This is review number four hundred forty five and A HALF. This anime is actually something offered to me. The cool guys at TriCoast contacted me asking if I’m interested in reviewing a movie coming to digital platforms this October. I said yes, and this is now my review. Let’s read on.
We came here looking for a thrill, but we didn’t know this was his hunting ground.
Taking the Pants Off
I’m supposed to review FLCL, and it will be next on the list, but something cool happened a few weeks back. Simply put, some awesome people said “hey, want a pass to watch this movie?” and I mostly only heard “hm, free stuff, you say?” so I agreed. I was given a chance to watch a 2018 movie called Violence Voyager. It’ll be released on digital streaming platforms Oct. 21 (Amazon, DirecTV, FlixFling, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO and AT&T) by DarkCoast. Please give it some love, because this movie is just bizarre. I don’t really have much screenshot for this review, since the movie is watermarked. That’s fine, because I don’t really think I’d want many screenshots here. The movie is animated moving paper cutouts and it’s dubbed as horror. I think it is more body horror than anything else. It goes for a grotesque look that comes off as scary. Indeed, the movie is something to behold. I have a lot to say about it, so let’s just get on with it. First of all though, it should be pointed out that this is clearly made by one guy. The director, screen play writer and (no doubt) the character designer is one man, a fellow named Ujicha. He apparently released another movie of this style called “The Burning Buddha Man”, and it is obscure stuff like this that makes anime such a weird jungle. Now, I love this movie. For the animation and the effort alone, this gets a gold star from me. It might have a few downsides, but I mostly love crude stuff like this that features a great love to their craft. Watching paper cutouts might be a hard sell, but it is a unique experience nonetheless.
This is the first thing that’ll hit you. The characters are literally just paper cut outs. They’re one dimensional things with no animation in them. Movement is done mostly through camera pans or a different illustration with characters in different poses. This isn’t really a hard sell for me, since I’ve seen Yami Shibai beforehand. The horror anime moves just like this movie, so I’m used to this presentation. Yes, it is a bit hard to take seriously but the movie has ways to establish the mood. A bit of suspension of your disbelief is needed a bit, but I’m sure it’s not hard to get into the pace of the movie. For one, the cut outs might be made of paper but they are freakishly designed. I’m pampered by moe aesthetics, so I like my characters cute. The ones in this movie just look really off. The movie starts with our blonde main character and a dude with a weird forehead. Seriously, it looks hideous and I bet that was on purpose. You wonder why this character has this design, and then suddenly more characters are introduced and one of them has their tongue sticking out. For no apparent reason, these characters just look unappealing. There is always a feeling that something is off about them. With deformed heads, exaggerated and fixed facial expressions, and an unexplained foreboding feeling about the whole thing, this movie immediately sets up its atmosphere in the first five minutes or so. Gekimation might feel cheap, but its rustic style does lend for some inventive take on animation. It might not be the same for most viewers, but I think you can tell if the movie is for you in the first five minutes before the title comes up on screen.
This movie does not give us exposition. It throws in story details at various points and the viewers are tasked to piece things together. It might seem like a bad thing, but it works for this movie. With more stuff unanswered or not properly explained, the suffocating feeling of the movie kinda intensifies. While the show does relieve us of this at some point, the lack of answers can really get you on edge. There are also details that really just mislead us, and it’s a smart way to compensate for the lack of true animation for this movie. One good example that I really love is the stitched palms of the characters. The movie introduces it, but never really put any attention to it. The characters just have them, and I honestly spent a good amount of time wondering why they have those. The movie is really good at building up paranoia and you’ll soon realize a bunch of paper cut outs are freaking you out. I love it.
Now, the gekimation style does get worn out at the end. This anime is entirely dialogue, and you will feel that at some point in the movie. The visuals do come really strong and hard at this point, but it can still be a bit taxing. Hey, nothing is perfect, right? But certain scenes do look better if it is animated. The final act of the movie involves a fight and gekimation can’t really present a fight. It shows us something, but not really a fight the climax deserves. But I guess you can also give that a bit of leeway since the climax also involves a bat and a monkey. Seriously, the movie just had fun at that point. The movie can also be tiring because it really only follows one character and whoever is roped into his journey. We follow a blonde hair boy named Bobby who ventures into Violence Voyager. At some point though, two or three characters are introduced and the movie never really follows their B plot. There was a girl introduced early in the movie and she separates from Bobby. We never see her again until the end of the movie with the viewers having zero idea what her journey was at that point. I think this is really the downside of not just gekimation but having just one guy helm the entire thing. The entire plot is just one speed, and you can tell the creator is doing his best to make that one speed look good. Unfortunately, there are a lot of undeveloped things here. There is literally a giant of potential not realized by the story, and it is a damn shame.
