Note: Review copy supplied by DarkCoast
Title: Violence Voayager
Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi
Released: October 21st 2019
Following an end-of-term school ceremony, the American boy Bobby decides to go with his friend Akkun not the mountains outside their village, to a place perfect for a secret base. On the way they stop into a mysterious amusement park. They have fun there, but are attacked and cannot leave.
Violence Voyager is, by far, one of the stranger films I’ve watched in recent times. As you can probably tell from the banner, the art style is somewhat akin to an old-style children’s book. What makes it interesting is that this isn’t animated I the way you may expect, with the director instead opting to use ‘Gekimation’. This basically means that the characters are mostly static cutouts, and are moved up and down on the screen as though by sticks stuck to their backs. This is combined with the use of actual liquids during pivotal scenes, creating an intentionally jarring mix of imagery. The director, Uchija (director), also used this style of animation on ‘The Burning Buddha Man’.
For me, I found this stylistic choice to be quite effective. It certainly makes the film stand out against the more traditional animation styles you see. It does take some getting used to though, and while the detailing on the characters is high, you’ll sometimes wish that it wasn’t. By that, I mean that a big part of the plot involves kidnapped children. When the kids are stripped down and hung up on hooks by the villain, nothing is left to the imagination. And boy does the screen like to linger on moments like that. It’s not sexualized at all, but it is uncomfortable.
The story itself primarily follows two boys who, when heading to meet up with a friend in another village, take a detour and end up at an amusement park. The whole set up is such that you could see where things were going to go wrong for them, but this doesn’t affect enjoyment of the tale. If anything, it comes across like an extreme portrayal of stranger danger in that regard.
The key characters are Bobby, a US immigrant to Japan, and his friend Akkun. As leads go, they’re likable enough. Bobby is in an unusual position, because he not only plays the role of catalyst for the troubles, leading Akun astray, but is also the stronger of the two and so the would-be hero. It actually makes a point of this, not only noting his nationality enough to make it clear that the foreigner is doing wrong, but also talking about ‘strong American men’ like they must automatically be stronger than the Japanese characters. That felt odd to me.
When things hit their stride, we move away from kids making a bad decision, to a graphic sci-fi story with horror elements. You can expect killer robots, skin melting, violent death, and mutated monstrosities. Even with the unusual animation style, it’s all very in your face. In a way, it’s the visual nods towards childhood stories that make it so strikingly violent. In itself, that helps justify the stylistic choices here, because it means that things are ramped up without having to do as much as some live-action films do. And nobody is safe, either. Children, adults, and animals all get put into life-threatening situations, and the result is rarely positive for those involved.
In all, I’m left quite conflicted by Violence Voyager. I applaud the stylistic choices of the director because it really does make it stand out. The story too is a wonderful mix of old fashioned sci-fi and modern gore-laden horror. At the same time though, some of the choices as it pertains to children and animals were uncomfortable for me. That, combined with a slightly disjointed pacing makes it a tough film to recommend to everyone.
If you want to see a genuinely artistic but overwhelmingly odd film, it’s well worth a look-in. If you prefer things a little more straight-forward and have a low tolerance for gore and death, you may want to avoid it. For me, looking at this from an objective standpoint, I score it 3.5 out of 5. It’s strange and artistic but doesn’t quite hit all the right marks for me.