Warning: This review contains mild spoilers and discusses rape and sexual assault. And also tentacles. Seriously, you have been warned.
Japan has a (somewhat unfair) association with rapacious tentacle monsters in the Western popular consciousness. I say somewhat unfair because while tentacle hentai is certainly a thing, to associate it with Japan as a whole is rather like associating America with Dinosaur erotica, given the sheer plethora of it published on Amazon. Even if Chuck Tingle is popular enough to achieve recognition outside of literotic circles, the fantasy of fucking (or being fucked by) a dinosaur is still a pretty niche one in America. And yet, this image of tentacle porn being mainstream and distinctly Japanese persists, which raises the question of “Why?”.
Part of the answer is simply that if you associate an entire country, culture, or race with something “weird” or “unnatural”, it’s easier to other them. But as for the question of why Japan and tentacles specifically, the explanation lies with a single piece of adult anime, that being Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend.
This work was simply scandalous. Getting an NC-17 rating in the US and making the Video Nasty list in the UK, parents were utterly baffled, because how could this movie possibly be adult-oriented when it was animated? Everyone knows that animation is only for children! But Urotsukidoji defied everything your no-fun parents told you about cartoons, which made watching it an act of rebellion. As such, the anime quickly spread like the penis tentacles of its titular Overfiend, to wreak havoc on the peace of mind of parents throughout the 90s.
I myself was too young to experience this wave of popularity. I do remember at least being old enough to hear its name in hushed whispers as part of the scary, horny anime you could find at Blockbuster, but I was far too young (and honestly too disinterested) to try and watch it myself. And yet, as someone who considers himself a kinky anime nerd, I rather owe it to myself to give Urotsukidoji a watch. So, does this anime deserve its title of classic, or has it aged as poorly as most overly edgy media from the 90s?
It’s the 80s! In Tokyo! (Hey wait a minute) And while the city has largely fallen into the swing of Reagan-era consumerism, this age is not to last. For you see, once every 3000 years, the human world, the demon world, and the man-beast world align, as the great super-god known as the Overfiend is resurrected. The Overfiend’s coming shall herald the rebirth of these three worlds as one, and as such, Jyaku Amano, a man-beast, has made it his mission to find the Overfiend and ensure its safe birth.
However, when Amano finally finds said Overfiend, he starts to have reservations. Maybe it’s the distinctly demonic appearance of this supposed savior, maybe it’s the way this divine being is still really horny all the time, or maybe it’s the slew of corpses rendered deformed, mangled, and consumed in the Overfiend’s wake, but something just ain’t right. Is this Overfiend really a goodie like Amano was raised to believe? He’d better find out quick, before the Overfiend’s rampage kills the whole of the human race.
Urotsukidoji is a film that should be watched mainly for laughs today, if it’s watched at all. And the movie is much funnier when watched as a single film in English, as opposed to the original, Japanese, three-part OVA. The acting in the dubbed movie is laughably bad, but believe me when I say the less seriously you take this work, the more you’ll enjoy it. The movie version of Urotsukidoji also removes several scenes of explicit content from the original OVA, which is a shame given how that’s easily the most memorable part of the work. And yet, in some ways this is actually to the film’s advantage.
The only scenes in Urotsukidoji that aren’t sex scenes or fight scenes are exposition scenes, and the OVA seriously pushes the envelope in its graphic portrayal of sex and violence. This is what introduced Western viewers to tentacle porn, after all, and what made the film so controversial. But this grotesque sex and gruesome violence actually ends up being a double-edged sword for the viewer. When we first see a tentacled monstrosity pleasuring a man-beast woman, it’s shocking, but after the fifth or so time it just becomes kind of dull. And because there’s no breathing room or character development in the movie, this copious sex and violence is really the only thing Urotsukidoji has going for it.