There are a lot of characters here, and some of them really appear unexpectedly. While the movie does solely follow a blonde guy navigating the area, he does meet a lot of standout people. The characters here are all memorable and I dunno, they just stick to you despite their minimal role in the actual movie. They are all extremely one dimensional though. Yeah, ok, they’re made of paper but they also just lack real character. They mostly just stand out because of their role in the movie. Some dies and some helps the movie reaches its body horror potential. I mean, even a bat can be memorable and all it does is lick stuff. The bad guy is the big miss though. I think his role is really just for horror, but he does have a story that the movie never explores. I think it is also B plot worthy, to be honest. There is just this big part of the story the movie never explains because the villain never had a chance to tell us. In terms of horror, I think he did his part well though. It balances out, I guess.
I know little about this guy, but he did create the entirety of the movie. This movie is really obscure and I don’t even think it has a MAL page. I usually go off tangent in my reviews, and I feel a bit weird that I can’t do it here. My reviews are so short when it’s all stripped off its rants. Gekimation is pretty interesting, and I would love to see more of it. I’ll explain my love for this style down below.
Sight and Sound
The animation is really just drawings being moved by, I dunno, a stick or something. From the way I describe it, it might sound cheap but it really isn’t. There is a certain style in the drawings. The use of colors, the misshapen character designs, and the facial reactions are all detailed nicely. That’s really the great thing here. There is a lot of care and effort given to the drawings. Characters would change outfit from time to time. They would also change poses given the situation and you can tell several dozen drawings were made for the characters. I’d rarely see the same drawing used over and over. Maybe the background but even the camera would make sure it’d look different. It’s pretty incredible, because I know it takes a lot of time to do this when you’re doing it solo. One man drew this, storyboarded the entire thing and pretty sure moved the characters too. It’s really amazing how much effort is poured here. I know of anime done in flash by one guy too, and I am always a fan of these things because effort is hard to fake. Making a movie with minimal resources is hard, but that didn’t stop these animators to go for it.
Really, even if you don’t read this review, I hope you go support this movie.
This anime has body horror, and it is nicely designed as well. I personally don’t get riled up by horror, because I’ve honestly seen worst in my life, so I mostly just love how grotesque the design can be. The detail work is never lost though. The colors are still used to make the drawings unnerving and I especially love how those red skinned monster bodies just look really scary. It looks horrible, but in a good way. I also love the “mother” monster design, because it is really just a big “what the hell am I watching oh my gawd this movie is ramping up” level of insanity at that point. That feeling was solely brought by the visuals, and I think that’s pretty cool.
This anime lacks movement so the voice acting really did a lot of heavy lifting. I saw a dubbed version though, so I do have a bias with English voices. Despite that, I do think the voice acting is pretty great here. Some characters stood out because of their voice work. I particularly love Bobby’s dad’s voice, because he just sounded cool. Some characters sounded grating, but it is ideal for their role in the movie. Bobby is pretty forgettable though. I am remembering parts of the movie and his English voice work doesn’t really stick to me. I know he is really the only character in the movie that matters, but I guess it speaks a lot that I don’t remember him much.
6/10 “It’s a fun and insane movie. There are twists and surprises aplenty, and its paper cutout style never diminishes the movie’s appeal.”
This is certainly an experience I urge everyone to try. The horror is subjective, but the craziness of the story is absolute. You will enjoy how much the show escalates until it reaches its explosive ending. It is pretty linear and the animation might not be for everyone, but it still offers something fun that appreciative viewers will certainly like.
If you want to watch the film, DarkCoast will release ‘Violence Voyager’ onto digital streaming platforms on Oct. 21 (Amazon, DirecTV, FlixFling, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO and AT&T). Happy viewing, guys.
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