Angel Guts: High School Coed

Three young male Japanese friends live a life at the bottom of the food chain, working dirty jobs, living in lower class squalor and raping women as a hobby. The three disenfranchised friends form a micro biker gang of three, although they only have two bikes between them. In this film we follow these three different, yet equally despicable young men as they burn rubber around an unnamed Japanese city, causing chaos and assaulting anyone they come across at will.

So you may have heard us talking about our adventures into the world of Takashi Ishii's Mange to screen adaptations know as the Angel Guts series. The thread which links these movies as a series is in fact very thin, All based on Adult orientated manga comics from the pen of Takashi Ishii, all produced as "Roman Porno", by the Nikkatsu studio in Japan and finally all link by there theme of sexual assault on the female gender, in the main part a central character who is always called Nami. If vivid depictions of rape on screen are a blanket no in your opinion, then what ever I say next these movies are probably not for you (Leave the review now.) Ok for those of you still here, I am going to avoid talking to much about the set as a whole other than to say this movie is very different from the others in the series which follow more the route of visually stylized artistic expression. High School Co-ed although it certainly has visual merits of it's own it goes for a much rougher realistic feel. This is a down and dirty experience ruff and raw right from the get go.

Let me say from the start, no matter how controversial this film, no matter how misguided it may be at times in its presentation of despicable and brutally inhuman acts, I like this film. I have seen other reviews where they pussyfoot around the subject matter, talk about the arty ness and almost apologise for the movie. Well I didn't make it, I don't neccesarilally condone it and so I won't be apologizing for it. For a piece of nasty, raw, low budget cinema, this movie blew me away. Chusei Sone a director I previously knew nothing about and who directed this and the very visually different second movie in the series Red Classroom is a genius. Anyone that can achieve this kind of movie in a 6 week turn around (Including all post production) and within the seemingly limited confines of Nikkatsu's Roman Porno genre (Pinku films) is a powerful talent.

Great as I think this movie is let me make one thing very clear, women get raped in this movie, in extended scenes that run the gauntlet of being tastelessly designed to be erotic (Don't forget Roman Porno is an erotic genre). Pretty much the second scene of the movie is a brutal rape, and before you start thinking about all the western rape revenge movies you have seen, the women in this movie get rapped, they get beaten and that's it, there is no fantasy nonsense in which the character gets all tooled up and comes back to pick off her assailants one by one. She gets used, then she gets thrown away, end of story (Nearly). The three protagonists in this describe women as being just "A bag of guts" and that’s just how they treat them!

The interplay between three of the most despicable leads ever put on film is fantastic as they fight for position in their micro biker gang, basically all three are alpha male types,Kawashimi the fighter, Kajima the sexual master (I can't call him a lover, he is a nasty piece of work) and Sada the Psycho. Unlike the other films in the series which centre on the female character Nami and her coming to terms with sexual assault and its after effect in this film she is more just a catalyst, a schoolgirl whose planned rape, causes strains in the micro gang which are irreparable.

Most problematic for me, other than the obvious rape and its depiction within the confines of erotica, was the very young look of the schoolgirls who are assaulted partially the character Megu who could easily have been 14 years old (And may well have been as her rape scene appears not to be as vivid)

The rape of Nami in the middle of the film is one of the single most brutal and shocking scenes I have come across, ok it may not have lashings of gore, but that's what this is about, this is the total degradation and use of the female character, which she is powerless to do anything about. As her assailant tells her "You're going to get raped and there is not a dam thing you can do about it", he goes on to point out it's all her own fault anyway.

Chusei Sone gritty sty-lings, fantastic high contrast black and white inserts and use of the thumping punky title track make this a movie that for all its unpleasaness deserves to be seen.

27 years ago this must have been one of the most shocking films ever to grace a screen and 27 years later, this is still one them. Raw, noisy, dirty, artistic, offensive, amoral and beautiful all at the same time, a must see for those who like to walk out on the thinnest branches of acceptability and taste.

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Buy It: amazon.com (Only available as part of the 5 disc box set which is now OOP and rare)


Red Vertigo

In the final film in the Nikkatsu Angel Guts series (there was a sixth movie produced after the studio closed) the central character Nami is now a nurse. Nami is having a very bad day; her patients attempt to rape her, she finds her photographer boyfriend in bed with a glamour model and then she is hit by a car, the driver of which instead of taking her to hospital decides help would be best administered through a quick attempted raping (This is Angel Guts remember).

