by Jaime Grijalba.
(Japan, 70 min)
For those who read manga, even the name of Junji Ito may not be the most known or talked about in the inner circles of the hell known as the otaku fanbase. It is asumed that most of the guys and girls who read manga are just generic fans of it and don’t go beyond the themes and genres that the establishment has put for people, such as the ‘fighting’ mangas like Naruto, or sport issues that keep coming years after years. Not even with the surge of asian horror films of the 00′s the manga horror genre got a leap, as the figure of Junji Ito still remains underground for the main common occidental folk who is into the reading and collecting of the mangaka. But there is a group of people that are in the know, still quite a large number, but still not the majority, for those that the name of Ito is similar to dread and total fear, unmistakeable and dreadful fear, one that crawls under your skin, disgusts you and at the same time keeps hitting way too close to home in many of the themes it relies on, beyond the things that scare, as weird and strange as they are, they keep being way too close and harmful for anyone that has taken some time to read something from the master of the horror manga, something like Uzumaki, Tomie or… Gyo.
Now, of course, most (but not every single one) of the mangas that are drawn and published end up with some deal to turn them into anime, the way that the animated series, movies or videos are called when they are made in Japan. It is more uncommon for mangas to become live-action ventures, but it has happened before, and as we are talking about Junji Ito and adaptations of his manga work, most (if not all of them) have been transitions into live-action fare, being the most known the movie ‘Uzumaki’ (2000), based on his manga about a town and their people, gradually obsessing with spirals, or even the neverending ‘Tomie’ live-action series of films, about an inmortal woman that causes men to become violent just to be with her (even killing her in the process, but she always comes back), that just got their last installment last year with ‘Tomie: Anrimiteddo’ (2011). So this particular film, ‘Gyo’ (2012), is more like an oddity than the usual for any adaptation of Junji Ito’s work, or for any horror manga work. While I am not here to talk about the comparisons between the manga and the OVA we are discussing here (that would be something for another kind pass from Bob Clark to do some kind of ‘Comics on Page and Screen’ thing comparing both, and that’s besides that I haven’t finished the manga yet… not that is long, but it is extremely scary), I think it is important to look at the context, and you’ll maybe understand why this works better in animation than anything.
Three girls have just graduated and they are celebrating with a trip to a seaside community, where the air is fresh, the shopping is great and the people are nice, this is Okinawa. One of the three girls is constantly getting in touch with his boyfriend, Tadashi, who is in Tokyo, working with his uncle on many scientific investigations, they are gonna get married very soon. The other two girls couldn’t be more stock (but fun at the same time): a fat girl who can’t stop eating and doesn’t have any luck with the boys, and a really outgoing and easy slut-like girl (who we see having sex with two guys at the same time, later into the film). The trouble starts when the girls start to smell something fishy in the air, a stench like the one of rotting corpses starts to invade everywhere they are, and when they get home after a day out, the beach house they are staying at (owned by Tadashi’s family) is filled with the stench of rotting flesh, and when they clear it out (opening all windows and doors) they find the source, a small creature that runs around and hides from them, but in one moment they catch it behind a cupboard and what they see is something they don’t expect: a fish with legs. The fish itself is dead, but the legs, mechanical legs, still move, crawling in the empty space, twitching, bleeding… those dead eyes fixed on the nothingness… they quickly put the thing inside a garbage bag and put it outside, because of the stench it still hard. But this isn’t over, when the next day the stench still fills the place, the bag where the dead walking fish is was filled with the gas that the thing is putting out, and a giant shark with huge mechanical legs starts roaming the house.
The sight of the fish and other sea creatures coming out of the ocean of Japan, crawling into the streets with their mechanical legs is one of the most horrifying sights I’ve ever seen performed into animation. I mean, seeing a dead shark moving its jaws and growling like a lion as it walks towards you destroying the scenery is really a challenge not to at least squirm at. This is one scary and disgusting anime, specially when we are talking about the stench itself and its effect on all living creatures: imagine that every one of the fishes, sharks, or anything smells like rotting corpses, and their legs can pierce your skin and meat, infecting you with the bacteria that has made these animals like that, and it turns humans into… the most underscribable thing I’ve ever seen, a bloated corpse filled with gas with tubes going in the mouth and ass, filling with the gas the mechanism under them, that moves around with its eyes wide open, with the muffled sound of gas filling its insides. The movie itself is filled with even more disgusting and sickening imagery and scenes that would make anyone with weak stomach to just return it all in a few moments. The art of the movie and the animation is top notch and maybe that’s one of the reasons why the film itself is just so effective in its realism, I mean, if this ever was going to happen (and the explanation at the end is just way too fantastic for it to ever be true) this is what would happen, that is what it would look like: deserted cities filled with gas, soldiers shooting human beings, the sight of the crawling fish as a sea of life and death at the same time, you can almost smell the rotting flesh, the death in all of them and the sickness that spreads around. This is a full recommendation from me, but beware… you may get sick.