Blue Flames

Misogyny has been alive and well in anime for some time. The seinen world of comics for men was at one time full of it. Frankly, when anime got its first major breakthrough in the late '80s and early '90s, nasty and pornographic titles like Urotsukidoji and La Blue Girl made it look like all anime were about violence to women, and that's unfortunate.

Some series have gotten away with it by making it vaguely excusable in the context of their characters. For example, Golgo 13 uses women; then again, he's a cold-hearted killer whose only redeeming character trait is that he always gets the job done, and the women are at most an uncomfortable distraction. I'd like Golgo 13 better without it, but because it's not front and center, it doesn't completely destroy the franchise. But realistically, the harem anime that populate the shonen world aren't that much different; lots of hot young girls all pining after the same man is male wish fulfillment, not realism in any sense that reflects the genuine nature of the fairer sex. Long story short: there is a problem in anime, and it is the devaluing of women.

I bring all of this up because Blue Flames, an OVA from 1989, is about the most realistically misogynistic anime I think I've ever seen. There are no tentacles, no harems, and no silent gunmen. However, it feels more like Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men, a study of male chauvinism and hatred toward women. Sadly, unlike LaBute's film, there's no sense of loss or concern. One could easily watch Blue Flames and think that this is a smart way to live...which makes it altogether repulsive.

Ryuichi is finishing high school, determined to make it into Tokyo University. At first, he seems like a smart but helpless nerd who's willing to pay an exorbitant sum to a couple tough guys who want to beat him up. But that's just a set-up...Ryuichi is cunning and ruthless, sleeping around to get cash and willing to resort to blackmail to keep the yen flowing. He leaves women strewn in his wake...some who are willing to jump in bed with him at the first chance, but others who think they are genuinely in love with him. It doesn't matter to him. As long as he can make his dream of Tokyo University, he'll step on anybody in his way. He'll even go to great lengths to humiliate those who have crossed him in even minor ways. His heart, filled with "blue flame," pushes him beyond the limits of a normal man...but then again, sociopaths aren't normal, are they?

I found this title while wandering around a small review site that specializes in lost '80s anime, and it really should have stayed lost. The animation is not all that good. The music is pure melodrama, and frankly it makes the piece feel more like a middling soap. The music, more than anything, tipped me off that this was not a character study in chauvinism but a brutal T&A show for immature men. Fans who can appreciate good artistry in lousy shows need not worry that they are missing anything.

Blue Flames is genuine trash and meant to be so, I think. In a running time around forty-five minutes, there are at least five sex scenes, and while they aren't pornographic in the most direct sense or even that long, they are graphic enough to be squicky. The women are either whores to conquer or virgins to deflower. They have different enough personalities, I suppose, but it's really just an excuse to show a guy getting what he wants -- money, power, and sex.

Ryuichi is the worst kind of anti-protagonist because nobody can beat him. Even when he winds up being defeated by a tennis pro on the courts, a couple hours of lessons and he can destroy his foe. In a sense, he's not unlike Light from Death Note -- ridiculously smart, fiendishly ruthless, and more than willing to stomp on the innocent to accomplish his purposes. But then again, Light never committed the near-rape of a naïve young woman who cared for him and then drove her to attempt suicide by telling her that he was tired of her and her body. Light is a saint by comparison.

I don't feel like every anime has to have a happy ending or that shows shouldn't explore the dark side of humanity. I can even handle a reasonable amount of moral ambiguity. But Blue Flames crosses the line because it never even pretends to see the ethical crimes that Ryuichi commits as anything but the natural outworking of Ryuichi's unwavering plan to make a life for himself. It's Ayn Rand's Objectivism at its logical extreme without any critique. As far as I'm concerned, that's a moral evil in and of itself. While I toyed with giving the program a passing grade, ultimately it's just exploitation.

Because of its age and obscurity, you'll probably never run across Blue Flames, and that's just as well. But then again, many of my loyal readers love finding new titles no one else has ever heard of, and this would fit that bill. My recommendation? Find something better to do with your Internet connection. Even lolcats would be better.

Blue Flames -- profanity, strong sexual content, nudity, rape -- F