Genre: Extreme Social Commentary
review in one breath
The Angel Guts series consists of five films based on the 1970's Japanese "horror" manga by Ishii Takashi. After an initial failure to successfully break into cinema, Ishii poured his creative energy into a manga series entitled Tenshi no Harawata (Angel Guts). Ishii's horrific manga was much more popular than his initial cinematic endeavor, and yet came full circle when its popularity resulted in the production of five films, the fifth of which Ishii himself directed. Most of the five films in the Angel Guts series is directed by a different director and each thematically involves the rape of a young woman named Nami.
In order of production, the five films in the Angel Guts series are:
Angel Guts: High School Coed (Sone Chusei 1978)
Angel Guts: Red Classroom (Sone Chusei 1979)
Angel Guts: Nami (Tanaka Noboru 1978)
Angel Guts: Red Porno (Ikeda Toshiharu 1981)
Angel Guts: Red Dizziness (Ishii Takashi 1988)
It should immediately be said that the reference to "Guts" in the title does not refer to bowels or visceral organs, but to the inner tenacity and determination to survive and endure after being raped. These metaphorical "guts" are demonstrated repeatedly throughout the five films, and become the theme's backbone. In essence, each film tries in its own fashion to demonstrate the life-altering trauma which rape introduces to otherwise normal and unsuspecting victims.
The manner in which each of these directors approaches the thematic requirements of Angel Guts differs radically. Some depict the sheer brutality of rape, such as director Sone's first film in the series, Angel Guts: High School Coed. Others explore the psychological impact upon the victims as they try to cope and return to normalcy. Director Tanaka's film, which we are here reviewing, takes a decidedly analytic approach to the horrors of rape and suggests that social inquiry into the topic, whether out of sincerity or sensationalism, ultimately wreaks havoc upon everyone involved. Those who were victimized are not only forced to re-live their terrifying ordeal through such inquiry, but are also stripped of any hope of privacy and normalcy. Those who read such accounts, especially males, are themselves transformed into either potential rapists or obsessed perverts. And most importantly for Angel Guts: Nami, those who through prolonged exposure to the brutal horrors are investigating such matters are brought perilously close to the brink of psychotic breakdown.
Angel Guts: Nami is nearly a perfect deconstruction of itself. Here, the perennial victim of Ishii's manga, Tsuchiya Nami, is an aggressive and highly successful magazine reporter. Her ongoing article series entitled "Rape and Its Consequences" investigates the tragedy and survival of rape victims. Nami aggressively pursues interviews with these women, often using methods of gathering information which prove quite insensitive to the victims' desire for privacy and their dread of recalling those horrible moments. Victims are chased and photographed unwillingly, almost stalked by Nami and her camera crew.
But her articles are wildly popular, causing her boss to applaud her while pushing her further for another successful story. It becomes quickly evident, however, that Nami is not simply a victim of her own success but is in fact obsessed in the pursuit of uncovering, examining and reliving these rape stories. And although this obsession often brings her face to face with the harshest of fears, she cannot help but succumb to an erotic fantasy regarding each story she encounters. (And her fantasy is often shared with one very lucky showerhead!) Thus with ever-increasing hunger she pursues the next lead regardless of the dark alleys it might require her to enter.
Nami's driven inquisitiveness becomes increasingly dangerous and finally reaches a moment of implosion when her pursuit of an interview brings her into the depths of a hospital morgue in the company of a rape victim gone berserk. Nami's experience in that basement pushes her beyond her initial, naive fantasies regarding rape and into a more terrifying, mind-shattering reality. It is indeed a rude and cruel awakening for Nami, one which certainly should have been avoided.
Thus far, Nami is my favorite of the Angel Guts films. It is both thought-provoking and confrontational, visually realistic and morally impressive. As I said earlier, I see director Tanaka's message as a deconstruction of itself, and this, dear readers, is the most interesting part. Nami's naive yet driving fantasy of victims' rape experiences easily parallels the "pleasure" taken by many of those who either diligently read Ishii's original manga or even watch Tanaka's film. Nami's obsession, which recognizes the reality of the brutality yet somehow sexualizes it, is the same obsession of so many readers and viewers who fantasize while immersed in such stories. If nothing else, Angel Guts: Nami is a terrifyingly stark warning of the nature and consequences of idealizing rape. Tanaka's film convincingly demonstrates that the dehumanizing impact of rape reaches far beyond its immediate victims and reaches into the mind and well-being of those who habitually ponder it.
Through often brutal and unflinching, Nami suggests a fundamental, core moral prophecy regarding those who longingly delve into rape-inspired material.
|This is a frighteningly stark morality tale. Its sole cultural message is one of dire warning against romanticizing an otherwise inhuman brutality.||Whether implied or explicit, there is plenty of violence here, all of which is aimed towards women.||If you dare equate rape scenes with sex scenes, there are plenty, as each of Nami's investigative subjects graphically recalls her ordeal. The only consensual sex scenes are between Nami and the lucky shower head.||The only strangeness here is how a topic like rape can be artisticaly explored.|