Fantastic Fest Review: Hentai Kamen: Forbidden Super Hero
Well, this is what Fantastic Fest is all about: a Japanese movie about a teenager who derives superheroic powers from wearing girls' panties on his face. (They can't be new panties, either. You get the picture.) How could I possibly not see a movie with such a premise?
And happily, Hentai Kamen: Forbidden Super Hero manages to live up to its premise and deliver, both as a superhero movie and better still, as a spoof of contemporary superhero movies. It's obvious that this movie's budget is probably a single-digit percentage of a Marvel blockbuster, but it's easily twice as funny.
The fun starts with the opening credits, a panties-laden riff on the Spider-Man (2002) credits, and climbs from there. Kyosuke (Suzuki Ryohei) is a high-school student -- his late father was a policeman who met his mother, a professional dominatrix, during a raid. Kyosuke wants to follow in his father's footsteps and deliver justice, but he's too puny for vigilantism. But then one of those accidents that creates superheroes occurs: He inadvertantly pulls a pair of women's underwear on his face and ... Hentai Kamen (which translates as "Pervert Mask") is born!
Hentai Kamen touches on all the standard superhero-origin-movie tropes. There's a cute girl in Kyosuke's class he wants to impress (and save), a range of increasingly ridiculous bad guys, a montage of scenes in which the new superhero rescues various people in peril. The difference is that Spider-Man doesn't slink around in fishnets (in public, anyway) and bop people into submission with his crotch. Tony Stark doesn't have to dress as a woman to try to procure panties (although wow, that would be pretty awesome to watch).
The movie starts to lag about two-thirds of the way through, the jokes running out of gas and possibly the film running out of money before the big climax. And speaking of the film's climax, at least one too many endings grow a little tiresome. I was also sorry to see no payoff/resolution with Kyosuke's mom the dominatrix -- there was a lot of potential there, especially after the first scene in which we see his mother.
Still, I am dying to buy a copy of Hentai Kamen on video and inflict it upon my friends, which is unusual for me and Fantastic Fest selections. The lead actor is so endearing -- one moment stumbling around, the next practically sashaying into action -- the masked supervillains are so goofy (in a way that reminded me of Scott Pilgrim adversaries), and the special attack strategies of Hentai Kamen are so over-the-top that I couldn't help but like this movie.