Iron Virgin Jun Anime Review
鉄の処女 JUN (アイアンバージン)
Aian Baajin Jun (Tetsu no Shojo)
Iron Virgin Jun
US Release By
Jun Asakura is the daughter of one of the most powerful families in Japan. A family known for the strength--both physical and mental--of its women. When Jun's mom plans a "bride auction" for her 18th birthday, she flees the party before she gets married off to some random creepy rich kid. But even though Jun is no ordinary girl, she's going to have a heck of a time escaping the veritable army her mom has out to haul her back and make a woman out of her.
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You have to admire Go Nagai's ability to come up with absolutely insane ideas, write stories around them with something resembling a straight face, and not only get them published, but animated as well. Sometimes the result is a sort of tasteless mad genius. Other times... well, it's just sorta crazy. Iron Virgin Jun is one of those other times. As usual, Nagai manages to supply the collection of characters with a likability and something resembling believable personalities, and Jun is practically worth the price of admission: She may wear a frilly pink dress and spends most of the flick fleeing raving maniacs, but she's no damsel in distress--she's got a meaty physique that would impress characters from Fist of the North Star, Hoganesque wrestling moves on tap, and the only fight she loses is one against three helicopters full of snipers. That's the good. The bad is that the whole thing is savagely tasteless, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, seems to be missing any backstory, and the end is conclusive yet oddly melancholy. At least there's a lot of half-decent action--fisticuffs galore, a car chase in a pink microvan, and a massive, brutal, pro-wrestling-style brawl between Jun and her towering beast of a mother at the climax.
Iron Virgin Jun may well have some guilty appeal to folks who dig Nagai's quality limbo, but for me at least it bends so far backward it hits the ground. If you're going to watch it, definitely don't do it alone--it practically demands to be heckled with friends, and make sure they're friends with really bad taste.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
If nothing else, you have to admire Go Nagai's ability to come up with absolutely insane ideas, write stories around them with something resembling a straight face, and not only get them published, but animated as well. Sometimes the result is a sort of tasteless mad genius. Other times... well, it's just sorta crazy. Iron Virgin Jun is one of those other times.
Maybe the scenario makes more sense if you've read the manga, but I somehow doubt it. The story ostensibly takes place in present-day Japan, except for no readily apparent reason there are teams of superpowered rapists-for-hire, magical islands, undead grandparents, and the musclebound, crown-wearing women of the powerful Asuka family. There isn't even a passing effort to explain the "logic" of this setting, not that it would have helped.
As usual, Nagai's strength (other than sheer insanity) is his ability to give characters that seem like a joke oddly likable personalities. Here, we have a scrawny servant, Kratta, who does his best to help Jun avoid her mother's plans, Jun's meek but concerned father (a reserved, traditionally-dressed Japanese man in the shadow of his mountain of a wife), and Jun herself.
Jun certainly gets credit for being a unique heroine. She may wear a tiara and a frilly pink dress and spends most of the flick fleeing raving monsters, but she is not your average damsel in distress. No, she's got a meaty physique that would impress characters from Fist of the North Star, Hoganesque wrestling moves on tap, and the only fight she loses is one against three helicopters full of snipers. It's practically worth the price of admission to see the heroine flex her huge muscles and come bursting out of her party dress, or to watch as her "savior" valiantly tries to help only to be literally tossed aside. Plus, she's kind of a sweet girl on top of it. How Nagai does it, I have no idea.
That's the "good." As for the bad, there's pretty much everything else. Topping the list is the Golden Cherry Boys, a quartet of villainous lechers who wear various phallic, animal-shaped robotics as codpieces and have been hired by Jun's mother to violate the poor girl. Yes, she ends up beating the living tar out of them all, but it's still wrong on so many levels it's impressive--I wasn't sure if I should laugh in disbelief or try to gouge my eyes out. There's also some sort of indecipherable symbolism about a magical island that her waifish aunt lives on. Apparently, you can only get there after... I don't know, after you've been enlightened to the plight of others or something. And no, I'm not kidding.
It doesn't even have any little self-conscious winks to the audience--the whole thing is remarkably straight-faced. I admit there's a sort of mesmerizing appeal to the insanity of it all, but the entire premise is so outrageously tasteless that I felt like I needed a shower when it was over. Plus, the end is simultaneously conclusive, oddly melancholy, and rather unsatisfying--at the very least, I was hoping for some sort of explanation about what the heck was up with that island, but nope.
The visuals are sort of good and bad at the same time. There are all the Nagai standbys: Girl chained to wall in spotlight, flagrant displays of ridiculous aristocratic wealth, big, ugly women, and even uglier men. The coloring is garish and the character designs are largely unpleasant and rather inconsistent. On the other hand, it's pretty darned funny to see Jun's cute face paired with her burly physique (even if her musculature seems to vary between merely beefy and totally ripped depending on the scene). There's also all manner of half-decent action--wild fisticuffs galore, a car chase in a pink microvan, and a massive, brutal, pro-wrestling-style brawl with her towering beast of a mother at the climax. Mom's a heck of a character, by the way--she looks like Violence Jack in drag duded up in some sort of futuristic opera signer armor. She wears a crown that looks a little like Galactus' head, too. The action also has a better sense of space than most Nagai anime--not great, but good enough not to bug me.