In this film the central character Nami is both naïve and yet streetwise at the same time. Her main naive is that caused by love, she comments on how much the model in the photo seems to trust her boyfriend and he tells her it's just part of his work. However, she is very trusting (naïve) as his studio doubles as the bedroom in the flat they share.
This film opens in classic Angel Guts style with a rape scene; some patients in the hospital ring the bell and when Nami goes to attend to them, they pounce on her in an attempt to rape her. However, their unhealthy state means they fail to totally subdue the feisty Nami and the main perpetrator becomes too excited and prematurely ejaculates before managing to penetrate her. After this harrowing event Nami flees the hospital and heads her to get some much needed comfort from her boyfriend. Unfortunately for Nami when she gets back so early from her shift she catches her man inflagranto with the model from the photo. Nami flees the house and runs blindly into the road were she is struck by the car of Muraki, a stock trader who has blown his clients money and whose life has gone into freefall. Murika believes he has killed Nami and instead of checking to make sure he drives around with her in the car finally stopping in a remote area and attempting to have sex with the unconscious passenger, Nami then wakes again and avoids being raped but for the second time that day is the victim of an attempted sexual assault. The now conscious Nami flees into an abandoned warehouse, pursued by Murika who again attempts to assault her, this time Nami is overpowered and it looks like she now has no way of escaping a full rape however, Murika can’t get it up and for the third time Nami escapes being raped. At this point Murika tells Nami he just wanted to have sex because he felt that would bring him luck, which seems to be TAKASHI ISHII's (finally directing one of his own Angel Guts stories) attempt at showing the audience that rape is more than about sex, it is Murika's attempt at regaining his masculinity by exercising power over another human being through sexual dominance. However, after this somewhat worthy look at rape Ishii's film takes what is maybe the dodgiest turn of all the Angel Guts films. Nami forms an emotional and sexual relationship with her would-be assailant Murika and quickly appears to fall in love with the failed stock broker. Murika is reinvirgured and can now “get hard” and Nami is happy to drift with him as they spend the remaining money on his credit card and drive aimlessly around towards the films tragic finale.

The Nikkatsu studio which was in financial freefall itself at this time appears to have let Ishii make this movie as a favor/thank you. Knowing he had always dreamed of directing they seem to have let him take what limited finances there were to realise his dream of getting behind the camera. Its low budget shows even compared with the limited budgets of the other movies in the series. For me this is the least interesting movie in the series. It does have some great ideas about the roles of masculinity and femininity within sex and sexual assault, but for the most part it drags a little too much and lacks the stylistic flair of some of the earlier movies. Towards the end of the movie there are some stand out moments both stylistically and plot related, but I can help but feel these are too little too late. The twisted relationship of the main characters is an difficult thing to stomach, not because of any visual extremes like the earlier movies, but just the message it conveys of the rapist being an “all right guy really”, it's not the most healthy. That’s not to say two people in the mind state of these beleaguered characters could not form a relationship, just that it’s certainly a questionable thing to present on screen, but then part of the strength of this series is that it makes you think about issues beyond that of normal exploitation movies.

To sum up this is certainly a movie that's worth seeing and its finale is a worthy goodbye to the Nikkatsu series, however it can’t match the power of its predecessors.

Buy it from amazon.com or buy 'The Angel Guts Box Set' from amazon.com


Angel Guts: Red Porno

Prim department store worker Nami (Jun Uzumi) gets dragged into a seedy underworld of dodgy sexual shenanigans after her 'friend' sets her up to do a porn magazine shoot. After an ill-timed affair with a married man, our heroine with a high sex drive finds her path has inextricably crossed with the local 'pervert', but is he the one stealing girls' knickers? All will be revealed (including some things you perhaps didn’t want to see) in Toshiharu Ikeda’s saucy and sad Red Porno.

