Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend

Pornography is usually pretty boring.  Maybe that sounds odd coming from a straight male, but let’s face it: it’s almost all the same.  If it’s professional-grade stuff, it’s littered with bad actors, fake orgasms, and a disproportionate amount of ugly people, and one rarely fares any better with amateur material.  But it’s a successful industry because it isn’t really designed to be interesting, just arousing.  Or, that’d be the case provided one isn’t discussing the somewhat notorious underground of Japanese cartoon porn.  

Understandably, similar problems abound in hentai as they do in any other genre of porn, but at the same time, there seems to be a pseudo-serious embrace of the ridiculously fantastical sexual fetishes.  They’re cartoons that are so incredibly over the top that their intention to arouse the audience seems to play second fiddle to an intent to titillate and ‘merely’ entertain it, seeing as how they dive into the horrid extremes of sexual depravity and revel in an all-consuming excess of debauchery that it’s hardly imaginable that they’re grounded at all in reality.  The mindset behind this kind of entertainment obviously didn’t start with Urotsukidoji, but it remains one of the foremost and quintessential excursions into it for the animated medium.  If nothing else, it certainly showcases some of the best aspects of these underground endeavors. 

Anyone who has heard of this title will be familiar with its infamy.  For those who haven’t, let me briefly explain: the comic that the Urotsukidoji OVA was based on was notorious for popularizing (or arguably introducing) the tentacle rape genre of cartoon pornography in Japan.  During the OVA boom, this comic was inevitably adapted to the screen and shipped abroad—becoming one of the first and most notorious of the “video nasties” in the UK—while simultaneously receiving heavy censors and edits in nearly every country it was exported to.  The US was no exception.  In fact, it’s extraordinarily difficult to find Central Park’s unedited release of the actual OVA on DVD, and to my knowledge it was never released to VHS tape in the first place.

What did happen, however, was Western distributors took some of the more extreme portions out (albeit preserving most all of them in edited form) and edited the remainder into a single “film version”.  The result is this, the Movie Version of the notorious three episode long OVA.  There are few differences between the versions even worth mentioning, and I chose to review this rather than the full OVA version only because this version is more readily available to anyone willing to dig for out of print anime DVDs.  About the only changes made involve the shortening of a few of the sexual encounters—and by this I do indeed mean that they were merely shortened, most of them were not removed entirely.

That said, this is still remains a masterpiece in visceral cinema.  Curiously enough, for a title recognized for establishing the genre of tentacle rape pornography, there is surprisingly little tentacle rape to be found.  The sexual depravity indeed reaches nearly unsurpassable heights in some instances (though, to its credit, there are surely more extreme titles out there… somewhere), involving everything from horrific bodily mutations and disgusting fungal phallus growths to demonic rape-monsters that literally destroy the bodies of their victims through sheer sexual energy alone.  These sorts of encounters are quite graphic, despite the edits made to this version, and involve no small amount of deranged creative imagery and ample amounts of gore. 

The plot, while hardly coherent enough to be considered well-written or even all that lucid, holds itself together well enough in between the scenes of horrific depravity and surrealistic sensory overload.  Every three thousand years marks the coming of the Chōjin, a monstrous demon-god whose presence results in the mingling of the realm of Man and the realm of demons.  This demon-god manifests itself within a human being and essentially incubates there until the appropriate time for it to emerge—in the mean time granting this human inhuman sexual prowess and uncontrollable sexual urges, both of which periodically result in his transformation into a monster.  Over the course of the rest of the film, key characters reveal this crucial turning point in human history to be an enormous power play of cosmological importance that will decide the fate of all Creation.  By the time the film ends, Earth is in the throes of a final extinction at the hands of this uncontrollable demon god, the cities are left in ruin, demons are fast overtaking the populous, and the storms of Hell are devouring the planet—all of which, it is explained in exposition, is supposed to pave the way for some sort of messianic offspring of the demon god.  This part, however, is never shown and, given the atmosphere and nature of the work, is hardly guaranteed.

The plot itself turns out to be a great depiction of a colossal train wreck.  The handful of characters that actually know what is going on are holding out hope for the best amidst this crisis, but in the process of misjudging, misinterpreting, and mistaking each other, all plans for such optimism fall through to result in a remarkably bleak outcome.  When speaking strictly on its narrative, it’s a surprisingly well-told absurdist drama with ample amounts of black comedy, if one has the fortitude to laugh through the suffocating atmosphere and abounding misery.

