Foreign Film Review: HK: Forbidden Super Hero
I hunted this Japanese film down like a stalker and watched it like a voyeur. In a review that is bound to get us a ton of traffic from less than reputable sites, I review 2014’s live action telling of Hentai Kamen!
I’ve been looking to review this movie ever since it popped up on my radar a few years back. I read the manga that HK: Forbidden Super Hero is based off of. The silly, over the top antics of a pervert-crimefighter was a hoot. The abnormal content is handled with an almost naive indifference, using it to show many staples of the superhero genre in a novel way. The problem: no streaming service was going to touch this movie with a ten foot… er… pole. So I bit the bullet and E-Bay’ed the DVD. The things I do for you, gentle reader!
HK: Forbidden Super Hero (2014)
Kyosuke Hikijo is your normal, teenage high-school student. With very abnormal parents. His father was the best detective on the force. When he tracks down a criminally deviant S&M Dominatrix, we also find out that he is a hard M (masochist for the uninitiated). They of course get married and give birth to a son who inherits his Father’s strong sense of justice, and his Mother’s perversity. The perversity gives Kyoskue, who is normally a punching bag, superhuman powers when he dons women’s panties as a mask. Thus begins the adventures of our crime-fighting super-pervert: Hentai Kamen!
Teach Us, Booby Lady!
*I’ve always wanted to use this line. Sorry, not sorry.*
Once again, it’s time for a Japanese lesson. To understand what this film is trying to do, we’ll break down both the H and the K in HK: Forbidden Super Hero.
Lesson One: Weird Word Play
Hentai can be translated as abnormal or forbidden: something that breaks the norms of Japanese society. This allows the series to show the superhero trope of a society that has to wrestle with a superhero in their midst. From Batman‘s vigilantism to J. Jonah Jameson’s vendetta against a Spider-Man he finds antithetical, this uneasy truce between society and its out of bound defenders is a big mainstay of super heroics. So much so that Marvel keeps trotting it out in the Civil War events.
HK: Forbidden Super Hero turns that aspect into stark (naked) relief by employing the common usage of Hentai: Perverted. The media as well as Kyosuke’s love interest Aiko wrestle with the fact that while HK is obviously a good guy doing good deeds, he does it in fishnets and a thong; and subdues his enemies by crushing their faces into his crotch. It’s a constant joke in the series where Aiko calls Kyosuke “weird” (hentai), and he automatically assumes that she’s figured out that he’s the masked “pervert” (also hentai).
Lesson Two: Who was that masked man?
The Super Sentai series is a staple of Japanese media. We know them in the states as the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, but Japan has a plethora of masked superheros. One of the classics was Kamen Rider: a masked vigilante that rides around dishing out justice on his motorcycle. When weekly Shonen Jump serialized HK, masked champions of justice were staples. Much like The Tick trades on American familiarity with Batman and Wonder Woman, HK piggybacked on Kamen Rider, one of the most iconic Japanese superheros.
It also gave the reader a very easy to follow Super Sentai format. Either the hero has a personal problem that prevents him from transforming when trouble arises; or that week’s enemy is super tough and the hero is required to learn a new, more impressive move to beat him. Both the movie and the manga follow this format, and while it worked in the manga, it doesn’t really work in the movie.
Bound and Gags
The HK manga has two advantages: it’s a relatively short story, and you have to wait each week for the next gag. If you try to binge-read the manga you get what I call “Garfield Syndrome”: you quickly realize you’re reading the same four jokes, over and over again.
HK: Forbidden Super Hero falls into that trap. The first time you see him use his perverted techniques to thwart an evil doer, it’s hilarious. Then you see it again. And again. And again. The movie is just twenty minute loops, with things getting sillier and more over the top each time. The episodic nature at the core of Hentai Kamen falls apart in feature-length film format.
It’s too bad they tried to completely ape the manga, because HK: Forbidden Super Hero had some bright spots. The opening is such a lewd, unabashed mimicry of the opening to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies that I got a good laugh at it. The leads, Ryohei Suzuki and Fumika Shimizu, do a good job. Especially Ryohei, who has to hide how cut he is as HK when playing the weakling Kyosuke. The CGI is piss poor, but the practical effects are pure Power Rangers silliness. Lastly, while the nature of the jokes get repetitive, some of them hit their mark quite well.
HK: Forbidden Super Hero was a funny concept that overstays its welcome. But a lot of movies (looking at you, everything Michael Bay has made in the last ten years) that try to stretch episodic content into feature length entertainment find they lack the stamina. Hentai Kamen has a sequel that came out a few years after the original. My ecchi-sense tells me E-Bay won’t be getting my filthy lucre for that. That would just be obscene.