The penultimate in the Angel Guts box set is the shortest and certainly the sauciest as our lady of lovin' proves that DIY is not just for men. Delving considerably deeper than its predecessor's crotch shots, this edition in the series serves up hefty slices of masturbation for titillation, making it the most sexually charged of the powerful collection. Though it isn't all self appreciation; weaved into this short tale of lust and love, masturbation, infatuation, furtive glances and missed chances is a darker and more serious side in keeping with the Angel Guts rape theme, as we take a different view once more of this personally and socially destructive crime.

As is typical of all the Angel Guts films Red Porno isn't big on complex plotlines. As we follow Nami's descent into sexual depravity (if you are easily upset by furniture abuse this may not be the film for you) the ideas brought out are more subtly merging than in the former Nami. Like Red Classroom, this film leaves it up to the viewer to pick up and interpret the nuances that are undoubtedly there. It actually turns out in one respect to be quite a sweet film by the end taking, as does Red Classroom and Nami before it and Red Vertigo after, the idea of near-miss love amongst the sickness. And, like Red Classroom and Nami, the media plays an important role though from a different angle this time. Whilst clearly playing with the idea of sexualised women in the industry there is also a more complex concept at work with a good pervert/bad pervert trajectory making this film a little more thought out then you might initially give it credit for.

Despite all its masturbatory titillation and genuinely explored media issues, this is still a film concerning rape, though following on from Nami the frequency feels thankfully less. The two rape scenes which are depicted are, however, troubling in very different ways, with the former bringing out some dangerous ideas about women and rape much in the same way as Nami before it and Red Vertigo after. Whereas the initial rape is, though obviously uncomfortable to watch, more difficult to comprehend through the ideas it presents, the second rape is troubling purely as an act itself. It is a very violent and utterly disrespectful crime committed on a school girl which has a traumatic effect on a small community.

The short running time for this film (coming in at little over an hour) gives it a perfectly compact feel which seems to strangely suit Ikeda's relaxed direction. The dreamy, bluesy score adds to the sometimes stifling sexual atmosphere and voyeuristic feel, with which Uzumi copes with natural repose as the lady with a voracious sexual awakening. Though if Ikeda lulls you into a false sense of security with his easy direction and sultry, mellow score, his dark denouement will certainly shock you back into harsh reality.

Short but certainly not sweet, Red Porno lives up to its name as a hotbed of sexual feeling but with serious undertones festering beneath. Not for the easily shocked, Ikeda's take on the Angel Guts theme lingers more darkly than its surface portrays 7/10

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Buy It: amazon.com (Red Porno) | amazon.com (Angel Guts Box set)


Angel Guts: Nami

Hot-shot reporter Nami (Eri Kanuma) employs some underhand tactics in order to get her scoop, which just so happens to be on rape and its consequences. Cold and ruthless, Nami will stop at nothing to badger her damaged victims into confessing all the gory details of their assaults so that she may turn them into exploitative media fodder and maintain her status as top office reporting lady. That is until the tables turn in quite spectacularly horrific style ...

Nami, the third edition to the Angel Guts box set, continues the exploration of rape and its personal, social and cultural implications this time through the film's namesake, Nami. This plucky young journalist has no qualms whatsoever about physically tackling her victims, literally wrestling their sad stories from them. This, of course, provides a wealth of engineered situations in which to depict the act of rape and director Noboro Tanaka certainly doesn't miss any opportunity to make this a most bizarre addition to the shocking series.

Though unconnected to the former Angel Guts entry, Red Classroom, but for the common theme of rape that links them all, Nami is, like its predecessor, hot-footing it down the media avenue. Whereas the former made a more subtle comment on the media's perpetration of ideas of sexualised women, the latter clearly sees the media as a predatory force in its own right. There are, however, still very fluid ideas about the media's role and certainly some interesting questions thrown up here, all of which you my like to ask yourselves if it weren't for the bizarre, convoluted and slightly comedic fashion in which they were petitioned which, it must be said, is quite distracting.

