“A hilarious, mischievous superhero narrative driving by the force of the used pantsu and the idea that erotics can save the world.”
Kyosuke Shikijo (Ryohei Suzuki), the son of a SM dominatrix (Nana Katase) and a detective (Ikeda Narushi), is a wimp with a soft spot for justice. To be able to combat injustices, he joins the martial arts club to become tougher. But alas he shows no improvements whatsoever.
When Aiko Himeno (Fumika Shimizu), a transfer student who also immediately becomes the new manager of the club, joins his class, he falls for her instantly. But that very same day Aiko gets stuck in a hostage situation. Kyosuke, driving by his love for Aiko and justice, sneaks into the bank and tries to save Aiko. Surprisingly, he knocks out a robber, but when he wants to put his mask on, he accidentally puts a pair of women’s panties on his face: superhero Hentai Kamen is born.
It is then that a group of thugs, led by Ogane Tamao (Tsuyoshi Muro) plan to take over Kyosuke’s school. Their reason is their leader’s belief that there’s a treasure hidden under the campus. After Ogane Tamao faces a mortifying defeat at the hands of Hentai Kamen, he decides to send in several assassins to finish Hentai Kamen off. The last assassin Ogana sends is Bizarro Hentai Kamen (Ken Yasuda). He poses himself as a new school teacher and takes an immediate particular interest in Aiko. As Bizarro Hentai kamen, he wreaks havoc on the city i.e. pantypeeping, which ruins Hentai Kamen’s reputation.
Will Kyosuke be able to defeat Bizarro Hentai Kamen? Will he be able to save the school? Will he be able to have a relationship with Aiko? Will Aiko found out who Hentai Kamen really is and will she accept it?
The narrative of hentai kamen is pushed forward by explicitly revealing in speech the sequentially metonymic questions of Kyosuke Shikijo and, albeit in a lesser way, the questions Aiko Himeno poses, in relation to Hentai kamen/Kyosuke. In the first part of the narrative the question – a question which has the sole purpose to attract the viewer’s attention – of what Kyosuke has inherited of his mother underpins the narrative. This question soon replaces itself with the most important questions/dilemma’s to feature in the whole of the narrative: Am I a pervert; Is Hentai Kamen in real life also a hentai; what does Aiko think of Hentai Kamen? In the end, a final but less important dilemma is added to the narrative: will I go on a date with Aiko or will I go destroy the evil impostor?
These subsequent questions reveal that the main storyline is not so much about the gang of foes that want to take over the school to gain access to the treasure that’s buried there, but about the relation between Kyosuke, Aiko and (used) pantsu. The narrative is about how those three aspects (Kyosuke with Aiko, Kyosuke with pantsu, Kyosuke/pantsu with Aiko) can have any relation with each other whatsoever. The plot about the gang of foes is nothing more than a slightly wafer-thin, but comical and silly narrative device that makes it possible to focus on the evolution that Aiko and Kyosuke go through.
The narrative proves furthermore that the entire structure of the narrative is underpinned by the second set of questions/dilemma’s at that point where these questions develop, crystallize in an identity crisis for our pantsu hero: Am I a hentai or just a normal person? By featuring this crisis Hentai Kamen succeeds in touching upon every aspect that characterizes an ordinary superhero narrative, but mixing it with funny, naughty hentai-ness and served with a refreshing silliness.
Hentai Kamen translates the ‘spoof’ essence of the manga, upon which it is based, in a very satisfactory way, using exaggeration in every aspect to ensure the comical effect and underlining the silliness and absurdness of the narrative. The cinematography and music/sounds support the staging of puns and enforces the humour it entails to deliver. In other words, the narrative diachronic plane, the plane of sense, is successfully peppered with aspects of non-sense and these aspects are successfully brought to the fore using the cinematography and sounds. Nevertheless not every aspect of the humour is effective, by which we allude to the puns that are used in conversations.
As we mentioned before, the ‘spoof’ essence is translated successfully to the big screen. The first way in which this translation comes about is by way of using overacting, thereby underlining, in a very comical way, the very fundamental aspects of ‘personality’ and inherent silliness of every character. Maki Shikijo, Kyosuke Shikijo’s mother and SM dominatrix, for instance is staged as extremely theatrical, using her whip for just about everything. The second way this translation is vividly brought to life is to be found in the way the action is staged. The aspect of exaggeration, the erotic exaggeration, that drives the action, the subsequent special moves and the fighting, is enforced by the special effects. The special effects aren’t that great, but it doesn’t bother in the least. In fact they even empower the silliness, absurdness in a good way and are really efficacious in evoking a comical effect. The erotic absurdness, silliness and inventiveness of the action – Hentai kamen’s strongest weapon is his crotch and his special crotch attacks – makes for some really unforgettable and memorable scenes.
The explicitly voiced sequentially metonymic questions, we mentioned before, also point to the special way in which speech is used in Hentai Kamen. More specifically, besides the conversational use, the speech of Kyosuke has three different functions in the narrative. Speech as inner monologue, this is mostly used in the beginning of the narrative, is used to give the viewer the coordinates of Kyosuke’s subjective position. This second way Kyosuke’s speech is used is as a narrator, by which he further explains who he is. The third way, and this way is used abundantly to stage Kyosuke’s dilemma’s, is the externalization of inner monologue; the voicing out loud of Kyosuke’s line of thought in the narrative reality – in the end we even get a externalized inner dialogue between Kyosuke and his alter ego. (This third kind of speech is also used for Aiko).
Hentai kamen is a hilarious tale driven by the force of used pantsu – implying that erotics might be able to save the world – and a creative take on normal superhero narratives. The aspect of exaggeration that drives the entire narrative ensures comical effect. The movie continuously bombards the viewer with great puns, dishing out silliness after silliness, erotic absurdness after erotic absurdness, … . The wafer-thin plot is nothing more than a pretext to stage Hentai kamen’s special crotch attacks and to let the dilemma of “being normal or hentai” function and this works perfectly. The crotch attacks are a sight to see – even though the special effects aren’t that great – while the dilemma successfully keeps the interest to the narrative that counts.
In a way the movie resembles the drama Minna! Esper Dayo, even though it lacks the more serious staging of the subjective reality or dividedness of the subject. And even though the movie is good, we couldn’t help but wonder if a drama of Hentai Kamen would have been an even more successful endeavour.
But that’s said Hentai Kamen may not be for everyone – one could be turned off by the overacting or the overabundant silliness, but anyone who wants a taste of Japanese goofiness and a mischievous, funny erotic superhero narrative will feel at home immediately. And we know for sure that, after seeing this movie, many men will try to put panties of their respective girlfriends on their head, if they didn’t do that already.