High School Co-ed is the first of five films which make up the Angel Guts box set. Based on the Manga of the same name by Takashi Ishii this film was directed by Sone Chusei and the series was produced by the notorious Nikkatsu Studios. This is a shocking film which walks the tightrope between exploitation and art as we follow a small gang of biker youths intent on rape and robbery.
Kawashima, Kajima and Sadakuni live in Tokyo, they have some Yakuza connections but are basically small time hoods. Kajima is obsessed with rape, while Kawashima has some lingering reservations mainly because of his younger sister, Megumi who is beginning to attract some of the unsavoury characters he hangs out with. Sadakuni is impotent but he makes up for this by being insanely violent.
Kawashima tries to protect his sister to some extent and his feeling for her affects his attitude to the gang. After he saves another young girl, Nami, from Kajima´s clutches his angry gang mates demand that he later rapes her in front of them to atone for his lack of loyalty. Kawashima has an internal battle over this, played out in some freaky nightmare sequences but his love and respect for his sister aren´t enough to prevent him from attacking Nami.
The film is nicely shot, crude in places but very effective. The opening scene as the bikers run a couple off the road, rob the guy and rape his wife is reminiscent of Mad Max. There is a good use of lighting and colour adding the feel of a comic book frame to some of the shots. Chusei also contrasts the horrible brutality of rape with some gorgeous scenery as the young Nami is raped in an abandoned train yard and the camera follows her gaze off to the distant horizon.
Sadly for Nami both Kawashima and Kajima continue to fight over who will get to rape her. Kawashima seems to have some lingering desire to protect her despite his earlier violence and the incensed Kajima begins to focus his attention on Kawashima´s younger sister, the innocent and naive Megumi. Kajima takes out his revenge on Megumi and Kawashima is consumed by anger, after a run in with the cops he picks a fight with a Yakuza which can only end in disaster.
This is an unpleasant tale which concentrates on the act of rape and the effect it has on both the aggressor and the victim. The sexual scenes are not especially graphic and they are certainly not erotic. The script is fairly straightforward and combined with the direction gives the whole production the feeling of a manga.
The film was released in 1978 and this is apparent in the fashions and music throughout the film. Everything has a gritty feel to it from the dilapidated urban setting to the uncomfortable exchanges between the main characters. The innocence of the victims is contrasted sharply with the depravity and directionless violence of the gang. Kawashima is obviously bored with his life, working in a grubby factory, caring for his younger sister and he struggles to reconcile his better intentions with his dubious actions. By the time he realises what he has become it is too late for him to change and he still seems unwilling to turn on his friends, even the hate-filled Kajima.
The acting in the film is very good. Kawashima is particularly convincing, the actor does a nice portrayal of the battle between his honourable intentions and his darker desires which are stirred up by his gang mates. Kajima is thoroughly foul and morally bankrupt and Sadakuni seems to be mentally challenged. All concerned play their parts seriously and with some consideration for the subject matter.
A dark and grubby tale concentrating on themes not often explored this is an interesting film but certainly not to everyone´s tastes. Although shocking and unsettling to watch there is a brutal honesty here and the viewer is left in no doubt as to the damaging impact such violent crime has on both the victim and the criminal.