Sep 16, 2010
Apocalypse Zero is a completely insane, surreal and over the top Kamen Rider-esque OVA based on a manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi, the artist of hyper-violent yet wonderfully drawn Chanbara manga Shigurui: Death Frenzy. It is also one of the most absurdly loathed pieces of Japanese animation of all time, especially among English-speaking anime fans - there is something about this OVA that has a very special effect on anime reviewers and manages to send them on indignant nerd rage frenzies like no other work. To most viewers, it is to anime what The room is to cinema, or more accurately, what the pixely rape simulator Custer's Revenge is to video games - a work that is not only devoid of any talent, skill or effort but also, in the eyes of many people, a disgusting and irredeemably vile story that anyone with a hint of taste and common sense should deride and vilify to no end.

Just HOW bad could this OVA's content be if a viewerbase normally accustomed to shameless, gratuitous sexuality and strange fetishism being passed off as thought-provoking means of storytelling, very young children being sexualized and even such tropes as *justified rape* is left completely repulsed by it? I'm... not entirely sure, but I'll try my best to figure it out.

This post-apocalyptic tale focuses on two young martial artist siblings: the calm and determined Kakugo and the feminine, elegant and frankly crazy Harara. They inherit two all-powerful armors containing the souls of the many, many people who have given their lives for their creation. Although the armors were initially intended to be weapons of mass destruction designed for World War 2, they were passed down to the two brothers by their father slash mentor as a means of taking out evil, grotesque mutants and defending the innocent. Harara, being generally batshit insane, eventually grows up to become a psychotic rebellious misanthrope and comes to the conclusion that erasing humanity from existence and preventing it from harming our pure, beautiful Mother Earth any further would be a far better course of action. After going through a seemingly random body and gender change that is only explained in the manga, Harara hijacks one of the suits of armor before their training is complete, takes out his/her father and has a quick one-on-one fight with Kakugo, which the latter instantly loses in a very odd and disturbing way that no normal human could ever survive. But naturally he does, and it's up to him to defend innocent bystanders from crazy monsters and his insane transgendered sibling while also dealing with the standard day-to-day anime high school life (yeah, they all live in a hyper-violent post apocalyptic world... but why should that get in the way of education?).

OVA-wise, that's... pretty much all there is to the backstory. While the manga contains many lengthy flashbacks to explain the history of the armors and further solidify the characters as being crazily awesome, the anime simply uses the main premise to deliver plentiful amounts of crazy violence, sexual humor, mindless surrealism and pure, unadulterated badassitude. The entire two-episode OVA is simply a series of silly high school segments, followed by a scene of the Monster of the Now preying on the innocent in excessively violent ways (an infamous scene involves a massive, fat dominatrix mutant squeezing a young girl to death with very graphic results, taking her boyfriend back to her place and quite literally KISSING HIS FACE OFF), only to eventually have to face the righteous ass-kicking of our obscenely powerful hero in increasingly strange, hilarious, and dare I say it *freaking awesome* one-on-one battles.

I'll try my besy to not spoil the rest, but please note that this is not a show for the faint of heart - if you can't deal with gallons of graphic cartoon gore, this OVA is not for you. Even then, if your inner 13 year old who still laughs at immature sexual humor is long-dead, this OVA is not for you. If you think a pointless scene of a 10 year old female character taking a leak all over the floor or masturbating in the shower counts as valid character development and yet find the idea of a monster attempting to take out the main character using an attack named "Double Tit Bomb" inherently insulting to your intelligence as an anime connoisseur, this OVA is not for you. If you view anime as a refined artistic medium and the mature, thought provoking equivalent to Western cartoons (which are nothing but insipid children's entertainment in comparison) your pretentiousness and sheer nerdiness have reached critical levels to the point where you will surely never feel the touch of a lover's hand (and also, this OVA is not for you).

Another unfairly bashed aspect of this OVA lies in its visuals. While it's pretty far from being a mind-blowing sakuga anime, there is really nothing bad about the way it looks and moves. Harara's monsters have a hideous, grotesque look to them... but that's kind of the point. Similarly, the human characters have a very charming, well-stylized and cartoony look. They might seem ugly to some people, but technically there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way they're all drawn and I honestly think they are far more expressive than most anime characters out there. One particular visual aspect that I can't help but love is Kakugo's Zero Armor, which has a very stylish and cool design to it. If I ever broke down and started paying for useless pieces of plastic, I wouldn't mind owning a figure of this thing at all; in fact, it almost makes sense that Kakugo has a strange, bordeline fetishistic obsession with it. Almost.

Most of the music is pretty standard action anime stuff, but it certainly gets the job done. At times the epic heroic music clashes hilariously with the crazy psycho-violence and sheer absurdity of the fight scenes presented, and that simply adds to the ridiculous over the top nature of it all. Another interesting note is that the ED was sung by Hironobu Kageyama, also known as the guy behind the Dragon Ball Z opening and a ton of equally hot-blooded, heroic-sounding theme songs. It's really about as fun and catchy as you'd imagine, and my only beef with it is that IT WASN'T USED DURING THE SHOW ITSELF AT ANY POINT. If you have a great theme song on your hands, shouldn't you use it at least once during a particularly cool scene? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

So with all that out of the way the only remaining issue would be, "do I think that this is a good OVA?" ...well, in all honesty, I would say without a hint of irony or self distance that it truly deserves to be labeled as such. Not a GREAT OVA, no - this brand of over the top vulgarity can certainly be done in a better, cleverer way - Dead Leaves this ain't. But for what it is, it's a perfectly fine waste of 60 minutes. Anyone who can get past the initial shock factor caused by the over-the-top blood and guts portrayed should instantly realize that this is, at its core, a very silly and ridiculous OVA. What many people seem to miss, for some reason that I can't quite comprehend, is that IT WAS CLEARLY MEANT TO BE VIEWED THIS WAY. If you're not messed up enough to find this stuff equal parts cool and hilarious, then this OVA was clearly not designed for you... but that's not really a reason to claim that it's an irredeemable pile of trash with no positive qualities to it, or even watch it to begin with. After all, a simple Google search should instantly warn you about the graphic content, and I doubt many people watched this expecting a family-friendly experience without a single cock joke or drop of blood. Similarly, people who found it hilarious and fun in a "so bad it's good" kind of way should realize that it was created with ridiculous over-the-top camp in mind to begin with. If it made you laugh and you had fun watching it, mission fucking accomplished. Above all else anime is meant to be fun, and to its admittedly niche audience, Apocalypse Zero delivers this in spades.
Reviewer’s Rating: 7
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