Also, the whole reason Urotsukidoji uses tentacles and tendrils to pleasure its female cast is that, thanks to Japan’s censorship laws, regular human dicks weren’t allowed to be fully shown. The only dick we see in full glory is the detached demon dick our antagonist Niki is given, and once he attaches it to himself, the film is suddenly coy about showing it because, I mean, come on. It’s a dick. We can’t show that! Think of the children…
More than that though, for a film known for its wild and wacky sexcapades, Urotsukidoji is weirdly judgy and quick to kink-shame. Sex as portrayed by the movie is defined by penetration, which is defined by destruction, domination, degradation. Men cum in women and claim them, like a dog pissing on a tree. But the idea of female dominance or male submission is treated with disgust and contempt by Urotsukidoji, like only eeevil women would try to dominate, and only weak, pathetic men would submit.
The male human characters in Urotsukidoji are all driven by two emotions: lust and resentment. In the world of Urotsukidoji, men are either winners or losers, with winners being able to fuck as many bitches as they want to their heart’s content and losers being ignored, bullied, and tormented. Our protagonist Tatsuo Nagumo starts out as a loser, not because he spends his time peeping in on the girls’ changing room and jacking off (which is our introduction to him), but because he doesn’t have the power or social clout to simply fuck the girl of his dreams, Akemi Ito. But then, once Nagumo unlocks the power of the Overfiend inside him, he not only becomes a winner, but the biggest winner of all, with the power to fuck every last bitch on the planet until they explode (literally, in some cases).
Women in Urotsukidoji are like… pets or something? They naturally gravitate towards the biggest, strongest dick and their loyalty shifts the second a better dick comes along, unless they’re maidenly and pure like Akemi, in which case no dick can possibly replace Nagumo’s, no matter how hard (yes, haha) the villains try to seduce her (though given how Nagumo is the Overfiend and his dick is literally the most powerful dick in the universe, I don’t think this is the display of fidelity the movie thinks it is). Akemi is unwaveringly devoted to Nagumo because she thinks he saved her from a tentacle monster rapist at the beginning of the film. He didn’t actually, but he’s more than willing to exploit this mistaken belief so that he can finally fuck Akemi like he’s always wanted to. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
The film wants so badly for us to hate the antagonist Niki because he’s resentful and he hates Nagumo for doing what he wants to do but can’t, and yet before Niki showed up, Nagumo was just as resentful and jealous of his school’s star basketball player, and unlike Niki he didn’t live a downright abusive and hellish life. It’s like the movie is saying “When our protagonist wants something (a girl) he’s endearing and pitiable and you should feel for him, but when someone else wants the same thing (a girl), he’s just weak and resentful and you should hate him because he wants what isn’t rightfully his.” And sure, since Niki is the villain he ends up doing some pretty heinous things, but his body count remains significantly lower than Nagumo’s, and he never lied to a girl just after she was raped so that he could get into her pants.
The thing is, I do understand the appeal of a giant, monstrous man having his way with a beautiful woman, but even I must admit, the film’s depiction of gender is a bit much. Even if I was turned on by some of those monstrous sex scenes in Urotsukidoji, I don’t have my head so far up my ass as to claim that my turn-ons are a reflection of the natural order of the universe. There are plenty of happy, healthy women who domme, and happy, healthy men who sub, to say nothing of people outside the traditional gender and Dom/sub binaries. And yet, by the end of the film, Nagumo and Akemi ascend to higher forms that reflect the paragons of their genders. Men in Urotsukidoji are destructive and dominating, while women are nurturing and submissive, and together they will allow a new, better world to be made.
There’s just no two ways about it. Like the bevy of bodies that fall prey to the Overfiend, this movie is a hot, gooey mess. Rape and sexual violence abound and are never commented on. Characters are flatter than pancakes, and not even that sympathetic. And maybe the sex and violence did push boundaries in the 90s, but it only did so within a very specific, heterosexual male gaze. I would say that Urotsukidoji is to adult animation what “Mambo No. 5” is to music. If you’re at an 18+ party and have it on a big screen in the background, it’ll certainly keep the mood (and perhaps some other things) up. But it’s difficult to get through the nonstop sex and violence without growing bored, and the only way I was able to enjoy it was by embracing the film’s inherent farce. In fact, no-one I’ve met who has watched Urotsukidoji seems to have actually liked the movie. They just watched it on the strength of its reputation or to piss off their parents. So maybe it’s best for this movie to go the way of pogs, or frosted tips, or various other popular things from the 90s, as the kinky anime scene moves on.