Violence? Check! Blatant and explicit sex? Check! Animal torture and otherwise deranged murders? Check!
It could only be one thing: Ichi the Killer.
Let's get one thing straight: I haven't seen the disturbingly famous Ichi the Killer live action movie, nor do I ever intend to. Torture for the sake of torture isn't my thing, and the only reason I picked up its prequel, Ichi the Killer Episode 0, is to add it to the database. After sitting through its entirety I can say one thing for certain: Ichi the Killer Episode 0 lives up to its predecessor's notoriety.
This short look at a brutal, masochistic murderer is told in an abstract and oft-confusing way. Mostly the story is a character study of Ichi, depicting his troubles at school, lack of friends, and other key points that ultimately lead him to a breaking point of gloriously gory proportions. Ichi is bullied again and again, betrayed by one he calls a friend, and pressured into horrible situations with disastrous consequences. Given that you know how things end, you can't help but wait anxiously and nervously for the hammer to drop and Ichi's killing spree to begin; and once it does, things get messy, quick.
Plenty of Ichi the Killer Episode 0 is just as I'd imagine the movie would be: torture for the sake of torture. Though I'd never watch the OVA again, it definitely manages to be effective and evokes just the sort of emotions it aims to dredge up: disgust, horror, and a bit of morbid fascination. Ultimately, I guess the true test of Ichi's effectiveness is the bit of empathy you feel for his character near the end: though he's an insane murderer, he became that way for a good reason.
Other than the mindless violence and character development, there's little to be found in the story, but that's ok. There's a bit of a back story about the other characters in Ichi's life and how they contribute to his downfall as a human being, but ultimately you'd watch Ichi for the violence, plain and simple.
It's violent, it's gory, and it's filled with so much horror that it's hard to stomach; but that's the point, and Ichi the Killer Episode 0 achieves it easily.
Ichi the Killer Episode 0's animation is surprisingly bad in a lot of ways: overly-simplistic and crude character designs and jerky movements mar the screen, and the gore is so excessively violent that sometimes it's too hard to handle (especially the animal torture sequences). Also on a neutral note, there are plenty of violent and explicit sex sequences - but given that one of Ichi's traits as a psychopath is the link between violence and his sexual desire, leaving them out would have been less appropriate than subjecting the viewers to them.
That being said, other elements of the animation - while bizarre - are a bit more interesting to watch: still scenes of backdrops with a solid overlaid color seem to indicate Ichi's moods, and the occasional abstract collage of Ichi's face often accompanies his bursts of rage. Still, these positives don't outweigh the shortcomings.
Overall, a 5/10 for trying, but visually Ichi the Killer Episode 0 could have been a lot better.
Unlike its poor-quality animation, Ichi the Killer Episode 0's audio is perplexingly entertaining to experience. Throbbing techno beats blast their way through many scenes, and the intro song in particular is especially unique: a sample of Ichi yelling is frequently repeated, giving you a glimpse of the madness to come. Near the end of the OVA this same track is played once more as closure.
A loner, a victim, a lost soul and a murderer; Ichi is each of these things and more. Ichi the Killer Episode 0 can't be watched without the understanding that its sole purpose is to develop Ichi into the monster he becomes, and that road is filled with emotion and heartache. While it's difficult to look past Ichi's misdeeds and horrific bouts of violence, in a small way you may also find yourself feeling sorry for him - and that, regardless of how twisted and depraved this anime may seem, proves its effectiveness. Others aside, I found myself cheering in a tiny way once the shop drops - literally - on Ichi's relationship with his abusive "best friend."
Other characters are introduced, but none of them really matter. Ichi's counselor has an important part in his development, especially once the credits roll; a young seductress is unveiled and subsequently degraded in a variety of ways; and Ichi's parents are often on the screen, though usually they aren't wearing any clothing. Each has an impact on Ichi's psyche, and the results are apparent and frightening.
Yes, seeing Ichi's descent into madness is disturbing - but it feels real and will evoke real emotions in you from seeing his plight. Hence a very solid score of 8.
Ichi the Killer Episode 0 is violence for the sake of violence, period. But really, what can you expect with the title's namesake?
Would I watch it again? No way. But would I recommend it to people? Absolutely, with conditions. People desensitized to violence would be able to easily swallow this tough pill, fans of the live-action movie would consider it a must, and overall it's bizarre enough to warrant a single viewing - provided you can get past the bad animation and excessive gore/sex.
I've noticed a lot of people don't like this OVA for the fact that it doesn't stand up to the Miike film that was released a year before this OVA. This review is from someone who has read half the manga currently and has seen the Miike film three times and is currently watching it for a fourth as I write this review. Although I can see their point, I think it's important to take this at face value as a different form and new look into a series. This isn't meant to be related to the movie in any way, and going into it expecting it to be similar will ruin the experience for you.
-- Story --
So this isn't so much of a retelling of the manga as much of a sort of backstory into Ichi himself. If you're coming into this expecting the gore and slasher themes of the film or manga, you're going to be disappointed. Although some of the depraved aspects of the franchise are present, this isn' the ultimate gore fest that many people are used to and I think that really has to be kept in mind before watching. Aspects of the manga and film are present to a small degree but in reality, this is its own work with no ties. I cannot emphasise that enough.
