Considering the general definition of rogue – someone or something that does not follow the group, and may be seen as threatening – a rogue film cannot be mainstream and it cannot follow a conventional storyline. However, rogue film is not best defined by words, but by feelings. Rogue films push an audience outside of their comfort zone. They confront the viewer with a perspective that most people try to avoid. Rogue filmmakers often focus on the dysfunctionality, desperation, pain, and suffering of humanity, usually by exaggerating some aspect of the human experience. Rogue films show an underworld, which is unfamiliar to the average person, and thus strikes fear. Conventional movies teach a lesson and provide a happy ending, whereas rogue films tell these stories for simple exploration and provocation. Urotsukidōji I: Legend of the Overfiend, is a Japanese film that is rogue for many of the reasons listed above.
Some exposition for the non-otaku: Anime is a style of Japanese animation. It is not a genre, as an anime can be any genre. It is often the animated version of Japanese comics, or manga, but can also stand alone. Manga is similar to American comics, but with a much different cartoon style. Manga and anime characters tend to have exaggerated features, and are especially known for their impossibly large eyes. Anime tends to be a rogue genre because it is unlimited. In animation, you can create anything from the imagination. Sexuality is another feature of anime that is usually exaggerated. A writer can circumvent laws regarding sex by depicting prohibited acts in their animated work, rather than in real life. This gives viewers and artists an outlet for their taboo fantasies. There are anime that sexually exploit young girls, known as lolicon, and there are anime that sexually exploit young boys, known as shotacon. Most importantly, and one of the most famous occurrences in anime, is the theme of tentacle rape. Unusual displays of sexuality, and the Japanese fascination with unconventional sexuality, are largely what make Urotsukidōji a rogue film.
Toshio Maeda, the writer and illustrator of the initial Urotsukidōji manga, is said to be a founder of hentai manga. Hentai, like anime, is not a genre, but a style. The term is short for hentai seiyoku, which is a state of perversion. Most often, however, people use the term hentai to refer to pornography in manga or anime. Maeda uses the supernatural in this film to create an appropriate situation for scenes of sadistic violence. Ero-guro is a Japanese movement that certainly had an effect on artists like Maeda. The title of the movement comes from a mix of the words “erotic” and “grotesque.” Oddly, ero-guro began in pre-war Japan. The fascination with this type of sexuality spread into all corners of Japanese culture, including hentai. Urotsukidōji’s use of tentacle rape is a very popular form of ero-guro. When Maeda was asked about why he created such a brutal and perverse story, he replied, “There is nothing that arouses a stronger response in human beings than either sex or violence. A mixture of the two is very powerful indeed.” This quote shows the rogue disposition that Maeda embodied. He wanted to elicit a powerful reaction from his audience, and he was not afraid to take risks to achieve it. Rogue filmmakers desire to create a strong response in their audience, above all other goals.
Although tentacle rape became a very popular erotic fantasy in Japan, Maeda created it to bypass Japanese censorship laws. As stated earlier, animation is a genre where directors, writers, and illustrators can indulge in fantasies that they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, realistically indulge in. However, Japanese artists had to be creative because it was illegal to depict genitals. Maeda decided to use tentacles because their shape is similar to a penis. When asked, Maeda stated:
At that time pre-Urotsuki Doji, it was illegal to create a sensual scene in bed. I thought I should do something to avoid drawing such a normal sensual scene. So I just created a creature. His tentacle is not a penis as a pretext. I could say, as an excuse, this is not a penis; this is just a part of the creature. You know, the creatures, they don’t have a gender. A creature is a creature. So it is not obscene – not illegal.
Quite often, these scenes of tentacle sex have elements of rape. Rape is always a rogue event to occur in a film because it makes the viewer uncomfortable. American culture glorifies violence, but it is very prude. Tentacle rape takes its rogueness to the extreme, as it is strange and unnatural. Seeing something inhuman rape a human transports the viewer far from the natural world,
In the film, Maeda creates a race of demons that invade the Earth. The main character, Tatsuo, is a perverted university student who masturbates in public. Tetsuo is the prophesied demon who returns to Earth once every three thousand years to destroy it, paving the way for a new world to be born. The defining characteristic of this special demon, called the Chōjin, is his uncontrollable, violent lust. In fact, all of the demons possess this characteristic. The Chōjin, however, destroys the world with his lust and his genitals, quite literally. Relatively soon into the film, the tentacle rape occurs. A Makai (demon), looking for the Chōjin, rapes Tetsuo’s crush, Akemi. The Makai’s tentacles are unlike any creature of which we know. The tentacles are pink, resembling tongues, and spout from all over the Makai’s body, including its mouth. They spit up a neon magenta, sticky looking substance. As this happens, Tatsuo watches. Once Tatsuo emerges as the Chōjin, he begins his destruction by raping a nurse to death. Her body is ripped apart by demon semen, which is the neon magenta substance. The Chōjin destroys the building he is in after a surge from raping the woman causes him to grow countless, giant tentacles which resemble penises. Ironically, it is by violently destroying the Earth that the Chōjin makes way for another world filled with peace and harmony. Irony is another element that is present in rogue films.
The characters of Urotsukidōji, especially the women, are exaggeratingly portrayed as helpless. The men and beasts have hyperbolized sexuality. One human, in exchange for the power of a demon, chops off his penis to replace it with a demon penis. Despite the sexual nature of this film, it maintains a complex and interesting plot. Maeda creates another world, where there are demons, half-beasts, and humans struggling for control of the Earth. Not only is the sexual nature of the film rogue, but the introduction of demons and beasts is also rogue. This storyline subverts the egotistical nature of our humanity, one in which the world revolves around us. In this film, there is a pure evil, one where demons exist, one that cannot be overcome by man. Every element of this film rebels against the norm. It rebels against the film industry by constructing an unconventional plot. It rebels against society by manifesting demons who try to destroy it. It rebels against Japanese legislature by dodging censorship laws. Most importantly, it rebels against its audience, who Maeda clearly wants to disturb. Every moment of rebellion embodies the spirit of what it means to be rogue.