Warning: This review contains mild spoilers and discusses rape and sexual assault. And also tentacles. Seriously, you have been warned.

Wicked City was my first proper exposure to adult anime, but it was also unintentional. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I watched it, and while I was old enough and mature enough to not freak out at what I saw, I wasn’t honest enough with myself yet to seek out more adult anime. That would come later, well after I’d left college. During this time I had discovered Future Funk, and through my favorite Future Funk Youtube channel, Artzie Music, I’d found one song in particular that I loved: “Confessions” by Sixtroke. Like most Artzie Music videos, the music came with a classic 80s anime GIF, but with this video I didn’t recognize where the GIF came from. Curious, I looked up the anime and found that it was a hentai horror short film named Call Me Tonight.

Maybe years before I would have left things at that, but then, at that time and place, there was something inside me that was curious, a side of me that was only just starting to bloom now that I was living and working on my own. So I watched Call Me Tonight, and I loved it! This would mark the start of my full and proper exploration into kinky anime, and as such, Call Me Tonight still holds a special place in my heart. However, given how my opinion of Wicked City soured since my first viewing, I had to wonder if Call Me Tonight would still hold up. I had to see it again.

It’s the 80s! In Tokyo! (sensing a pattern here) And while the country has largely fallen into the swing of Reagan-era consumerism, one enterprising young businesswoman named Rumi Natsumi has taken advantage of the economy to start her own phone sex company with her friends. The girls are able to earn a good income while staying safe, but one day Rumi gets a very unusual client. A handsome young man by the name of Ryou Sugiura has a teensy little problem, where whenever he becomes aroused, he transforms into a gigantic, tentacled monstrosity. Taking a shine to Ryou, Rumi decides that the best way to cure him of his condition is to inure Ryou to sexuality, to which end Rumi takes him to all the kinkiest areas of Tokyo and endlessly teases him. However, Rumi isn’t the only one who has eyes on Ryou.

This is a really cute role reversal to what you would expect from a tentacle porn work. Instead of a rapacious cephalopod molesting a demure, innocent girl, in Call Me Tonight the tentacle monster is a sweet, shy boy who’s chased after by horny women. Indeed, Rumi’s first reaction to Ryou’s transformation isn’t fear, but wonderment, and while she never goes so far as to say “Gimme that tentacle lovin’ baby!”, she never sees Ryou’s monstrosity as a deal-breaker. The only issue Rumi has with Ryou’s transformation is the discomfort it brings him (partly because he fears hurting someone and partly because it’s trapped him in a state of perpetual blue-balls). But her response to this discomfort is to help him work through it.

While I’m not a fan of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, I think Rumi and Ryou’s relationship avoids the pitfalls of that trope in several key ways. Firstly, Rumi has a full life outside of Ryou, with her successfully owning and running a business with her friends, and while Ryou is certainly shy and insecure, this insecurity stems mostly from the understandable fear of his transformations possibly hurting someone, or alienating any friends or romantic partners.

If there is a parallel between Rumi and a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, it’s in her unconventional tastes and the fact that she thinks Ryou’s monster form is cool, rather than scary. But this is more to show a standard “There’s someone for everyone” message, which should appeal to most viewers. Also, even if Rumi helps Ryou feel more comfortable with his condition, he is the one who must put in the effort to get better, with Rumi not so much mothering him as simply believing in him. Indeed, by the end of the story, Ryou is much more confident and forward with Rumi, and their relationship seems to be a happy and healthy one.

All that said, there are a few aspects of Call Me Tonight that might give viewers pause. The film is a Beauty and Beast story, and while I won’t spoil the ending here, some people might find the resolution to Ryou’s beastly situation disappointing, depending on your tentacular tastes. The short’s ending remains ambiguous enough for differing interpretations, and Rumi is happy enough with things. But your mileage may vary.

Another issue is the short’s use of rape. Not of Rumi, mind you, or any of the other female cast. While Rumi is attacked by a trio of thugs, she makes short work of them with a nearby beam. Ryou, however, catches the eye of the sukeban Oyuki, who locks him in a room and tries to have her way with him. She doesn’t get far before Ryou transforms in a monstrous rage, but even so, for those who prefer their hentai rape-free, Call Me Tonight may not be for you.

The biggest issue viewers might have though involves the characters’ ages. Ryou’s age is never given, though we can assume he’s around the same age as Rumi, who is explicitly said to be a first-year High School student, making her either 15 or 16. So, unlike Wicked City where the protagonists were well into adulthood, or Urotsukidoji where they were at least in college, Call Me Tonight is a short film where the protagonists are still legally minors. If adult anime that involves teenagers in sexually explicit situations is not a problem for you, all good. But if it is, I would not fault you if you decided to skip Call Me Tonight. Obviously, plenty of teenagers do have sex, and the relationship between Rumi and Ryou is quite sweet and loving, so I personally had no issue with it. But I understand if the teenage Rumi being sexualized by the film, or the idea of her starting a phone-sex business with her friends, makes some viewers uncomfortable.

Much to my relief, even if I am more critical of Call Me Tonight than when I first watched it, I still loved it and would thoroughly recommend it. If you like your hentai cute and lewd, wholesome and degenerate, then Call Me Tonight is sure to please you. It’s less than half-an-hour, so I confess it leaves me wanting more. But I found it a wonderful palette cleanser after Wicked City and Urotsukidoji, and I hope I can find something as sweet as it again.