX-1138), and Disneyesque cuteness (cuddly cats as all-powerful super-beings reoccur in anime from Galactic Pirates (1989) to DNA Sights 999.9 (1997)).

Things get off to a running start after which the script maintains a consistently gripping, “answers first, questions later” narrative style and feeds us plot chunks on the go. While the central Ai-Kei relationship flirts troublesomely with Lolita fantasy, the former’s true identity remains a touching romantic revelation, although the script offers plenty of exploding heads and freakish mutants (Lyrochin is a wizened imp in a jar atop a robot body!) to keep horror fans happy. It’s a rare anime whose budget doesn’t quite match its crazy concepts, with audacious touches like a motorbike chase after giant floating heads, skies full of alien spermatozoa, the idea of cannibalism being the final step in evolution, and a neat idea wherein the villain isn’t human but a mutant gene polymer with designs on world domination. Eventually it erupts into a pulsating green mass of primordial matter prior to the ingeniously rendered showdown with the psychic super-girl.

Alongside the similarly complex The Weathering Continent (1992), this was a rare big screen outing for veteran Koichi Mashimo, who went on to helm fan favourites like Dominion: Tank Police (1998), Irresponsible Captain Tylor (1992), Sorcerer Hunters (1995) and the anime version of Robin Hood (1990). Mashimo keeps a remarkably tight hold over potentially wayward elements, while only the here-we-go-again twist ending proves a letdown. Acclaimed in some quarters, it still doesn’t make sense. Kicking off with a guitar pop anthem (“Hold me tight, we’re in Love City! Won’t you listen to my message? It’s free, you know?”), the frequent musical interludes reach a crescendo of cool with the English language action theme that accompanies Kei beating up a pair of hip-hop styled zombies (“He’s the man! He’s the psychic fighter! He’s got super-psychic powers!”) while a crowd cheers him on. Super-funky.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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