Review: Violence Voyager (Japan Cuts 2018)

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

Time to look at JAPAN CUTS 2018‘s other animated feature, and much like Night is Short, Walk On Girl, it’s not your ordinary anime. In fact, Violence Voyager is so unique that Japan Society saw it fit to give the film its very own trailer…

Simply put, Violence Voyager is one part children’s book story, other part body horror tale. The film concerns Bobby, who despite his initial status as the cool kid in class, by virtue of being an American in Japan, is now low on the social totem pole. Perhaps due to becoming best buds with Akkun? Aside from being a nerd, he looks frankly weird. Like, he resembles an alien, that weird (spoilers: he’s not). But whatever, Bobby & Akkun have each other, all the other kids be damned, so that’s what really counts… though there’s actually a third boy, who resides in a faraway village.

When Akkun discovers a path in the woods, him & Bobby decide to pay the aforementioned Takaaki a visit, but are sidetracked by an amusement park, again in the middle of nowhere. The pair discover that the place has been single-handedly built by just one guy, the proprietor. Both Bobby and Akkun are impressed, as well curious (well, more so the former), so they end and… Surprise! The place is a trap; at first it’s fun & games, running around the park & shooting at cut outs of robot looking monsters with water guns, but when they discover Tokiko, a young girl who has been separated from her boyfriend and held prisoner for days, along with actual monster that shoot flesh melting acid, things go to hell real quick. Cuz it’s discovered that the park is used to snare kids, so the proprietor can subject them to a process that mutilates and transforms them into a mindless army of killing machines (i.e. the aforementioned robot looking monsters). At least there’s heartwarming reunion of sorts…

It’s worth noting that the kids are stripped naked, so if you were someone uncomfortable with the tiny bit of nudity in Ghibli flicks, then consider yourself warned. Violence Voyager tries its best to unsettle & disgust the viewer in a wide variety of ways, via disturbing subject matter, and is successful thanks to the non-traditional animation style; we see illustrations move around on screen in like paper dolls. Though imagine one that resembles a child that’s naked, covered in blood, and with one eye ball sucked out of its skull, now residing on the side of its malformed head (with its optic nerve stretched out to a crazy degree). The best part is the use of “practice effects”; when kids vomit, it’s real liquid we see flying. I LOVED Violence Voyager: it’s seriously one of the best films to come from Japan Cut, not just this year but ever IMHO.

Yet I fully realize that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea… then again, Ramen Shop has been long sold out (trust me, you’re not missing anything; Violence Voyager is legit a thousand times more compelling & engaging, whereas Ramen Shop is a flat out bore)… why not see for yourself this Friday, July 20, at 11:30 PM?

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