Apocalypse Zero is one of, if not THE most over-hated anime title in history. This little OVA containing a piece of a much bigger manga story has been hammered and spat-on by countless “oh-so-smart-and-civilized” types. Usually I can ignore differences in opinion, even if its from all-round ass-hats, but this series is one I cannot just look over because frainkly it doesn’t deserve such negative vitriol, especially when you take into consideration the stupefying criticisms. Oh yeah, and even though this is a post-apocalyptic Fist of the North Star-esque series, many seem to be outraged that it is gory. Yes, you heard me, with that kind of mindset I might as well rent a kung-fu movie and bitch about there being too much corny fighting.
This is a post-apocalyptic action-oriented work influenced by Fist of the North Star with mecha elements in the vein of The Guyver. While it certainly shows no desire to hide these said influences, the series manages to have its own distinct style and atmosphere. The overall story is about two siblings, who mastered an incredible martial arts style, that eventually turns them against each other in that one succumbs to evil desires with their new-found power while the other strives to use it the right way. While the plot certainly is extraordinarily simple, it works just fine when you take into consideration that stories involving all-out fighting themes don’t necessarily require complex plots. These sorts of shows just need to be a pleasurable experience to watch.
The world this takes place in really draws you in with its cloudy skylines and interesting use of colors. It is also allot more interesting and varied than your typical apocalyptic world, since you’d generally expect the planet to be made up of desert, so you can expect some imagination put to test here. The main location for this show is the ruins of Tokyo. Within it, it seems that there is still a functioning school system where kids normally attend school, which if you ask me, is a fairly unique concept.
The cast of characters manage to be very intriguing. The main hero Kakugo is very similar to Kenshiro, particularly with his mature, stoic personality. My favorite would have to be the antagonist and main character’s sibling named Harara. While not the most original villain, there is something about her evil nature that is so effective overall, and her whole personality is hard to really find the word to describe, but it is highly “badass” if you know what I mean. The rest of the cast mainly consists of Kakugo’s school friends and Harara’s slew of villainous mutant freaks, all are very quirky and make the show what it is.
The content of Apocalypse Zero, such as the violence and sexual imagery is the main aspect here that has gotten people foaming at the mouth the most. Like any title of this sub-genre, it contains numerous sequences of exaggerated gore, and is generally what one would call a “splatterfest”. The vast majority of it is very entertaining (keeping in mind you’re actually a fan of this genre). A good example of it would be a scene where Harara completely annihilates a bunch of super macho men with their blood and guts splattering everywhere bringing out some great old Fist of the North Star-style fun. Sadly not all of it is great, as there is also a scene where a teenage girl is nastily squished by a giant mutant. It would have been awesome if it was just another dimwitted oversized goon with a mohawk, but I don’t think anyone, even Fist of the North Star fans would want to see some cute girl meet such a gory fate. This is one of the only things that bothered me about this series, and it is a flaw, although a rather insignificant, overlook-able one at that. The sexual aspects mainly have to do with the villainous mutants Kakugo has to open a can of whoop-ass on, and trust me they are absolutely hilarious. Not one but TWO of these four mutants use their penis as weapons!
The other most controversial aspect present is the artwork. The series features rather unusual “cartoony” character designs that many seem to abhor, but I for one think they’re marvelous. There is just something about their simplicity that strikes me has very innovative. While they’re not exactly attractive, they certainly look a whole lot nicer than numerous 70s through 80s anime titles, and that’s not even mentioning all the atrocious designs characters get in numerous American animation. If the characters of One Piece universally have very odd designs, why can’t this series do the same? The actual animation offered is splendid, in that it has a really “cult” look and style to it. It isn’t crystal-clear and modern at all, which if you ask me is a very good thing, and it is perfect for fans of the more old-school nineties look.
As for the voice acting, both the original Japanese version and the English dub are absolutely flawless. I was particularly surprised with the English version as well, as you generally expect the studios to get lazy on such an underground title, but none-the-less they are all spot-on. The background music is generally nothing amazing, but it does get the job done adequately, and there are a few catchy numbers that pop in from time to time.
Lastly, if there is one major flaw within this OVA, it is the fact that there just isn’t enough of it. These two episodes cover roughly 1/5 of the material contained in the manga, so it is hard dealing with only the beginning of the series getting animated.
All in all, Apocalypse Zero is while being absurdly strange, significantly charming in a way. I’ve watched this countless times, and I just love its quirky characters, utterly insane violence, and outrageously kooky attacks. This series certainly isn’t perfect, as I have said before the scene at the beginning with the squished schoolgirl can really leave an ugly impression and only a portion of this story is animated, but these faults can be overlooked. If your open-minded and don’t quickly dismiss things, than what you have here is a short but high quality title with definite substance. It is easily just as fun as Fist of the North Star, and in a way it is kind of like a more modern upbeat version while still retaining a cult atmosphere, so if you like this sort of thing, don’t hesitate to check it out.