Kick-Heart is a love story between Romeo, a successful pro-wrestler, and Juliet, a nun who lives a secret double-life as a female pro-wrestler. Romeo's secret is that he enjoys taking a beating in the ring, while Juliet feels invigorated when facing her opponents as a wrestler. When the two meet in the ring, the fireworks fly. Their story is set in the colorful backdrop of the professional wrestling world. Will Juliet reveal her true identity to the one she loves? Will Romeo be able to share his secret to the world?
Pain and pleasure. They are two sensory feelings that are central to the experience of living as a human being. Although they are typically distinct from one another, it is certainly something else when the two feelings merge: something that may seem strange to some, enticing to others, or perhaps strangely enticing to the rest.
Masaaki Yuasa, the acclaimed director of titles such as Mind Game and Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei, drew the idea for the main theme of Kick-Heart from this concept of pain and pleasure. He watched a French man getting tortured, and then amused himself at the thought of what it would be
like if that man experienced pleasure simultaneously. Also noteworthy is that he also drew inspiration from Tiger Mask, which is where the idea for pro-wrestling came from. Eventually, Yuasa’s ideas developed into this short film, which is notable in itself for the fact that its production was funded through a Kickstarter crowdfunding project. It is thanks to Kickstarter that this delightful tale of sensual wrestling was made possible.
With that said, Kick-Heart’s story is a simple one. At only twelve minutes, it would be unreasonable to expect an in-depth exploration of the human condition. Still, Kick-Heart, with its theme of pain and pleasure, focuses on a romance that is created between a “Romeo” and a “Juliet.” The Romeo in this case is a pro-wrestler who goes by the name of “Maskman M.” In the wrestling ring, he faces off against the Juliet, “Lady S”. As the letters in their names might suggest, Romeo enjoys taking the beatings in his job, whereas Juliet enjoys dishing them out. The romance appropriately kicks off (pun somewhat intended) during a match when Romeo takes a kick from Juliet, hence the title “Kick-Heart.” Just enough information is given about these two characters so that they firmly represent the different sides of the film’s theme. While the characters themselves are not the focus, the short movie format makes this work well, as attempting to flesh out a character in a limited amount of time would instead detract from the narrative focus. Despite the fairly simple premise, the film’s monomaniacal focus on its theme of sensual pain and the contrast between the two main characters is one of its strengths.
Another one of the strengths of this short film undoubtedly lies with Yuasa’s directing. Those of you who are familiar with his works will recognize his dynamic and fast-paced style and composition, coupled with some over-the-top scenes and quirky humor. And Kick-Heart is indeed funny and entertaining, putting the main character in strange and awkward situations. Dialogue is somewhat sparse and is only used when it absolutely needs to be, or to deliver the humor. Kick-Heart is ultimately a visually-driven work, as is the case with Yuasa’s other titles.
Accordingly, the aesthetics of Kick-Heart are perhaps its greatest treat. Yuasa’s works are often known for their art styles that are significantly different from the norm, and this film is no exception. This is mostly evident in its use of vibrant and vivid colors that emphasize its lively atmosphere. The character designs are eccentric, reinforcing the quirky humor that is used throughout. A bright color palette becomes more prominent during the wrestling sequences, in which the film’s climax lies. Of course, the colorfulness of the film is not limited to the art style alone, as the use of animation is just as lively. Of particular note are scenes that are depicted in a unique and peculiar manner, such as Romeo falling in love and his heart visibly pounding to show that. As an animated film, Kick-Heart uses the visual medium to great effect, making it both a pleasure to watch and to simply look at.
The soundtrack for the film may not be outstanding in comparison to its visuals, but it emphasizes the robust nature of the film nevertheless. The track used in the opening credits sequence is an excellent indication of things to come, establishing the atmosphere in an upbeat and energetic sort of way.
Kick-Heart’s length alone makes it a difficult title to simply pass up, as it is only about half the length of an average anime episode. It is a definite recommendation to anyone who watches anime or animation in general. Fans of Masaaki Yuasa will enjoy his familiar style in this film, and others will find it a great introduction to his growing list of works. Kick-Heart may not have the scale of a feature-length film, but it certainly packs quite a punch.
With a total of one episode at approximately 12 minutes long, this show is more than worth the time you will put into it. Do you like professional masked wrestling? Do you like characters with secret identities? Do you like S&M? Well, you should still give this show a try.
This show (or episode I should say) actually manages a plot in its short run-time. I've personally seen shows that can go six episodes without developing anything plot-wise, so seeing a show with an extremely brief story, that still makes itself humorous and interesting, was very refreshing.
The animation quality is good, and it fits
perfectly with the tone of the show. The sound quality is even better, with a dub that actually sounds like effort was put into it. Hell, by the time you finish reading this you could've watched the whole thing.
The internet teaches us that if you want to make something happen, odds are a few thousand other people want the same thing you do. The rise of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter has helped us realize countless innovative projects - and the anime industry has been taking notes!
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