If you were to ask me for my top three mangakas, Junji Ito would be on the list. Great art and crazy plots… but that’s where his problem lies: his work can not translate to film. It’s just too crazy. In a way, I’ve always thought of him as Japan’s Stephen King; well known and a lot of good horror stories. Similar to King, the good stuff usually only works in one medium. The reason for this is that Ito’s stories cover the most inane, insane, and near ineffable topics. When you try to make a synopsis for any manga of his, they sound like they’re for an Ed Wood movie. When you actually read it, it’s more like Terry Gilliam and H.P. Lovecraft just made a mind-bending J-horror baby. Junji Ito is able to make these seemingly dumb plots into the most nightmarish things. Personally, I think all of his mangas are near perfect. Uzumaki is a great example of this. Horrible movie, one of the greatest mangas ever written. Why? It’s about townsfolk going nuts over spirals and eventually turning into their obsession. Sounds stupid but I promise you will not sleep for a week when you read it. Gyo is the same way. Japan is taken over by walking fish. Dumb, right? You’ll probably be so disgusted by the end you’ll want to vomit. When I heard Gyo was being made into an OVA, I was skeptical but excited. Nothing from Ito has been adapted into an anime before but his works that have been adapted to film are crap. Uzumaki in particular. I can’t speak much for Tomie because I’ve only seen a little bit of the first film in the series and I was getting a b-movie vibe from it (though, I’ve heard mixed things about most Tomie adaptations). Thankfully, I can say Gyo doesn’t completely fall into the chain of bad Ito adaptations.
There are two things that I need to congratulate this OVA on. The first is that the CGI reflects the drawn art style. One thing that drives me up the wall in animations, anime or otherwise, is when the CGI and drawn art clash. Blue Submarine No. 6 is a perfect example of what not to do. I’m not saying it’s a bad show and it’s a much older anime but I’m positive they could have done something to fix that. They could have made the textures of the models more simplistic; I’m sure they had that ability in the late nineties. While I’m still on the subject of Gyo‘s art, another thing I need to thank them on is that they didn’t go the moe route with the character designs. Here is where my nerd rant is going to activate: I am so sick of moe, especially when it comes to anime with ridiculous amounts of blood/gore/violence/etcetera. A more recent anime, Mirai Nikki, is a great example. I’ve seen up to the twelfth episode so far. I like the story, I like the direction it’s going, and I’m going to continue watching it, but the big eyes need to go. A story about a wide scale death match started by an outer god is no place for moe. I don’t care if it was originally aimed for shonen audiences. Keep it in the sugary stuff, not in guro. It’s negating the darker/twisted value it’s supposed to have. Thankfully Gyo tries its best at keeping the art true to Junji Ito’s near realistic style. This show’s art department deserves some applause.
Despite this being an OVA, I’m not exactly sure why Gyo runs at seventy minutes. I’m surprised that I ended up liking a few of the liberties this adaptation takes with the story. But still, it really needs more exposition; even for the audience that is familiar with the whos, whats, whens, whys and hows. This is particularly critical because the two main characters are only the same on the outside: Tadashi and Kaori. The only difference is that unlike the manga, Tadashi is practically non-existent and even though what he faces is important, it’s not really built up. The same goes for his mad scientist uncle. There’s no real build up that shows what is happening can drag people into a level of wacky insanity. Kaori, unlike Tadashi and his uncle, is fleshed out but completely different from the manga. Instead of being a prissy tsundere, she is instead more like Kirie from Uzumaki. Strong, lost, and trying her best to get through the chaos. Similar to the unbuilt Tadashi, the two girls that open up with Kaori seem to actually be a split up version of the manga’s Kaori. Insecure and an unlikable attitude. There are two reasons why I think they did this. The first was probably to make this seem more like a disaster flick rather than an outlandish horror cartoon, that way it could garner a wider audience. The second reason, and probably the primary one, was to get the story moving. I suppose this could have worked better with about ten more minutes of exposition. The split up manga Kaori characters, Erika and Aki, appear to have a well rounded conflict amongst themselves. It would have been nice to see more of a build up to their confrontation. This bit about Gyo needing more exposition brings me to my next complaint: pacing.
Pacing is an issue that also existed in the Uzumaki adaptation. The way Ito does his horror, he puts in small, little weird things in the beginning. As the story progresses, those little weird things get bigger and eventually grow to a globally destructive scale. I understand with film, you only have so much time to tell the story. I think this is another reason why it’s so hard to translate Ito into a medium other than graphic novels. It’s hard to slowly introduce the little parts that lead up to the final and ultimate horror. Pretty much within ten minutes of Gyo, Japan is already getting mauled by walking fish. In the manga, it happens around the middle of the first volume (maybe a little earlier, it’s been awhile since I’ve read it). If this OVA had ten more minutes, it might have been more accessible to those who have not read the original version.
What would go great with this ?
Salmon sushi rolled with avocado and green bell peppers.
Octopus flavored Ramune
Critic Value: 5/10
I have to give this OVA half credit. The manga kind of goes in with the dangers of war technology and how history can bite back. The adaptation treats Gyo more like a piece of pulp horror mixed with a disaster flick. Arguably, the original version could be considered the same as well
Quality Value: 8.5/10
The art tries its best at staying true to Ito’s style and the CGI doesn’t clash with what is drawn. This would have been a 9 but there are some scenes where characters look a little too disproportionate.
Entertainment 4/10 if you haven’t read it, 7/10 if you have.
You’ll probably be lost if you haven’t read the manga because the OVA barely bothers to explain what is happening and may even appear convoluted. If you’re a fan of Ito, you probably shouldn’t pass this up. I was surprised to see that the (truly) disgusting parts are still in tact. The ending isn’t the same though. To be honest, I found this version’s better and slightly reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead.