The Boy refused to say this was the greatest movie he’d ever seen. In fact, I’m not even sure that he said it was good—because, in any conventional sense, it is not—but he did say it was inspired madness that ranked it among the highest cinematic experiences he had had. And I can’t argue with that. At least not the “inspired madness”.
It was my fault we went to see this one-man project, and in fairness, I picked it precisely because it was the sort of weird little thing we enjoy. But what, exactly, is it? Well, if you search the web, you’ll see the claim that it was filmed in “gekimation” but is “gekimation” a real thing? I do not think so.
What filmmaker/manic Ujicha (yes, only one name) did was set up little backdrops through which he moved cut-outs of his characters through. He’s literally playing with dolls, in other words. Now, to his credit, you never see his hands (or whatever implements he used to create motion) but you cannot help but “see” them, as the characters bob up-and-down exactly as they would if you were watching a child put on a show. And at one point, when a creature is supposed to be dropping down through a portal, it’s very clear it’s being held by the (off-screen) edge and just dropped through. At times, the characters have liquids (bodily fluids) splashed on them or forced out through holes.
It is a truly transparent artifice. But one for which I was grateful when we started seeing rows-and-rows of naked pre-pubescent children corpses.
There aren’t all that many different poses and expressions for the characters, and they seem somewhat off at times. Thankfully, the voice-acting wasn’t just Ujichi doing all the voices and the Japanese cast is pretty high-powered. We saw the English dub which had some recognizable names as well.
The story goes something like this: Two boys (ignoring the warnings of wise elders) take a mountain pass to see a pal who has moved to a different village when they stumble across a ramshackle amusement park, the titular “Violence Voyager”. They are permitted to choose weapons (squirt guns) and instructed to fight the aliens (cheesy cut-outs that pop out at them). Ultimately they’re trapped in one of the attractions, where things start to get even weirder.
I say “even weirder” because, beyond the whole bizarro presentation, one of the boys has a waffle for a head. I mean, he’s got a pattern on his head like he was struck by a waffle iron. (His little brother has the same pattern!) What does it mean? Absolutely nothing, per Ujicha. He just liked the character design.
But as they stumble around this cheesy amusement park attraction, they come across peers who have been trapped for days and transmogrified into horrible monsters. Why? Well, I think this is the old “Convert some poor sap’s body into a vehicle for your deformed/dead loved one” bit (a la The Brain That Wouldn’t Die or a zillion other ’50s/’60s B-movies) but there’s no real logic here. It feels, most of the time, like a genuine nightmare: Weird, disconcerting, and complete nonsense.
At various points, our hero encounters, let’s see: a cat, a bat and a chimpanzee. By the end of the movie, they’re fighting like teams of an impromptu superhero group.
It’s astoundingly childish. I mean, top-to-bottom: presentation, story, dialog, character motivations, and a weird ambiguity as to the characters ages. Like, they look like grade school kids. And, I mean, we see all of them naked which (under normal cinematic circumstances) provides clues as to age. But the boys’ pal—the one they were going to visit—was actually there on a date with his girlfriend. I mean, I guess twelve-year-olds might go on unsupervised dates into the woods with their girlfriends in Japan?
When we get some exposition, it turns out the kids were there because the authorities weren’t interested in missing children. So, to preserve their “journalistic integrity”—as an eight-year-old girl explains—they embark on their journey through the park without any adults. At one point, the hero’s father comes after him, and he takes the hero’s pal’s little brother along, because the only parents shown in the movie are the hero’s and the mad scientist.
Remember “The Naked Lunch” tagline? “Exterminate All Rational Thought”? Pshaw. Peanuts.
It all comes across as a juvenile nightmare. The Boy absolutely loved it. (We had gone after our late night work meeting and he had no regrets.) I…well, my feelings were mixed, to say the least. I was glad we had gone to see it, but I’m not sure I could say I enjoyed it. I found the artwork so hard to parse sometimes that it was difficult for me to figure out who was speaking from time-to-time (mouths don’t move, of course) or to figure out what action was supposed to have taken place (but couldn’t be shown because cutout dolls don’t really interact well).
The hero ends up transmogrified early on, but the movie assures us that his mother still loves him and he conquered whatever difficulties came his way for the rest of his life. So that’s nice.
Check it out?