Sunday, April 28, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Animated April Finale - Spicy City

Welcome to the final entry for Animated April! We end this journey with an anthology series brought to us by the legendary Ralph Bakshi...Spicy City.

Title: Spicy City
Year: 1997
Starring: Barry Stigler, Mary Mara, Michelle Phillips, Charlie Adler, Letitia Hicks, Tuesday Knight
Director: Ralph Bakshi, John Kafka, Ennio Torresan Jr
Synopsis: An anthology of sexy and risque animated stories in a futuristic city with a seamy side.
Why it is Notable: Is said to be the first Adult's Only animated series. Created by animation legend, Ralph Bakshi.

"You know, it's a shame a thing of beauty such as this should go to waste. If only there was some way to get rid of the bitch inside."

Planning for Animated April was a surprisingly difficult thing. One would think that it pretty much plans itself, but I completely forgot Easter was a thing. Also originally Fritz the Cat was on the list but it's more politics than porn and I just wasn't feeling it. Besides, the last time I watched it a certain scene left me feeling gross. So it was cut from the lineup.

I could have done another infamous Bakshi film: Cool World, which has aged incredibly poorly, is clomping over the footprints of greatness, and is too softcore for my needs.

And I doubt many people remember Spicy City anyway.

Spicy City was a 6 episode animated anthology Bakshi created for HBO. It was the first adult animated series, predating South Park. It claims that, anyway, but we all remember AEon Flux, right? That came out in 1991, as a series of shorts, then the half hour episodes came in 1995. Spicy City came out in 1997.

I remember seeing magazine ads for Spicy City in comic books, or perhaps Wizard Magazine. And I had to watch it. While we didn't have HBO, the show was aired on Teletoon, a Canadian cartoon network. I watched every episode in 1997 and I've come now to revisit it. Does it hold up?

The whole series is such a product of its time. It's post Cool World Bakshi, and it feels like it's trying to be a continuation of that film in some ways. Raven, our narrator, is, in a way, a smarter, classier version of Holli Would.

Some of the shorts hit, some miss. One episode I find myself coming back to every once and a while, is Love is a Download. It is by far the best episode, and represents the era well. In 1997, the Internet was still new, and the 5 FPS style of animation for the 'digital' scenes is really reminiscent of watching fucking .gifs on a crappy Geocities website.
The story is good, the character designs are fun. For a cartoon, Alice is beautiful, and Mary Mara gives her a soft, breathy voice. This episode has no actual smut, but Alice walks around in a sheer robe, nipples aplenty. It ends on a hopeful, but bittersweet note. It's Ready Player One, but, y'know...good.

Manos Hands is probably my least favourite episode. It goes off on weird tangents, is questionable in how it portrays certain characters, and has a conclusion that comes out of nowhere. However, the voice acting of the villain in this episode is really, really good. Too good for this cartoon, actually.
Character design-wise, it's very Bakshi.
There's a voodoo lady who fucks a stupid fat guy and she can do so much better. There's a timely Lion King reference. Okay.

Tears of a Clone starts off slow but ends really, really well. Once more, the character designers did their best to make a beautiful girl. And Melissa is beautiful, almost ethereal. A long neck and big eyes and and pixie-ish, almost alien face. But the episode suffers from Cool, Edgy, Cyberpunk! A lot of words are just thrown about, lingo of the world with no definition, barely even context clues. While the plot twist was spoiled by the episode title, the ending is still very effective. It's an uneven episode but it at least culminates into something. It tried.
Each episode has a cold open by Raven who introduces the story, and closes it off. Like the Crypt Keeper. The animation in the cold open for Tears of a Clone is superior to anything else seen thus far in the show. Once again, they tried hard with this episode. They wanted to make something special here. I can feel it. It just meanders too much.

Eye for an Eye would be better with better character design. The main female character has a really annoying design. Her hair is all in her face and when she's in profile, her eye is almond shaped, not a sideways V. So basically she should look like a fish, with her eyes on the side of her head and not forward facing. I learned this is grade 9 art class. Come on. If I recall correctly, no other realistically drawn character in this series suffers from this design choice.
The episode itself is complete 90's edge. Girls are frenching because isn't that edgy? So edgy! The plot is driven by the father of all cliches: a cop has a bad partner, but he's only got 2 months before retirement with a pension!
It has an ambiguous, cruel ending which I dug and it lifts the episode's quality somewhat.

Sex Drive ...kind of annoys me. It's poorly written, and the character designs don't mesh well. The character of Nisa is too cute and twee, which I suppose is meant to add to her spunky personality but she's too much an Archie character. She looks like Betty and Veronica had a baby. The cops are too much of a caricature and the prostitute is too perfect.  Nothing looks like it's from the same world.
The prostitute, Virus, is trying to pick up johns inside a cybersex cafe, claiming she's real and the genuine article. To me that's like selling girl scout cookies outside of a bakery. Pick somewhere else you dumb ass. It's obviously not working for you.
Meanwhile two cops rough her up, asking for money she owes them. Nisa captures this on camera and says it's proof that the cops are behind the rash of disappearing prostitutes. What? Roughing up a prostitute for protection money doesn't mean they're abducting or killing anybody. That's quite the jump, Nisa.
Anyway, somehow Nisa is right, Virus becomes a sex robot, and the two girls live happily ever after. It's a dumb episode.

Raven's Revenge is the final episode and it is my second least favourite, or maybe tied for second least with Sex Drive. So, this episode is all about Raven. Yes, the narrator. It's a flashback and we learn that in the world of Spicy City, there are future Nazi's who are trying to keep the world free of mutants. Raven is a mutant who has some sort of virus but she was actually manufactured to spread the virus for profiting off the cure. We're introduced to conjoined twins, and a man that's an anthro duck, Raven sings a knock-off of Jessica Rabbit's rendition of Why Don't You Do Right, with a character who looks suspiciously like Jessica Rabbit looking bored in the audience and...just...what?

The backgrounds are just solid colours half the time, a lot of shots are reused, it's not great. It's obvious that they wanted to continue this plot into the second season, which was cancelled but it was too much, too late. We were told this is an anthology, not an origin story. The more I think about this episode, the more annoyed I become. It was a poor ending to the series.

So, did it hold up? Oh, god no. It barely registers as a blip on the adult animation landscape, 90's animation, and Bakshi's portfolio. There are some good stories here, some ambition, a want to bring something to the adult masses.

But I'm older now, wiser, and have indulged in more adult material in my time. This doesn't even have nostalgia to fall back on. There's higher quality than Spicy City out there. Maybe the second season would have been better. Maybe Spicy City deserves a remake. Maybe we should all just quietly forget it existed at all.

You can watch all of Spicy City on Youtube below.

Well, that was Animated April. I hope I helped you discover new adult animation to venture toward. What's your favourite animated porno?

LILITH'S SCORE: 2.5/5

NEXT TIME: He might be a dick, but he makes good movies. We're returning to the work of Radley Metzger with The Private Afternoon of Pamela Mann.



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