It has enough of the dark and gritty aspects of the franchise to keep some hooked; this is more of a character study, however. It's an interesting look into Ichi himself as a person and how he became to be. It's more of a somewhat psychological take behind a character which is something I did hope for in the franchise - the characters are so twisted and dark, there's an underlying questions as to why they've become the way they have and the people they are in the franchise at the current time. Frankly, I'd quite like an anime like this surrounding Kakihara and his backstory.
-- Art --
The art isn't as good as you'd expect for an anime franchise of something as famous in the horror scene as Ichi the Killer and that is a letdown. Although the use of colouring is well done and fits the mood, there's a lot of repeated frames and even some repeated scenes that have been copied and pasted into the final edit. It makes it feel like the OVA was slightly rushed through nearer the end as if they were panicked about a time schedule and had to just do with what they had to make the best they could. If that's the case, I can forgive the repetition, but if it's not then it's a shame and it could have been done better. I haven't found evidence to support either so I'm unsure where I fully stand on the art.
-- Sound --
The sound work in this was excellent. The voice actors were perfect for their characters and the use of sounds in specific scenes was spot on. Some of the sounds really made me squirm and it was really well done from a sound aspect. I did get a curious knock on the door from my neighbour checking everything was alright after I had the volume on this too loud whilst watching.
-- Character --
It's hard to review this from a character aspect, truly. Although we see glimpses of other characters this is more around Ichi than anyone else. It would be best described as a character case study. For that, I was going to rate this less than I gave it until I sat back and wrote this.
For a character study arc, of sorts, this did really well with Ichi. It really dug into him and his character, the things that have made him who he has become in the franchise we know. It took a new eye to him then the base knowledge we knew and showed his development over a period of time to become the depraved maniac everyone knows from the franchise. The voice acting was spot on and Ichi's reactions felt so realistic. The characterisation was really well done and it really allowed a better look into Ichi and a new look into the franchise.
-- Enjoyment --
I really did enjoy this. I was a little let down with the fact that not all characters were present and that the story wasn't the same - but I did get to adapt and realise this wasn't another retelling of the story. That really boosted my enjoyment of the OVA and allowed me to settle back and just enjoy the full OVA. It was reminiscent enough of the original story for that small thrill, but not enough to feel like it was just another retelling of what I'd already watched or read and I liked that a lot.
-- Overall --
Overall, I'm going to be honest. I think this was given a bad rep by people that were too occupied with the movie and compared it instead of taking it for what it is. It's reminiscent of the story but in a new way that's been adapted to not be another retelling and I think that took a lot of guts on the creators part. To create something like this and add in a lot of new information not present in a franchise with such a large cult following takes a lot of balls. It's a fresh new take and it was refreshing, to say the least, knowing I wasn't going to be watching the full story once again.
Does Ichi the Killer deserve a full R-Rate anime series? More than likely, everyone will say yes, and I agree.
Is this anime OVA that series? Not at all.
Is this worth a chance with fresh eyes? In my opinion, it definitely does.
Quite a long while ago, I read the manga Ichi the Killer. Not much of it really stuck with me, except for the abundance of ultra-violent scenes and other messed up stuff. There were also some very memorable characters, most of all the main character: a messed-up crybaby who is also a psychopathic killer. And this OVA is basically his origin story.
So yeah, if you didn’t expect this yet: the OVA is full of violence as well, plus some highly disturbing sexual content, bullying, animal abuse and other stuff to mask the rather unimpressive plot, which honestly doesn’t do much extra to explain how Ichi became a killer. Characters remain largely unexplored, except for Ichi, who is just unlikeable.
The techno beats didn’t feel like they fit the atmosphere imo. It should also be noted that I watched the dub, and the voice acting on that version is atrocious.
Ugly is the main term for the visuals. Both intended (in the gorey scenes, ugly would fit well) and unintended (ugly character designs, bad animation, jerking movements…)
It’s probably okay if you’re really into Ichi the Killer (either live action or manga), or if you really want something violent. But currently there is definitely a lot of anime with the same target group and higher production values.
WARNING BE PREPARED AS TO WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO.
What did I just watch?
Is this one of those shows that made me watch anime? No.
Should you watch this? If you like murder, blood, masturbation, animal cruelty, karate kicks that could behead someone, weirdly animated mouths, sadism, karate, mental breakdowns, then this movie is for you!
If your also Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, or any serial killer you'd love this everyone else will just be drawn to the grotesque and amazing karate skills Shiroshi has.
Obscure, Bizarre, Oddly exciting. This isn't one archetypical thing at all; it's not just the gore or the low budget animation that makes sex scenes grossly disturbing although entertaining that makes you doubt to conclude the film as you're watching it, it's the plot itself; As many traumas as one can get, the main character depicts everything that's wrong with modern society. This is a challenging psychological thriller, I even couldn't call it a gory one, because what hits you the most are it's themes; ultraviolence, with the mundane ambience, a story of a psychopath so natural that you can even identify with the character if you or anybody close to you, has been through his kind of situation.
I highly recommend this. Quality of animation is quite poor, and any other character besides Hajime lacks depth and just makes the alienating feel of being all alone with the character as if you were reading his mind or something, OST is pretty great if you like AFX or anything in the IDM genre. And overall, it's a pretty good thing to watch, stands alone by its name only competing with the Live-action film (even more disturbing than this OVA).