Kyosuke Shikijo (Ryohei Suzuki), the son of a SM dominatrix (Nana Katase) and a detective (Ikeda Narushi), is a wimp with a desire to fight for justice. When Aiko Himeno (Fumika Shimizu), a transfer student, joins his class, he instantly falls in love with her. The very same day, his beloved Aiko is taken hostage in a bank-robbery. Kyosuke, driving by his love for Aiko and his sense of justice, sneaks into the bank and tries to save Aiko. Surprisingly, he knocks out a robber, but when he wants to put a mask on, he accidentally puts a pair of women’s panties on his face: Hentai Kamen is born.
Not much later, a group of thugs led by Ogane Tamao (Tsuyoshi Muro) try to take over Kyosuke’s school. In order to defeat Hentai Kamen, they send several assassins, like Bizarro Hentai Kamen (Ken Yasuda). Will Kyosuke be able to defeat his foes? Will he be able to start a relationship with Aiko? Will Aiko find out who Hentai Kamen really is and can she accept it?
The narrative of hentai kamen is structured around questions that Kyosuke Shikijo and Aiko Himeno pose concerning Hentai kamen/Kyosuke. In the first part of the narrative the main question – a question with the sole purpose to hook the spectator – concerns what Kyosuke has inherited from his mother. This question is nevertheless soon replaced with the fundamental question/dilemma that underpins the narrative’s romantic dynamics: Am I a real pervert?
The central dilemma reveals that the main story-line is not so much about the gang of foes that want to take over the school, but about the relation between Kyosuke, Aiko and (used) underwear. The narrative is about how those three aspects (Kyosuke with Aiko, Kyosuke with underwear, Kyosuke/underwear with Aiko) can have any relation with each other whatsoever. The plot about the gang of foes is, in fact, nothing more than a wafer-thin narrative device to enable Yûichi Fukuda to explore if a relationship between Aiko and Kyosuke is possible and touch upon the possibility of love to make a certain sexual perversity acceptable.
The pressing nature of this dilemma ultimately causes in an identity crisis for our hero – Am I a hentai or just a normal person? By framing such a crisis, Hentai Kamen touches upon a theme common to ordinary superhero narrative but elevates this theme by decorating it with a naughty hentai-ness and serving it with a sauce of refreshing silliness.
Hentai Kamen stages the ‘spoof’ essence of the manga in a very satisfactory way, using exaggeration in every aspect to ensure comical effect and to underline the inherent absurdness of the narrative. The cinematography and the music/sounds support the staging of puns and enforces the comedy it aims to deliver. In other words, the narrative diachronic plane, the plane of sense, is successfully peppered with aspects of non-sense. Nevertheless, not every aspect of comedy is effective.
The ‘spoof’ essence of the manga is, as mentioned before, successfully translated to the silver screen. The first way in which this translation comes about is by way of using overacting, thereby underlining, in a very comical way, the inherent silliness of every character. Maki Shikijo, Kyosuke Shikijo’s mother and SM dominatrix, for instance is extremely theatrical, using her whip for just about everything. The second way the translation succeeds is due to the staging of the action. The aspect of (erotic) exaggeration that drives the action (e.g. the special moves and the fighting a such), is underlined by the special effects. While the special effects aren’t great, they do empower the narrative silliness in a satisfying way. 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.
Speech is used in a rather special way in Hentai Kamen. More specifically, besides the normal conversational use, speech is used in three different ways. Speech as inner monologue, which is mostly applied 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, 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.
Hentai kamen, a hilarious tale about the power of used female underwear, offers a creative and pleasing take on the superhero narrative. The exaggeration that characterizes every aspect of the narrative ensures that Hentai Kamen remains, at all times, comical. The narrative’s wafer-thin plot is but a pretext to deliver a concatenation of great puns, to stage silliness after silliness, and to offer erotic absurdity after erotic absurdity. Yet, despite the thin-plot, the narrative works and the neurotic’s dilemma of “being normal or being perverse” keeps the spectator engaged throughout the entire runtime (General-note 1). That being said, Hentai Kamen is not for everyone – one could easily be turned off by the overacting or over-the-top silliness, but anyone who craves a taste of Japanese goofiness will get a three-star meal on a platter.
General-Note 1: In some ways Hentai Kamen resembles the drama Minna! Esper Dayo, even though it lacks the more serious staging of the subjective reality of the divided 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.