Reviews

Review: Hentai Kamen

9 Jan , 2015  

Superhero movies are a dime a dozen these days and in the last decade have quickly become bankable projects poised for a huge return at the box office (if it’s a Marvel-related film anyway). Everyone around the world knows about these stories of heroism and vigilantism and most understand how they work on a formulaic level.

 

While films like Batman, X-Men and Blade were among the first wave of successful comic book films, I still consider Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man as the best example of what a major superhero origin story should look like and how it should be told. And ever since its release, many other origin stories of comic book heroes have followed the same trajectory that Raimi’s Spider-Man helped establish – so much so that it has also inspired parodies as well!

 

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Among those to have been partially inspired by Raimi’s Spider-Man is Japan’s own superhero comedy, Hentai Kamen. The film, itself based on a comedic manga series, takes a few cues from Spider-Man (including mimicking the opening credits of the Raimi original) but is entirely its own film, for better or worse. Its intriguing hook offers promise – with a cop for a father and a dominatrix for a mother, teenager Kyosuke (Tokyo Tribe’s Ryohei Suzuki) inherits the traits of his parents to become Hentai Kamen, a superhero whose powers and sense of justice are drawn from wearing women’s panties over his face. Who wouldn’t want to at least give this film a try, right?

 

For what it’s worth, Hentai Kamen does actually work as a send up of superhero films at times by turning the formula on it’s a head a little and making its title character out to be something of a sexual deviant. While most superheroes have a mantra they live by (Peter Parker’s for example, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’), Kyosuke throughout the film struggles with his sense of righteousness by asking himself if it’s worth being a hero at all if he has to wear panties over his face in order to do so. It does create a few comedic nuggets here and there but these are few and far between.

 

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Hentai Kamen goes all in with its first act but draws from the well far too often the further it progresses, lazily reusing jokes without much imagination. A person can only take so many dick jokes in a single film! Fortunately its small but entirely memorable cast of villains, who exist almost as subversions of character tropes found in Japanese high school drama series’ and films, are one aspect of the film that I found to also be rather enjoyable. But again, this small rollout of villains have a small part in the big picture with the rest of the narrative hobbling along towards a conclusion that I couldn’t bother to care for.

 

You get out of Hentai Kamen exactly what you would expect – a juvenile, crude and silly parody of superhero films. Watching this felt like watching a good Saturday Night Live sketch become a bad Saturday Night Live movie. A brilliant idea with some workable laughs but stretching that across the length of a film loses a lot of what made that idea so imaginative. Hentai Kamen is a mostly wasteful experience and were it not for a few genuine laughs found in its initial act, and even some in its stagnant second act, this Japanese comedy could have easily been written off entirely.

 


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