Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
So, a little while ago on Twitter I hinted at having a cool project in the works:
Now, after a little bit of a buffer period, and having the time to sit down and watch it, I can finally talk about Violence Voyager, a strange and yet incredibly interesting horror animation film.
For the sake of immediate transparency, I will say that someone from the studio handling the movie’s distribution, Tricoast, did allow me to watch the movie for free in order to review Violence Voyager, so take that as you will. The film will be available for streaming on October 21st on these platforms:
- Vimeo on Demand
Also, minor spoiler warning, cause for this movie its is kind of hard to avoid.
With that being said, though, Let’s get into the review.
It is not often I come across a media entity that intrigues me immediately, but Violence Voyager managed to do just that. At first, It was kind of hard to believe it was even real. However, as I did more research on the film I found out that it is plenty real, and it is a movie much more unique than most. Its approach to horror as well as storytelling more broadly is enough to get anyone interested, even from just the trailer.
The movie focuses Robert, aka “Bobby,” a boy from America who moves to a small village in Japan, where he meets Akkun, the friend he plays with the most. One day, the boys decide to make a journey over the mountain to another nearby village where there friend Takaki goes to school. While making their journey the two come across a strange amusement park in the woods, called Violence Voyager, and it is here where they learn that it might have been better to stay home, as soon they become trapped inside, while being hunted down by a strange alien.
It would frankly be an incomplete review without talking about the movie’s fascinating animation style. Known as “Geki-mation,” the film blends 2-D paper drawings and cutouts with 3-D special effects. Director and Writer Ujicha has employed the style before, most notably in his 2013 film The Burning Buddha Man. While the 2-D drawings encompass most of the film’s characters and backgrounds, the 3-D affects range from simple liquids representing blood and throw-up to actual fireworks being used to for explosions. The result is a film with a much more amateurish feel, but also a more uneasy one, which greatly amplifies the movie’s horror elements.
It is often hard to judge children as characters in media, because kids usually have different ranges of emotions compared to their adult counterparts, but despite not being particularly interesting main characters, Bobby and Akkun also were not bad either. In fact, as far as main characters in horror go, Bobby is actually quite unique, in that he does not succumb the madness of the situation like many other characters do, and as such he provides a more sober view of what most would consider a terrifying situation.
Akkun on the other hand, is a bit more steriotypical. He mainly serves as the generic worrywart who still ends up dying anyway. More importantly, though, he serves as an introduction to old-man Lucky Monkey, a character who becomes much more important in the later half of the film. Toike, the man who greets the two boys at the entrance of Violence Voyager, becomes the movie’s main antagonist, and is a pretty good one at that. While initially coming off as one-dimensional and obvious, he grows to be a much more relatable and compelling character later on, even despite his grotesque actions. Takashi, the alien who abducts the boys, also becomes an important part of the film’s plot. The rest of Violence Voyager’s cast is either not as important, not on screen long enough, or too important to talk about without more spoilers.
One of the places where I think the film does slip-up a bit is in its voice acting. For reference, I watched the show in its English dub, and so I cannot comment on the Japanese voice acting with much confidence. Something that was present across the entire movie was voice actors talking over each other even when the subject matter of the scene did not necessitate it. Now, it could be that this was a purposeful, stylistic choice that plays into its more amateur feel, but it still felt largely unnecessary.
Another part of the voice acting that I think potentially hurt the film was the delivery of a lot of lines. A good example of this comes in Derek Petropolis, the voice of Bobby’s father, who, despite his character being in many different situations which would facilitate different tones of delivery, continued to speak in a more monotone voice. This came through in many, if not all, of the characters in Violence Voyager. Again, it is hard to tell if this was a purposeful stylistic choice, or just a mistake they just did not feel like fixing.
This is not to say the talent of the voice actors did not shine at all though, because when they did do a good job, it was enjoyable. It was also delightful to hear a familiar voice in the form of Xanthe Huynh, whose has voiced characters from a variety of different anime and video game franchises.
Despite its strange style, the horror elements of the movie do well in creating a scary atmosphere, and do so without the reliance on jump scares that many horror franchises, movie, anime or otherwise, have often come to lean on consistently. I mentioned before that the mix of live action effects with 2-D animation enhanced the horror elements a lot, and I meant it. There were many moments where a streak of blood or vomit across the page induced a pretty visceral reaction, whether intentional or not.
All in All, despite a few minor quibbles I have with how certain elements of the production played out, I found this to be an incredibly entertaining film. While it is not something that looks appealing to everyone at first glance, and certainly should not be watched by kids, its unique brand of animation and horror is enough to make it a great film if you’re in mood to watch something much different than the norm.
If you all are reading this after the film has been released, then what did you all think? Let me know in the comments below. I know Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews also talked about the film on his blog, so I’ll leave a link to his post as well.
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