Since I reviewed a children's film last time, I decided to change things up and review something a bit more "edgy". Ichi Episode 0 is a prequel to the cult film Ichi the Killer directed by Takashi Miike. While the film I believe deserves its cult status in the world of gory exploitation movies, this anime...kind of sucks.
While the manga came before both this anime and the film, the anime was ONLY made due to the film's massive success. Takashi Miike started out in the 1990s in Japanese "V-Cinema" which are mostly direct to video porno films and violent exploitation movies. I think the V stands for Violence and Vagina. However, Miike quickly proved himself to be a capable director and rocketed to international stardom with the disturbing horror film Audition in 1999. Ichi the Killer was Miike's 2nd international success in 2001.
So what made the film so much better than this anime? Firstly, the film is very well made on a technical level while this anime looks like shit. Secondly, the film follows the masochistic gangster Kakihara and realized that he is a MUCH better character to build the story around than Ichi. Kakihara is a depraved man who lives only to inflict and receive pain. However, he is sane and fully realizes the results of his actions. He believes everyone has a sadistic and a masochistic side, but most people hide it while he chooses to fully embrace it. If you are sitting there watching a Miike film, you can't deny you must have a sadistic or masochistic side to some extent. Kakihara may be sick, but the audience can still somewhat relate to him. When he finds out about this ruthless assassin named Ichi, we the audience share his excitement and long for their coming battle. When Ichi turns out to be very different than Kakihara imagined, we share Kakihara's sense of disappointment. The audience can always understand what Kakihara is thinking. Ichi on the other hand, is a mentally disabled man with the mind of a child who gets a raging boner by murdering people. The movie uses Ichi very sparingly because he's more of a plot device than a fully realized character. I can't begin to understand or relate to Ichi, so I can't really invest in him as a character.
Ichi would be a disturbing and somewhat effective origin tale of a young serial killer...if it wasn't so fucking stupid. You'll see what I mean. The main character is Hajime Shiroishi AKA "Ichi" as he is later known in the movie. Hajime is a mentally disabled high school student who is said to have the mental capacity of a 6 year old. He is constantly bullied in school and lives with a bratty younger brother and abusive parents who actually encourage him to be a bully rather than a victim. Hajime often watches his parents engage in violent BDSM sex and learns to associate violence with sexual release. After dissecting a frog and getting a massive erection, he learns that he REALLY likes killing things. Hajime then curb stomps a cat and the school bunnies, which he finds deeply arousing. A classmate catches him and tries to blackmail him, but Hajime murders his classmate and his family later that night.
Hajime was sent to a mental institution instead of prison because he lacked the mental capacity to be held legally responsible for his crimes. Now is when things start getting stupid. One day Hajime watches a Kung Fu movie and practices in his cell until he becomes a Kung Fu master capable of literally kicking people's heads off. One of the psychiatrists it turns out is a Yakuza boss wearing a disguise, by which I mean he actually has a fake wig and Groucho Marx glasses. He somehow manages to convince the institute to release Ichi and plans to manipulate the simple minded killer into being his #1 assassin thus the name Ichi (One). Yakuza psychiatrist sends Hajime to take karate classes and there he meets another patient of the good doctor. This other patient is a masochist girl who can only orgasm by being kicked repeatedly in the face, which seems to fully heal between scenes. Maybe she's related to Wolverine?! Masochist chick manages to manipulate Hajime into brutally Kung Fu murdering 3 random thugs and Hajime uses their blood as hand lotion to masturbate as our shitty anime ends.
Not a single character in this anime is recognizably human. Every character is either a 1 dimensional bully, incomprehensibly insane, or a sadistic mentally disabled man who gets murder boners. Even fucking GENOCYBER had more humanistic characters than this piece of shit. At least Genocyber had that orphan boy who showed kindness to our protagonist before getting murdered. Actually Genocyber had multiple characters show at least 1 act of kindness or basic empathy, while Ichi has ZERO such actions in all 45 minutes. This is easily the single most fucked up view of humanity I have ever seen in an anime. I think even the director was a bit disturbed by this abortion of a show, because he spent the rest of his career working on Shonen and never again venturing into Ichi territory. He would later direct Fairy Tail. No, I'm not kidding.
This anime was made by the rather inconsistent Studio Shogakuken, who has done good work with anime like Monster but has also made some crappy looking anime like Hamtaro. Ichi is drawn to look like your basic 1990s ultra violent OVA only crappier. However, since this is an anime about a retarded guy curb stomping cats, I'm actually glad it wasn't better animated. Ichi is disturbing and cringy enough already.
The music consists of bizarre techno and can actually be strangely effective at times. I'll give it some credit. The dub was brought over by Central Park Media and it actually has 2 English dubs with one American dub and a British dub. The American dub seems to directly follow the subtitles, but the British dub strays quite a bit. This really isn't surprising if you are aware of Manga UK and England's history of "liberal" translations. See: Mad Bull 34, Angel Cop, Cyber City, Violence Jack etc.
Ichi the movie was violent exploitation film, but it was fascinating. You wanted to re-watch it and share it with other people. Hey man, you HAVE to check out this fucked up movie! Ichi the anime...just makes you feel dirty. I don't want to share this anime with my friends. I'm writing this review to tell lovers of old, bad anime that this one isn't worth it. If I had to come up with one simple word to describe this anime it would be "vile". If you are interested in watching this, go watch the movie instead. If you've already seen the movie, go read the manga. Under no circumstances should you watch this piece of shit.