Keiju Ishikawa's music is just sort of there--barely noticeable and totally forgettable. At least the end theme is a passable, mildly edgy rock song. I do have one question: Who decided that in all Go Nagai anime "skritchy-skritchy-skritch" is the sound of an evil person forming a plan? Really, listen during that "knowing, menacing glare" close-up--it's always there.
The Japanese voice acting is surprisingly not bad. Chisa Yokoyama (yes, Sasami) voices Jun, and pulls off the somewhat beleaguered nice girl well even if she's a little shrill as a grunting brawler. Daiki Nakamura is also pretty funny as her hapless, desperate servant. The only other role that doesn't involve a lot of stock screaming and drooling is Kazue Komiya as mom, and she's... well, impressively gruff--her voice certainly fits. I didn't watch AnimeWorks' dub, but their subtitle translation is rather sloppy.
In all, Iron Virgin Jun may well have some guilty appeal to folks who dig Nagai's quality limbo, but for me at least it bends so far backward it hits the ground. I wanted to like it, but it's so outrageously tasteless I just couldn't. If you're going to watch it, definitely don't do it alone--Iron Virgin Jun practically demands to be heckled with friends, and make sure they're friends with really bad taste.
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The closest of Nagai's works is definitely the sleazy but slightly more fun Kekko Kamen, or, on the serious (and even worse) end, maybe The Abashiri Family. Cutey Honey is also along the same general lines. Finally, if you like the burly women theme, check out the Project A-ko series; Mari is a punchline in the first movie, and there are similar jokes throughout.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a short manga series of the same name by Go Nagai. As usual, it's not available in English. The original manga version ran during 1983 in the monthly "Big Comic Sprits," and was published as a single-volume compilation in 1984. It was reprinted in 1992, and again in 2000.
The Japanese characters used in the title (鉄の処女, usually read "Tetsu no Shojo") literally translate as "Iron Virgin." It's a play on words, since that's how "iron maiden" (the medieval torture device) is written in Japanese. However, to make the difference clear, the title of this OAV (and the manga version) is captioned with phonetic characters for the English "Iron Virgin" instead of "Iron Maiden," implying that it's intended to be read that way and that the meaning is a bit different. It may well also be intended as a play on the name of the heavy metal band (which is of course written phonetically as "Iron Maiden" in Japanese, not using a translation); they were relatively popular at the time the manga was originally written.
Three random cultural side notes: The rewards for Jun on the TV screen are mistranslated by AnimeWorks; the reward for information is listed as 10,000,000 yen (roughly US$100,000) and the reward for her capture is 100,000,000 yen (roughly US$1,000,000). For some reason AnimeWorks' subtitles say 1 million yen and 10 million yen respectively, which isn't correct either literally or as a rough translation to US dollars.
Although his name is actually Kurata (a real Japanese family name), Jun nicknames her servant Kratta (or, more accurately, Kuratta, though it sounds more like the former). I'm not positive about this, but I'd guess this is because "kuratta" can mean roughly "ate it" (as in "took a punch" or "wiped out") so it might be a joke on his rather scrawny physique and tendency to get knocked unconscious every time he tries to help in a fight.
Finally, the pink microbus that they commandeer and spend half the show tooling around in is actually a real type of vehicle in Japan; called a "K" wagon, they're a cheap alternative to a minivan or full-sized car. They're not built very solidly and have a very small engine, but make for decent, inexpensive transportation in Japan's cramped city streets. They're not, however, often seen in bright pink--usually white.
US DVD Review
AnimeWorks' DVD is basic but gets the job done. The video is reasonably good looking (or at least as good-looking as the garish original material allows), and it has stereo audio in Japanese and English plus soft subtitles (which aren't terribly accurate, unfortunately). Oddly, the credits (which have a bit of story accompanying them) are left completely in Japanese, followed by the English credits with no soundtrack at all. There are no special features whatsoever.
AnimeWorks puts 13-up on the box, which would be fine--it's shockingly modest--except for the entire concept (rapists for hire?) and one short scene with the Cherry Boys doing bad things to the household staff just for show. That easily bumps it up to 16-up.
Violence: 2 - A lot of wrestling-style brawls, but it's not terribly graphic.
Nudity: 1 - Shockingly, absolutely no exposed flesh, although those phallic codpieces should count for something.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - The entire concept is tasteless, and there's a brief, undetailed scene with the baddies ravishing the maids--whether it's consensual or not isn't clear.
Language: 1 - Again, shockingly clean, at least in the subtitles.