Nami is the first of the series to take the female as protagonist, which makes it all the more hard to stomach her merciless approach to her work. However, Nami gets a super-sized helping of just desserts when the film takes a decidedly horror-based turn with a fantastically nasty section which has a feel part Gothic and part Italian horror. From this point forwards the film starts to make less and less sense, feeling a little like it lost its way. It isn’t all bad, however, as it gives Tanaka a chance to turn his hand to further varied styles, and all to great effect. Nami's situation becomes more nightmarish as her comeuppance brings some great scenes of office surrealism, tinged ever so slightly with humour, or maybe that's just uncomfortable disbelief. Amongst this weird and wonderful final third, however, is a deadly serious montage of discarded rape victims which is certainly thought-provoking to say the least. It puts back into context the harsh reality of rape minus the fictional fluff and stylised direction.

Though interesting to watch from a directorial point of view, Nami isn't without genuinely horrific rape scenes. Though Muraki (Takeo Chii), Nami's partner in crime and almost-love interest throws up some pretty dubious and dangerous ideas about rape, Tanaka tips the balance with some difficult scenes of sexual violence. Nami's most hounded subject in particular, following a very violent rape, is left tied and bloodied amongst a grim horizon of rubbish on a disused wasteland howling like her very soul is bleeding. And so it is that the complexity of ideas surrounding rape come back to us, the viewer, as we have been as intrusive and probing as Nami’s lens, haven't we? Unless, of course, Tanaka's weird and wonderful style has convinced us we were only there for artistic merit.

Strange and horrific in its delivery but complex and manifold in its content, Nami is as questionable as it is questioning. A surprisingly testing film, Nami is probably the most stylistically and moralistically challenging of the series 8/10

Buy it: amazon.com | amazon.com (Box Set)


Angel Guts: Red Classroom

When a pornographic magazine worker becomes obsessed with the star of a rape film, he discovers the implications of the sex industry are wider reaching and much darker than he ever could have imagined.

The second edition in the Angel Guts box set sees director Chusei Sone, who also directed our initiation into this disturbing Pandora's Box, High School Co-ed, once more at the helm for the next, and equally uncompromising, glance down the dirty alley-way of sexual assault. Made a year later than its predecessor, Red Classroom is just as powerful in its portrayal of what is a notoriously problematic area for film. Taking the common Angel Guts theme of rape, Sone turns Takashi Ishii's manga to life once more with startlingly different effect to his previous work. Where High School Co-ed focused on the brutality of the act itself, Red Classroom looks at the horrific aftermath with frighteningly forceful results.

Red Classroom is not only, for me, the most stylistically competent of the series, but also the most compelling from its point of view. The only rape that actually takes place in this film is in its opening, where a group of middle-aged men gather for a seedy, smoky session around a 'blue' projection of a school girl rape. When one of these men, our pitiful protagonist Muraki (Keizo Kanie), becomes almost fetishistically obsessed with the female ‘star’ of this grainy and voyeuristic show, believing her to have a rare quality about her for a porn actress, he has no idea what a dangerous eye-opener this infatuation will become. You see Muraki works for amusingly titled porn magazine company Pornoc, where Carry On style joviality is all in a days work when your willing subject submits to gynecologically based titillation. Jaded with the sex industry, Muraki seeks out the object of his strange affections and finds her, Nami, not to be the lady he had imagined. You see Nami (Yuuki Mizuhara), far from the image of shattered innocence that once flickered on the screen before him, is now a prostitute with a voracious sexual appetite. In a hotel room rendezvous she tells him "Fuck me right now ... you'll see me vanish to some other place." But if Muraki isn't picking up the clues, he certainly latches on when he traces her after a missed encounter puts a three year separation between them. What he discovers in the distressing finale, as the film completes its full circle, is not only the devastating knock-on effect of sexual assault but of the dangerous blurring fluidity between the presentation of sex in the media and the actuality of its effect.

Intelligently and expertly directed, Sone presents a different view point of rape from a fittingly different style. Where High School Co-ed was rough and fast-paced as its biker gang subjects, Red Classroom is a slower, more deliberate study into a horrendous aftermath. Where the former took the voracity of the immediate situation, the latter is spiked with the elongated and bitter reality of mental and emotional turmoil. Replacing gritty realism with a sometimes surreal, sometimes Noir-ish tinge and an always ominous bass line, Sone shows the hulled shell of a former person is a very dark and disturbing thing indeed.

A striking, clever and stylish film, Red Classroom reaches far into the shadowy recesses of sexual assault and plucks out its dark, diseased heart 9/10 

Buy It: amazon.com | amazon.com


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