Directed by Takayuki Hirao
How often does one come away from a movie wishing it had more walking sharks and fewer biomechanical fart-powered zombies?
That was my second reaction as the credits began to roll at the end of Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack. My first reaction was “WTF?!?!” Seriously, WTF, Japan?
Describing the plot of Gyo is virtually impossible because A) that would spoil the visual insanity that simply has to be experienced for oneself, and B) that would require me to try to explain a premise that really can’t be explained because it is absolutely insane. Gyo is the fever dream I imagine H.P. Lovecraft would have come up with after eating some tainted sushi and experiencing a sleepless night of gassy indigestion.
Gyo is actually a 70-minute anime adaptation of a popular and critically acclaimed manga series by Junji Ito. I have never read Gyo, though I have heard of it and I am familiar with Ito’s other creation, Uzumaki. Of what I knew about Gyo going in, I knew it had to do with mutant fish and word was it was both seriously creepy and revoltingly disgusting. I can only guess that something got lost in translation from the page to the screen because while it is most definitely gross at certain times and surreal at almost all times, imagery and events that were clearly meant to be horrifying play out laughably so.
From a technical aspect the animation is extremely well done. I suppose. It’s been so long since the last time I watched anime I’m not really one to judge. I can say that the way the direction puts so much focus on the expressions of horror and despair on faces of the protagonists (tight close-ups of bulging eyes reacting in terror to what they’re witnessing become so prominent a drinking game could be made out of it), I’m genuinely perplexed as to whether those responsible for this adaptation knew what they were presenting was more enjoyably gonzo than disgustingly eerie.
A young woman named Kaori is hanging out in Okinawa with her two best friends: One is an attractive slut into threesomes with perfect strangers, and the other is exactly what I would imagine Velma to look like in an anime version of “Scooby Doo”. When billions of fish with what look like robotic insect-like legs emerge from the ocean to overrun Tokyo, all Kaori can think about is getting to her boyfriend, maybe fiancé, Tadashi, trapped in the city. But first she and her friends have to contend with a hungry land shark chasing them throughout the house.
Kaori then leaves her friends behind as she heads for Tokyo in search of her man, meeting up along the way with a freelance journalist looking to cover the story. That leaves Velma to contend with the slutty friend, infected during the shark attack, having now mutated into a Garbage Pail Kid that spends the remainder of the film chasing after her.
From there it only gets weirder, and often, funnier.
The screen is constantly filled with floating stink lines representing the fishy stench of death covering Japan. Walking fish attack. Walking sharks attack. Walking squids attack. Fish begin randomly exploding. Circus tents randomly appear in the middle of city streets. A mad scientist goes even madder. Infected humans transform into bloated, discolored zombies that spew forth noxious gasses from both ends, fire shit bombs at people from god knows where, and then they, too, get assimilated into four-legged, biomechanical whatthefucks, allowing the Japanese to continue their unwavering obsession with people getting tentacles shoved into their orifices, though in this particular instance not for sexual purposes.
If anything I’m describing here makes you say to yourself, “This sounds so crazy I have got to see it!” then you will most likely get your money’s worth. I know I did. I wanted to see people get eaten by walking sharks, I got it. I wanted to see a major city overrun by fish scampering around like cockroaches, I got it.
What I didn’t get were any satisfactory explanations as to what’s going on. I also came away feeling empty at the end thanks to an anti-climactic finale further hindered by the complete lack of emotional investment in anyone or anything that preceded it. It has the inklings of a freaky story, but the rushed nature of the anime doesn’t give it any chance to develop any significance outside of being a nonsensical geek show overloaded with wacko imagery.
Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack is out on DVD in Asia and the UK. The brief trailer above is what sold me on getting my hands on an import copy. When walking sharks prowl the streets, I cannot wait for a proper US release.
3 out of 5