From this summary, the plot probably sounds like a typical Japanese anime horror flick, and one isn’t all too far from the mark with such an assertion.  But the ridiculousness of the plot isn’t what makes Urotsukidoji such an intense experience—nor, really, is it the sheer brutality of its extreme graphicness.  It’s the combination of these elements, along with an utterly unrelenting method of destroying any characters or actions that the audience may be able to root for or relate to.

It is because of this that the film is exceedingly dark, nihilistic, and hopeless.  By the time the climax of the film is approaching and the viewer is caught in the clutches of the sheer surreal vacuum of disgust and nausea, it is apparent that the fictional world Urotsukidoji has constructed has succeeded in being “believable enough”.  This isn’t a work that an audience can easily shake off or laugh at, as so many other titles often are.  It isn’t even a work that can be summarized as being ‘merely’ body horror tentacle rape cartoon porn—even though it is, ultimately, exactly that.  It is simultaneously more than that.  It is startlingly affecting depiction of a Freudian nightmare of apocalyptic proportions.  It taps into a sense of primordial terror that lurks just underneath our civilized consciousness, and it rips that surface tension away to reveal the utterly depraved cesspool of repressions festering with inadequacies, guilt, self-loathing, and unerring hatred projected upon a world overridden with postmodern futility—all of which are twisted into depictions of surreal disgusting sexual perversions. 

This is a documentary of Hell that would make even Bosch satisfied, a catalogue of sexual deviancy that would make de Sade laugh with joy, a portrait of an utterly twisted world overridden with grim grotesquery that might even make William Burroughs crack a smile.  It rapes the viewer with its audacity and its overpowering imagery like no ordinary grindhouse or splatterpunk or extreme porno flick can.  It leaves the viewer feeling cold and ugly and isolated in a world teetering on the edge of a nightmarish sexual Armageddon.  Urotsukidoji’s simplicity is the reason it is so effective; in practical psychology Freud’s theories are outdated and largely inaccurate—but the fear of his implications still lurks within postmodern artwork.  Few other works emphasize this fact with such a cold, heartless, personal intensity.

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About Merridian
Merri lives with his wife in the USA. He is a happy human being. He wrote for Forced Perspective while the project was active, and he is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of QNUW. His newest project is YNRI // Transcendence, dedicated to poetry, short fiction, and artwork.

2 Responses to Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend

  1. Stefan D. Byerley says:

    I’ve always wanted to see this movie, but it’s limited, discontinued release and just plain forgetfulness thwarted me at every turn. Though I was never into erotic art (porn), other material I’ve seen that delve into the twisted and terrifying spin of sexuality really seem to be effective, even if only on that primal level. Let’s face it. Everyone can relate to sexual desires of some sort. And to have those desires portrayed in a freakish and hellish perspective can really get under people’s skin when executed well.

    It’s almost like The Exorcist in the sense that both films seem to successfully take something innocent or desirable and twist it into gut-wrenching horror. I think films that work on that level alone already have a head up in having the potential of being truthfully horrific.

    • Mac Colestock says:

      Yeah, I’d say this was pretty effective. I’m not typically one to be emotionally affected by my entertainment, but every once in awhile something really incredible leaves me speechless. Even after watching plenty of other extreme underground films that usually contort, twist, and push the envelope as far as extreme debauchery or graphic violence go, Urotsukidoji was one work that really left an impression. It’s revels so thoroughly in a “the bad guys win” type of scenario, where all hope for a better future is crushed like worthless confetti and all the good guys are either turned into evil people or are proven to be totally ineffectual and incompetent. It certainly has its eye trained on a specific brand of nihilistic futility that was difficult for me to shake off, and I’m not even confident that this was all that intentional; the story isn’t the slightest bit “profound” and the characters are barely even developed beyond superficial appearances—it’s just that the combination of the grotesquery of imagery, absurdity of narrative, and the way the whole plot was engineered to produce a no-win situation made the work a very suffocating experience. I think it was the unerringly bleak tone that slowly consumed the story which was more horrific than most of the body horror and sexual imagery, but it surely wouldn’t have been so inescapable and effective without those elements either.

      Availability is indeed rather limited. Central Park Media licensed and released both the movie version and the OVA to DVD sometime in the early 00s, but everything that company had is obviously out of print due to the business going under in ’09—only a small selection of the licenses they held have been picked up by other distributers, and Urotsukidoji so far isn’t one of them. I found my copy (which is legit, not bootleg) from a third party seller on Amazon Marketplace with no problem, though—and for an out of print DVD, it was pretty affordable (if I remember right I paid about $17 for it new). You can probably check eBay with similar results. Central Park Media’s release of the actual OVA runs for astronomical prices, though; last time I checked people were asking close to $100 for a used copy.

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