As I noted in my recent review of Gor, fans of the John Norman novels the film was supposedly based on must have been quite vexed at the sanitized nature of the proceedings. Imagine the John Carter of Mars series with a LOT of BSMD sex, and you have the Gor novels. The film and its sequel Outlaw of Gor (which I’ll review when my DVD arrives), however, forewent the sex slavery element more or less entirely.
Luckily for frustrated ‘Goreans,’ as that elite niche segment of fandom fashions itself, this situation was unsurprisingly addressed by Japan, the Athens of Creepy Sex Stuff. Going the opposite route from the films—and thus eschewing the need to pay Norman any money—the anime series Fencer of Minerva skipped all the non-essential elements of the books like the characters and the basic world in order to focus on the important stuff: A fantasy world featuring lots and lots of slave sex.
Norman’s philosophy on such matters, if you can call it such, is rather better represented here than in the movies that trumpet his name over their titles. On Gor, initially reticent women inevitably learn to embrace slavery when it is imposed upon them, and are vastly happier for it, since (according to Norman) that is the natural order of things. The books feature—with much less emphasis—men slaves, too. As natural masters, however, men in contrast horribly resent being subjugated. Blissful acquiescence in such matters is a chick thing.
I’m no expert on Norman’s shenanigans, having only read one of his books, the eighth of 28 novels (!), Hunters of Gor. However, by that point in the series the sex slave thing was already moving front and center. So although I can’t say I’m steeped in his writings, I think I have a serviceable handle on what he was getting after.
We open in the fantasy kingdom of (they don’t say, so I assume it’s Minerva), which is sort of around medieval Europe, techwise. Swords are the weapons of choice, and the horses and cattle feature two powerful bird-like legs rather than four normal ones. (The Gor novels feature Tarns, giant birds that character fly around upon, whereas this features two-headed flying dragons that fill the same function. Again, this all seems designed to nod in the direction of Norman’s books, but in a vague enough fashion as to avoid copyright infringement.)
In the prologue, we meet the series two main characters as maybe eight year-old children, Diana and Prince Sho.* They are having a bit of a picnic under an apple tree. We get a quick taste of Norman when the young Sho asks Diana if she’ll grow up to become his servant. She hotly replies that she intends to be princess, and not a servant. You can imagine how that eventually goes for her.
[*I usually give foreign materials the break of listening to the voices in the original language. This is brutal stuff, though, so I opted to listen instead to the dubbed American voice acting, which at least has the advantage of being quite horrible inept. And I have to say, the original Japanese voice acting is itself pretty gratingly shrill, particularly during the numerous sex scenes. Anyway, as is often the case, you can derive additional amusement from keeping the subtitles on anyway, to see where the dubbed voices deviate from the original Japanese dialogue.]
Sadly for the kids, a coup is just then occurring, and Sho’s father the King is slain by his Captain of the Guards and now usurper Randis. (“I assume this means you do not agree with my leadership,” the King sagely notes shortly before his death.) Guards come for the kids as well, and Sho takes a deep cut to the face before falling a great distance down into some turbulent waters. Diana is Randis’ daughter, and thus does indeed become a princess.
Cut maybe ten years later, with Diana presumably being around (I hope!) seventeen or eighteen, if you know what I mean and I think you do. She’s in a mildly rebellious phase and eventually sneaks into the surrounding town dressed in male clothes. This rather strains our suspension of disbelief, however, since everyone treats her like a man despite the typically huge Japanese cartoon boobs threatening to burst out of her man’s tunic.
We also quickly meet the adult version of Sho, quickly identifiable by a fancy-smancy eye patch he wears over the damaged part of his face.* This has a colored glass panel in it, though, so I assume he can still see out of the eye. They probably figured it would be hard to buy a one eyed master swordsman, what with the lack of depth perception and all.
[*Given this, I was expecting a Phantom of the Opera like mask removal to reveal his disfigured face. When he does take it off, though, he has barely a visible scar. So....got me.]
I will say that the sex stuff isn’t entirely why this isn’t that well known. It’s pretty lame stuff altogether. The limited animation is pretty cheap—camera pans and zooms over static frames are often substituted for actual, you know, animation—and the character designs feature many of the less-admirable Japanese tropes: Huge eyes (or flat really elongated ones), sharp triangle noses and teeny tiny mouths.
However, Goreans will presumably be happy with all the sex; lesbian sex, forced and otherwise; ‘erotic’ whippings (which never leave unsightly scars); and of course a woman’s ultimate happiness via sex after utterly giving herself over to her master. There are also other elements from the books represented, such as (of course) slave auctions, slave collars, having the Master give his slave her ‘true’ name, court intrigue and swordplay.
Even so, the nudity and sex and Normanesque ‘philosophy’ of sexual dominance take front and center. On the other hand, the film isn’t as hard-edged on dehumanizing the slaves. I hesitate to call the film’s take on this slavery as ‘romantic,’ but I guess it is, compared to Norman’s contemptuous “slaves are nothing but animals” dogma. On that other hand, you could argue that such a tack is even more offensive.
Then there’s the ‘plot,’ which naturally involves Sho’s quest for revenge. This is fulfilled in the first two chapters, leaving a rather weird third episode involving…some stuff. Uh, there’ a young girl, and she’s snotty and spoiled, and, well, I think you can guess how that ends up.
Comedy-wise…well, as I noted the dub track is horrible. The English dub voices are really bad, and the hilarious interjections during crowd scenes are consistently funny. And the voice acting during the sex scenes…wow. If I were a younger man with rowdy friends, and drank (especially if I drank heavily), I suppose this might make a good party DVD. And although it’s definitely unsavory, it’s not as just plain gross as all the demon / tentacle sex stuff Japan puts out.
A couple of the dying speeches near the end are pretty rich. Then there’s a scene featuring the only (more of less) flying piranhas I’ve seen outside Piranha 2: The Spawning. It’s almost impossible to mess up something like that, although here they get about as little juice out of them as possible. Still, it’s something.
There is a second volume of this stuff, but I think I’ve done all reasonable due diligence here. So you’re on your own for that one.