September 16, 2012

GYO: TOKYO FISH ATTACK! (2012) - Junji Ito anime adaption

(2012, Japan)

Don't gyo anywhere near the water...

The DVD cover art makes this look like a Sharktopus derivative (and nowadays, ripping off Roger Corman would be a very low stoop). But it's actually a most welcome feature-length anime adaption of Junji Ito's 2001 manga story, Gyo. Animation makes for a faithful realisation of his visual style and unreal world.

Three students are spending a study vacation on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. But what they think is a rat running around inside their beach house turns out to be a fish... on legs... stinking like a corpse. Outside, the ocean appears to be emptying - every kind of sea creature is running up the road. Their holiday ends abruptly when a shark appears at their window...

As the creepy crawling catastrophe heads for the cities, humanity gets infected and slaughtered in an escalating variety of nasty...

While a possible root cause is discovered (for me, it doesn't hold enough water), you're invited to revel in the bizarreness and grotesquerie of Ito's nightmare visions.

Ito has written and drawn my favourite scariest manga stories, also inspiring the live-action movies of Uzumaki and the Tomie series (currently numbering nine). The Uzumaki manga is my favourite ever manga story (published in three translated volumes by Viz). But Gyo topped it for gruesomeness and I thought it would defy adaption. While a live-action Gyo would 'out-gross' The Human Centipede, anime is a logical option.

From Junji Ito's original 2001-2002 manga story, Gyo

Anyone new to Juni Ito's stories, or even Japanese horror, needs to be warned that this isn't a traditional disaster/invasion movie. The authorities aren't going to turn up at the end and clear it all up. One hero isn't going to set everything straight. These are explorations of Ito's fears, in this case the ocean, taken to logical extremes, but following dream-logic. The hallucinatory climax brings some of Ito's best work to life in glorious colour...

Some of the isolated weirdness that happens in Gyo has more context in the manga, and could be mistaken for story-points (like the floating fish corpse in the binbag). But they're just extra bizarre ideas that Ito wants to freak us out with.

The anime is quite short (at 71 minutes) but runs at a very fast, multi-legged pace. The chronological events of the manga are slightly scrambled, making the character's logic even harder to follow. Some of the horrors are reassigned to different and new characters (horror-reassignment?), and the scuttling escalation is now rushed and out of sequence. (If the town's overrun by walking fish, I wouldn't stick around...). Initially, the media seems unconcerned, transport runs smoothly, and some of the streets remain strangely clear of ambulatory sea life.

Besides the altered timeline, another deviation from the manga is the addition of more female nudity, sex, and low-angle crotch-shots. Mixing up soft-porn titillation with sexual violence is still a regular trait of adult anime, but the one-sided sexual victimisation of only the female characters really needs to move on and challenge the genre stereotype that has dogged anime, ever since the infamous Legend of the Overfiend followed Akira into international consciousness.

The 3D animation of the fish, sharks and other unearthly creations clashes with the 2D characters as usual, but seeing these creatures so vividly portrayed is a surreal treat.

Early, publicity artwork
I'm delighted that Terror Cotta have released this so quickly (on a region 2 PAL DVD in the UK), rather than the years-long wait we normally have to endure for translated Japanese movies. The extras include an interview with creator Junji Ito, who I'd like to hear a lot more from! The English subtitles are pretty good, but could have done with a spell-checker. There's no option of an English-language dub, which I personally don't miss. But as I've said, the cover art (seen at top) looks like an Asylum movie (and I'd have really liked a reversible option). Though I'll admit that while I liked the original artwork, it's equally misleading.

An anime expansion of the world of Uzumaki would be next on my Ito wishlist...

Here's a short taster of Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack on YouTube...

Other movies based on Junji Ito manga:

1 comment:

  1. Great review! This looks just like my cup of tea. Thanks for bringing it to my attention :)