This Week: Call Me Tonight
Let’s have a talk about violent pornography.
To be fair though, this is itself not a hentai release. What Call Me Tonight happens to be is more of a comedic satire exploration of the exploitation body horror and tentacle porn espoused by the most legendary excesses of 1980’s releases. And it did it before Urotsukidōji, perhaps the most defining and exalted ruler of that blood and bone throne folks tend to look back on, saw its release in anime form.
History wise, this thirty minute 1986 OVA is the first volume of a four part (five if one double dips to include the deluxe extended adult cut for series entrant Body Jack) collection by AIC entitled Pink Noise.
For those of you who do not already know your way around oddball international video store tapes, pink films are this shifting and hard to pin down approach of low budget adult cinema that tiptoe their ways around various Japanese media permissions. They hold their origination in the early 1960’s, and tend to utilize cinematography approaches designed to obfuscate some of the sexual subject matter in creative ways and commentary. In essence, attempting to get their particular objectives across via that which both is and is not seen, as it were. While all of the Pink Noise entries contain different raunchy topics to varying degrees and methods, and maybe I’ll write about the others some day, as the leadoff Call Me Tonight is generally considered the most ambitious and technically sound of the bunch.
And I’m going to spoil the hell out of its short running time to talk about sex and stuff. So, you know, alerts and warnings and all the rest.
Ryo Sugiura, our male lead, has a rather particular issue when he gets aroused. Even the way in which he tries to describe it to different characters or the show handles it is itself kind of surprisingly sharp. He calls up a phone sex hotline as the title may imply (Telephone Communication Madonna, to be precise), as he tries to tell one worker that his body undergoes these strange changes when he masturbates. He gets transferred to the boss, who is our female lead in the form of Rumi Natsumi, where he rattles on about seeing “lights and birds and stuff” when he tries to get to business, and his room always just ends up destroyed in the process.
He is clearly confused, understandably awkward, and it makes enough sense to us as viewers that he can not describe precisely what actually happens when he is sexually excited: he turns into a rotating variety of horrific monster. Sometimes sinewy, other points slimy, even tentacle-y in different circumstances. He never ends up as the same kind of destructive beast twice, which I think is apt not only from a visual interest form to keep things dynamic but also works as a physical representation of consistently reacting in different ways to new stimuli.
It may be on the nose, but his monstrous nature functions as a thrashing, inhuman, otherworldly, and downright violent stand-in for a libido. Ryo is a character who nosebleeds in a particular scene when turned on not because of some age old anime sight gag nonsense, but because his body is bursting at the seams in more ways than one. He is effectively a gore porn beast or tentacle monster who finds the entire prospect of what such a character would normally do (if played straight in a traditional horror sex production) to be a really unnerving and unsatisfying prospect.
He by no means wants to be like this, he just desires help to enjoy normal sexual activities but has no idea where to turn to. Which does dovetail with the notion that sex issues tend to be really awkward to bring up to, say, ones own doctor. And, after all, a phone sex operation is sort of guaranteed to tell a caller everything will be alright about whatever intimacy issue claimed regardless of how outlandish it sounds.
Our two primary female characters then, to their credit, each have their own ways of approaching this situation as a kind of satirical point.
Rumi finds herself interested in this story from our sheepish dude, and decides to meet with him in a public diner. She has been all but told Ryo is a very dangerous entity, but makes the plan anyway. She gets calls all the time as a professional in the field and boss of the phone sex operation, so she is approaching the issue from a kind of “Of course you have a monster down there, timid shy guy who probably does not get out much.” There is a sense of almost eye rolling ease in her initial interactions with him. Meet up, have tea, maybe a bit more, open and shut case. She was bored, is what comes down to. When he turns out to actually be a sex drive powered monster then, we turn to a night on the town of various kind of exposure therapy (dirty movie theaters, etc) because now Rumi has shifted from boredom to something potentially even more dangerous: unfettered public amusement in seeing what it can do.
As one could predict, Rumi ends up with a sort of rival (a delinquent kind of character named Oyuki) who comes to hear of Ryo in their own ways. Via the whole down through the grapevine effect, they coming away with their own interpretation of Ryo’s issue; Oyuki considers it more to mean they are a monster in bed, as it were.
While other characters trying to explicitly try to tell her This Is A Very Wrong Thing To Think And You Are Not Quite Getting The Message Here, the concerns fall on deaf ears during her pursuit of him for sexual purposes. The in-universe reactions therein is a very explicit (if again kind of hamfisted) nod regarding how viewers at home have wanted to shake various romantic comedy characters at one time or another for chasing someone the audience knows they should not. Alternatively, perhaps also a tendency of certain protagonists in horror porn productions to hurl themselves into absolutely absurdly dangerous circumstances despite a number of warnings. And notably, Ryo himself is absolutely terrified of this. Oyuki goes after him with a dogged “Let’s see the monster!” kind of mentality, and he is horrified at the thought of seeing her in a sexual position because he does not know what terrible deed he would do to her (or the walls, or the surrounding city block). Which is itself the very thing she thinks she wants to hear and the prospect excites her and drives her on all the more.
These are farcical theatre and comedy of errors stylistic approaches to reflect on the horror porn arena.
As far as mysteries go, the solution to Ryo’s fearsome condition is not all that more complex than a standard episode of Scooby-Doo. Or rather, it is not unexpected (it might be a monster infused romantic comedy, but it is still a romantic comedy). The actual complexity of the means by which he gets his sexual urges under control could itself be seen to have several interpretations, depending on in what ways one views the resolution as him overcoming his physical lusts or succumbing to something else and what that would mean for several of the characters.
While I consider the execution of this OVA to range from good enough to slightly above average, I think it is a rather intriguing relic. We just do not see a lot of things like it in the industry, and given the tricky attempt to bridge a gap between horror hentai with romantic comedy there were few others similar to it even in its heyday. Heck, it was virtually mocking a genre of anime that to this day continues to define the entire medium in various circles of the public consciousness before several of the most notorious ones were ever made! And I think there is a value in that, and even moreso for still retaining a commentary edge even after their release.
Tentacles are hard to make massively threatening and endearingly amusing in the same small run time, to be sure. And maybe that’s a sex joke in its own right.
Mothballs is a weekly write-up of already completed anime I have either removed from my backlog or have recently revisited. A crash space for my immediate thoughts and personal processing, these are not intended as full reviews.