Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Gyo (ギョ) (The Fish) (2012)

Much like my Uzumaki review, I shall review this anime movie alongside of its manga counterpart.

Junji Ito outdoes himself again with a very well put together, very disconcerting story about the end of the world as we know it (and we don't feel fine). He does these types of stories quite well even if there are large tracts of these stories that are very predictable. The juxtaposition of horror and humor actually works quite well at parts with the manga showing an incredibly unhealthy relationship that has its own brand of intentional or unintentional humor and awkwardness. The anime, on the other hand, is a much narrower vision despite having more characters. It feels simultaneously more likable than the manga, but also doesn't have the manga's charm.

Gyo has a predictable quality to it certainly, but it is enjoyable despite that. It's a short anime film, direct-to-video, about seventy minutes long, and I would say that it is worth watching for that period of time if you've enjoyed the manga or really like the premise of the movie. The movie's premise, for those of you who don't know, is that a bunch of fish (sharks included, cue chaos) come up on shore and onto streets and the like, terrorizing people and giving off the smell of human death. As the fish die and rot, the stink and the "legs" of the fish start to infect people through piercing them. These people bloat up and are eventually captured by the "legs" themselves, thus giving us some body horror to remember. The whole story has an air of science marches forward for good or ill feel to it. This is shown when it is told to the audience that the legs were probably originally created by Japanese scientists during World War II, who were looking for a way to create a terrifying biological weapon. The ship that the "legs" were on was sunk, and the rest is hypothesis because the legs changed to something both biological and inorganic. The legs then seemed to be possessed by the ghosts of those lost at sea... and its surprisingly well done and creepy.

It's an interesting premise for a story, and it does work quite well in both manga and anime form. I tend to like the manga slightly better, but that's only because the character development is better than in the anime and the ending is incredibly poignant. The anime version is pretty good at times too though, with similar characters (but not the same ones from the manga necessarily) and some very good visuals at times. I mean, obviously the style is taken straight from the manga, but it does a good enough job at adapting it to a moving form that I can't really complain about it.

The anime version gender swaps most of the main characters from the manga. While in the manga Tadashi is the main character and Kaori is his bipolar girlfriend who becomes infected, the anime switches their roles somewhat, giving Kaori the role of the main character and subjecting Tadashi to the treasure that Kaori is searching for through a good chunk of the movie. Their characters end up being a great deal blander than their manga counterparts, and it does take away a little bit of the tension from the story, although the anime has plenty of tension to go around with the end of the world happening... you know... for instance. Another gender change is the character of Tadashi's uncle's assistant Ms. Yoshiyami being turned into a videographer in the character of Shirakawa, and him basically having the same kind of role in the anime that Ms. Yoshiyami had in the manga.

Two characters are added that are not in the manga, Erika and Aki, college friends of Kaori who have some issues themselves. Erika is a loose woman, who seems to have far too much interest in men and having sex with men even at inappropriate times while Aki is a very quiet and stocky woman who seems to resent the two other characters a bit. Erika seems to be there for pure fanservice. It's pretty blatant since she's sometimes barely clothed, and in one scene is actively having sex with two men. It doesn't happen too long and the horror and the mystery always seem to be the main focus, but the fact that a character is used for fanservice is a little grating. There is also a fanservicey squid tentacle scene out of nowhere at one point... purely for putting a tentacle on woman scene in the movie I'm sure. It was a little distasteful, but thankfully didn't go too far or last very long.

Besides those things, most of the movie was a decent adaptation. The story, although simplistic in some ways, is also quite creative and quite terrifying in others. I mean, it's not a movie that's going to keep you up all night, but it does become creepy when you think about what's going on. I like the animation quite a bit even if the anime is a little too clean for my taste. Takayuki Hirao does an excellent job at finding a great style to give the story, and I never found myself disliking a single instance of the animation despite the differences of style between the anime and the manga. The character design is simple, but I found that it grew on me to the point where I certainly didn't mind it. And the fish and leg design is simply creepy and well done. No complaints at all about that stuff.

I think the story is brilliant, telling of the sins of scientists changing beyond their control and become something relentless and awful, something that they cannot control and that can destroy... well, everything. It's a fantastic idea, and I'm glad it was executed so well. The ending of the anime does not have quite the sting that the ending to the manga had, and that really is a shame, but it was overall still enjoyable. Is it a scary film? Not really, but there is a lot blood and a lot to think about. I would recommend watching it for the visuals and story alone, especially if the story sounds at all interesting or if you like Junji Ito's works.

Anyway, I enjoyed it. I didn't absolutely love it, but I thought it was pretty good. So there you go. Take that for whatever it's worth.

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