Reviewby Theron Martin,
At the Spartan Institute of Higher Education, secondary students are pushed hard to do their best and become top academic achievers. Students who lag behind face severe—and often embarrassing—punishments, especially if they're girls. Near the bottom of the heap is Mayumi Takahashi, a cute first-year student who just can't seem to get it together academically, even with top-performing upperclassman Yuka Chigusa looking out for her. Thus she becomes the frequent disciplinary target of Big Toenail of Satan, the perverted principal, and the equally perverted Teacher Bob, who employ all manner of Punishment Directors to motivate her to improve. And if they should happen to get a look at her panties or perky young breasts in the process, well, all the better for them! Mayumi's only hope for salvation is Kekko Kamen, the “champion of Love and Justice” who doesn't show her face, but shows everything else!
Let's see. . . a super-heroine who prances around naked (except for a mask and boots) and spouts ridiculous lines like “I have no choice but to be naked for the cause of Love and Justice?” Check.
Villains who wear masks of their own and sport names like Big Toenail of Satan and Teacher Bob, or a Punishment Director who dresses like an S&M queen and goes by the name Ms. Gestapoko? Check.
A cute but dumb high school girl who has trouble keeping her clothes intact when being punished? Check.
Oh, yeah, this one's a classic.
Seriously, though, Kekko Kamen is great (if nonsensical) fun as long as you're an adult who can appreciate oodles of fan service and raunchy, sometimes utterly tasteless, humor. This titillating work by Go Nagai, the creator of Cutey Honey, was first released in Japan in 1991 and 1992 as two separate OAV volumes. ADV, in picking up the series, has gathered it onto one DVD for its 2005 release, along with some production sketches and several trailers for “mature audience” titles. Whether or not the series really should be broken into four different episodes, as ADV has done, is another story, since its structure suggests that it was originally two longer episodes and the odd-numbered episodes lack definitive closers and credits. Each “episode” does have its own Japanese title screen, though, and splitting the content into four episodes instead of two somewhat alleviates the volume's lack of a skip-to-chapter menu. Irregular chapter breaks are also an uncharacteristic production flaw by ADV, and I really could have done without the all-red DVD case (although admittedly it does further the comic bookish or circus poster-like quality of the cover art). Still, those are quibbling points.
Though littered with comical action scenes, naughty scheming, and at least some attempt at establishing character relationships, Kekko Kamen is, in the end, really all about the nudity. Virtually all punishments devised by the assorted Punishment Directors (there's a different one each episode) involve clothing being torn off female students, and Kekko Kamen herself never covers up anything more than her feet and head. Only one female character with any significant dialogue keeps her clothing intact throughout, and the heavily-victimized Mayumi spends nearly as much time partly or completely naked as she does fully clothed. I don't think there's more than five continuous minutes at any point in the series without at least some nudity. Add to that the occasional S&M elements, some extremely ribald humor (one of the female characters is an android with an off switch in an interesting place), and Kekko's signature Open Thighs Jump attack (which sets up a finishing move that I probably can't name in this review) and you have a voyeur's dream.
The plotting for Kekko Kamen is preposterous and the silly writing is chocked with truly stupefying lines (“nobody knows my face, but everybody knows my body”), but this series is clearly not meant to be taken seriously so that's fine. One character even occasionally talks to the audience, while others revel in their perversions. The action sequences are stylistically similar to those in any number of fighting-oriented or super-hero-oriented anime, though bad guys in this one come up with novel ways to get around Kekko's special tricks that don't necessarily involve any application of force. Kekko, of course, always eventually comes up with equally interesting ways of defeating them, but it's fun to see the creative displays of Special Techniques. On the downside, the original writing occasionally shows an appalling lack of taste, especially with the Naziesque elements in the first episode. An Auschwitz reference in particular is uncomfortable and inappropriate; there are some things you just shouldn't joke about.
The production values for Kekko Kamen are minimal. While the (all-cel) animation isn't awful, shortcuts are taken wherever possible and movements at times look amateurish and cheaply-done. Backgrounds, though of mediocre artistic merit, are blended seamlessly with character animation, while the quality of the character designs varies markedly depending on how important the character is and how much of the character's screen time involves nudity. Fresh-faced Mayumi in particular looks appealing (if a bit cartoonish), while Yuka just looks weird; it could be that the proportions in her face are a bit off, or it could be the shape of her eyes, I'm not sure. Special attention is paid to depicting attractive-looking breasts, which are never small but also are never outlandishly proportioned. (Kekko has quite a rack, for instance, but she's also solidly-built and broad-shouldered so it seems natural.) Those looking for shots of genitalia are going to be disappointed, as the artists took the “Barbie doll” approach to avoiding pubic region detail in most cases and use gimmicks to avoid showing anything in others.
The musical themes during the episodes are unremarkable, with action scenes highlighted by retreads of the closing theme. Openers are minimal, while the spare-all-expense closers only feature credits and the series theme songs—but make sure you actually pay attention to the lyrics in those songs, because they're quite funny on their own. The English script follows the subtitles very closely most of the time but, in the ADV tradition, deviates markedly in the execution of some jokes. In most cases I found these deviations to be an improvement, as the original jokes either didn't translate well or were pretty lame. A veteran ADV cast socks out the dub on this one, with most of the VAs turning in fine performances because they were allowed to have fun with it. The only letdown is Kira Vincent-Davis's stilted performance as Yuka, though some of the original Japanese vocals are also less than stellar.
The age rating given for Kekko Kamen is well-earned for all its nudity and adult content, though there is also a bit of foul language. While it lacks the sexually explicit content of a hentai title, this is still a series aimed purely at adult audiences.
Kekko Kamen will never be mistaken for one of the elite anime titles, but it is an amusing view and should be well-appreciated by fans of ecchi content.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C-
Art : C+
Music : C
+ + lots and lots of nudity featuring good-looking and well-proportioned girls, great humor
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