In light of recent events, I decided to review an animé often overlooked and dismissed as brainless trash and give it the justice it duly deserves….
Imagine the town, city or country you live in is hit by a natural disaster which effectively ends life as you and those around you know it; imagine being trapped in an unfamiliar and inhospitable location with no visible way to escape; now visualise the chaos that ensues amongst the populace as a result of all this….
Post-Katrina New Orleans?
Nope – post-quake Tokyo in the world of Violence Jack!
Originally conceived by Go (Mazinger Z) Nagai as a follow-up to his Devilman magnum opus, Violence Jack sprang from the pages of manga for animé adaptation in the mid to late 80s; of the three OAVs released, it is the second of these – Evil Town which proves the most potent in depicting the aftermath of societal collapse. Buried by the quake, our hero, Jack is unearthed into an underground world split into three sections, imaginatively titled A, B and C. Section A – those who unearthed him – are a group composed of administrators and assorted citizens determined to keep some semblance of the old law and order power structure going. As Jack is entertained by Section A’s mayor, we learn that each section formed in order to protect “those of like mind” from the encroachments of the others. The simpering Mayor, plays up the sympathy card depicting those of his decree as poor suffering civilians beset by plague, famine and the barbarism of section B. In light of this, and A freeing him from the rubble, it seems like a clear choice for Jack to make – doesn’t it?
Later during a swap and trade organized by Section B (to discover what they’re up against in the shape of Jack), the mysterious Section C emerges – along with the truth about Evil Town’s differing factions ; it turns out that Section C – a band of females formerly from Section A – formed after being gang-raped by their ex-fellows. “Once it seemed there was no way out, that was when the men started to change,” Ayla, Section C’s leader explains, “or perhaps I should say show their true natures…”
Violence Jack is often dismissed by critics as being ultraviolent, exploitative tripe lacking in value – I strongly disagree! I’d go as far as to say that, like the similarly maligned Sin City, Violence Jack has a very strong ethical core underneath all the sadism and violence; both texts share bleak landscapes, evil hiding behind authority and vicious heroes unafraid to bring their own justice to where it’s most deserved. Our hero (a reincarnation of Devilman’s protagonist, Akira Fudo) is a towering behemoth whose violence is always underpinned by a sure and precise sense of right and wrong – much like Marv, come to think of it! In the context of the Evil Town OAV, his rugged, ruthless outlook nicely complements the more lenient and compassionate worldview of the equally self-determined inhabitants of Section C.
Section A prove to be all the more interesting, especially in the light of the recent disaster in New Orleans- a group of led-by-the-nose slave moralists, they are a perfect depiction of what happens to those of an authoritarian-submissive mindset in the event of societal collapse. At the beginning of the episode we see one of A’s administrators, officer Kawamori, shoot dead a child for stealing food under the rationale of “rules are rules” and maintaining order; his methods and motives aren’t that far removed from those of the authorities in the previously-mentioned New Orleans disaster. Also, the atrocities perpetrated by his section grimly echo the horror stories spilling out of the NO Superbowl shelter; as disgusting as such incidents are, such is the logical conclusion of setting loose those raised under an external, authoritarian set of edicts. It’s no different to kids raised under restrictive religious doctrines going “off the rails” the moment they step foot out of the house – ever wonder how the myth of the horny Catholic schoolgirl came about? Authoritarianism doesn’t encourage responsibility – merely repression; without the threat of punitive consequences hanging over the head of a servile mind, what is there to control his unmastered bodily impulses ?
The unyielding statists who chant “without strong rules and restrictions there’d be chaos” would be just the ones to watch out for if the shit did indeed go down!
I wonder how many of these post-Katrina savages were in fact dutiful “law-abiding citizens” just a week or two back….
(And of course for those who were always savage you have Section B!)
Post-apocalypse narratives are perfect canvasses to explore how human beings would react to the prospect of anarchy and it seems as if Takashi Wada has taken perfect advantage of this fact for Violence Jack: Evil Town.Far from being a brainless action vehicle, I see it as a insightful picture of how various types of mindset deal with the absence of authority figures regulating their every footsteps – when all external fetters are torn away how will each of us “reveal our true natures”?
I wonder how many of those in the New Orleans Superbowl stopped to consider such a question….
You’d get on with my boyfriend. Commonly known as Manga John.
Interesting review, you really should be writing this stuff professionally I think.