The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: Kick-Heart
Genre: Comedy/Action
Company: Production I.G
Format: Movie, 13 minutes
Dates: 26 May 2013

Synopsis: Romeo is a pro wrestler who goes by the in-ring moniker Maskman M, and he has a peculiar kink: he loves to get beat up in the ring. His favorite aggressor? Lady S, the strongest wrestler around, with whom Romeo falls head over heels in love when the two are on opposite sides in a tag team match. Will Romeo be able to communicate his feelings to Lady S?

The Highlights
Comedy: Lots of excellent physical comedy, and one quite brilliant poop joke.
Action: Hard-hitting, fun, and cartoony, with Yuasa Masaaki‘s unique touch.
Story: Mostly light and functional; doesn’t waste time.

Once upon a time I was a pro wrestling fan. Through high school I watched everything World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation I could get my hands on, and once I tired of that in college, I followed Japanese pro wrestling. The world of wrestling is a strange one; it strives for emotional reality with outlandish action and spectacle (though Japanese wrestling is rather subdued in comparison to its Western counterparts). Director Yuasa Masaaki‘s Kick-Heart firmly understands the appeal of this bizarre world and ably uses it to tell a simple, often funny love story.

Pro wrestling and Yuasa‘s cartoony, spastic style of art and animation were made for each other. The short’s first scene is a tag team match with protagonist Maskman M on one side and his love, Lady S, on the other. It brilliantly plays on the traditional structure of these sorts of tag team matches to play on and subvert Maskman M’s feelings toward Lady S. The names of those two should make the sadomasochism theme quite clear; the way Maskman M stomps in the corner as he desperately reaches out to be tagged in while his partner receives brutal punishment from Lady S is hysterically funny, as is what happens when M finally tags in. Yuasa‘s stylistic touches like warping the perspective of the ring as M tags in only heighten the action.

The physicality on display is Kick-Heart‘s greatest strength. Wrestling has always seemed a natural match for animation, because its combatants are already so animated — like silent film stars, they tell stories with their bodies and little else. This short understands that and mixes realistic action and superhero feats to great effect. When Kick-Heart ratchets up the action to ridiculous heights during the climactic scene, it’s an exhilarating experience.

That physicality is also key to much of the comedy. Maskman M is a man driven by his passions. He has one simple desire: to be beaten, bloodied and bruised by the woman of his dreams. There’s a Tex Avery quality to the way M expresses his wants; I couldn’t help but be reminded of the classic howling wolf scenario as M eagerly awaits his opportunity to be brutalized by Lady S. Once he finally gets his shot, it’s uproariously funny and painful. However, parts of the film also take place outside the ring in Maskman M’s normal life, and there is great humor to be found there as well. M, whose real name is Romeo, is an unassuming figure in reality, but his kinks don’t disappear simply because he removes his mask. There are several great moments where his respectable surface and hidden desires clash out in the open and lead to outcomes that are both amusing and embarrassing.

What of Kick-Heart‘s story? It’s mostly functional — quite light and basic, befitting its short running time. It doesn’t waste any moments and communicates exactly what needs to be communicated with both words and action. Kick-Heart‘s plot is mainly a love story with an amusing twist and serves as a vehicle for interesting animation and humor. That is fine. The creativity of action and humor is more than enough to carry the short. It’s the type of project I hope is made more often, something where a creator and his or her staff can go wherever their flights of fancy take them, even if they fly to a place where the greatest pleasure comes from pain.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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