Review: Ichi the Killer (Animated) (2002)

Directed by:
Cast: , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

The moral of this story? Stop bullying, or it’ll all end not in tears but in detached body parts.

This is a hard one to review: on the one hand, most viewers will have all the emotional (or should that be traumatic?) baggage of having watched the movie version of Ichi the Killer first. This is not a Miike film. There’s no touches of the bizarre humour so beloved of Miike fans. Nor is there the glorious vision-in-purple that is Asano Tadanobu, giving his best rendition of a cheerfully masochistic, but still creatively violent, Kekehara. There’s no sobbing Ohmori Nao in a rubber suit. Alas.

On the other hand, there is a generous dose of blood being splashed and limbs being rent. More than enough, I’d have said. The animal scenes in particular I found quite disturbing. The “beat me, baby, beat me” sex-n-violence scene is actually less disturbing than Paulyn Sun’s performance in the movie version of Ichi the Killer, for which I was quite grateful.

In fact, this is a film where the positives and the negatives tend to balance each other out. The hypnotic techno soundtrack makes up for the poor quality of the animation in some scenes. The irrefutable evidence that Ichi had a really, really rough childhood compensates for the confusion between present and past. And the gradually revealed presence of the evil mastermind responsible for awakening Ichi to his vocation as dismemberer-for-hire takes the heat off poor Ichi: we don’t blame him so much because it really isn’t his fault. Mostly. Well, except for the animals.

In fact, this might be a salutary film for social workers to show to the government, in an effort to get some action on the bullying problem. After all, who wants the wimpiest kid in school to turn into an Ichi Next Door? Even learning self-defence doesn’t help the poor boy, although it gets the girl. Well, kind of.

In short, this is far from the greatest anime I’ve seen. But if you’re looking to find the reasons Shonoishi the Mild-mannered becomes Ichi The Killer, instead of, say, Ichi The Accountant, you should watch this, if only so that you can say you have. And then you’ll never need to again.

5 unwelcome trouser bulges out of 10.
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