Screened at the 2012 Terracotta Far East Film Festival.
“Gyo” is an OVA anime adaptation of the horror manga by popular artist Junji Ito, the mad genius best known for the likes of “Tomie” and “Uzumaki”. Directed by Takayuki Hirao, the film is a lunatic tale which revolves around the bizarre concept of horrible smelling fish with sharp, talon like legs emerging from the sea and laying waste to Japan. Kicking off in Okinawa, the story focuses on a young woman called Kaori, who is attacked by the creatures while on holiday with her friends. Although they survive, she loses contact with her boyfriend Tadashi back in Tokyo, and fearing the worst heads to the capital, only to find it overrun by the fish and their monstrous ‘death stench’.
Although the idea of legged, murderous sealife may sound weird enough, this really is just the tip of a particularly crazed and fetid iceberg, and even for fans of far out film, “Gyo” is a singularly outlandish affair. Without wishing to ruin the many surprises which await, it’s fair to say that the film shows an amazingly creative flair for the grotesque, with some awesomely over the top set pieces as giant sharks, squids and other horrors rampage their way through the streets. Unsurprisingly, things do get gruesome in places, and though never overly gory, the film does feature some pretty shocking mutations and abuses of the human form as it gleefully lurches to its apocalyptic death bell of a conclusion. There’s also a borderline distasteful sexual element during the early stages, though thankfully this is never really pushed too far, and aside from a few suggestive scenes the film avoids the kind of perversion which would have marked it as being one for the hentai crowd.
Inevitably, the film is quite different to its source material, stripping Ito’s lengthy manga down to its action elements, and aside from an odd line in true love romance largely throws character development out of the window. This actually works very well, and the film successfully plays out as a fast paced freak show ride, staying true to Ito’s themes and ideas and packing a great deal into its short 70 minute running time. The animation and voice work are of a decent standard throughout, if unspectacular, and though the film is a bit rough in places, there are a few noticeable pleasing attempts to recreate the look of Ito’s artwork.
Whilst clearly not for everyone, “Gyo” really is a great deal of fun, offering a non-stop assault of insane imagery and frankly disgusting ideas. Wildly entertaining and jaw-droppingly ludicrous in places, it’s another testament to the mad imagination of Junji Ito, and it must be hoped that more of his gloriously demented works will make it to the screen.
Takayuki Hirao (director) / Junji Ito (manga), Takayuki Hirao, Akihiro Yoshida (screenplay)