The Fat Chick That Got Daryl Surat Panel-Banned From Otakon: Apocalypse Zero [NSFW]

Kakugo no Susume (localized title: Apocalypse Zero) is about the future. Our future. It is the beginning of the 21st century, and the world is destroyed. Tectonic activity, you know. The last remaining school on Earth soldiers on through the ruins of civilization.

In Japan, of course. Neo Tokyo, Sector 04. Japan was training for this shit. And so it was that two particularly gnarly bros — Kakugo and Harara Hagakure — were trained in the frozen north, in their skivvies, against sextuple-titted purple mutant grizzly bears with radioactive acid blood, all day, every day, by their father, the stone-faced Oboro Hagakure, until the day arrived when they would be entrusted with his magnum opus, a pair of bio-mechanical robo-suits powered by the souls of a thousand dead WWII-era test subjects, and sent out to fight evil in all its forms.

And then we see a schoolgirl get her intestines squeezed out of her body like a tube of sausage by a 20-foot tall giant, naked, puffy-lipped, clown-faced, dominatrix fat-chick who tells us that “My name is Hamuko… but people call me Beauty!” The entrails land on her boyfriend, of course. Who we then see in Hamuko’s bed. She tears his face off with her giant clown-lips, and tells him that she just gave him the “mark of eternal love.” Then she sews his stretched-out zombie face onto her left areola and–!

Apocalypse Zero is reading from two playbooks. First playbook: ‘70s Go Nagai. Devilman, Violence Jack, Kekko Kamen. Ravaged cityscapes, disgusting monsters, disgusting monsters uncomfortably intermingled with strange sexual imagery, and a heck of a lot of boys’ comic violence cranked way, way up.

Second playbook: Kazuo Umezo. The Drifting Classroom. Some of the character designs in here — especially the teachers — have the same kind of bug-eyed, square-jawed quality to them. And there is, of course, the apocalyptic classroom setting. Maybe I’m reading a little too deeply into this. You tell me.

This is really painfully obvious in the manga, which is garish and pulpy and ugly and creepy in an intensely personal way. That the author, Takayuki Yamaguchi, would eventually go on to create Shigurui, only reinforces that impression for me. This is his book, and you’re just passing through, man.

Most of this is lost in the 2-episode OAV adaptation from 1996, and I’m not really sure who to blame. Let’s start with the director, who is none other than Toshiki Iczer-Motherfuckin’-One Hirano himself. My god, what are you doing here? Is this what you saw yourself doing back in the ‘80s? Probably, right?

Here’s the big problem: Apocalypse Zero the manga is so weird — so up in your grill — that it commands respect. Even if the first ten pages make you throw up in your mouth a little, you’ll still have to admit that the book is a work of inspired, mad genius. You just gotta.

The OAV, on the other hand, misses the point. Everything is too clean, too polished for what goes down here. The fight scenes are staged and scored like any other kids fight show, despite the horrifying content. From one scene to the next is like watching three or four different shows, two crazy and gross, all mediocre. It’s just not very good, and the animation budget isn’t enough to really sell the concept.

Once you get into the vibe, though, there are some… amusing moments here. In a scene you’ve probably seen elsewhere, the main villain challenges a group of burly, post-apocalyptic biker-lookin’ dudes to best him in unarmed combat, the victor getting his castle as compensation. “The name’s Jackal! I killed 63 wrestlers one-handed in under a second!” screams the leader. There’s something endearing about that level of bravado.

Also endearing — in both the manga and the OAV — is the high school element. It’s played 100% straight, despite not making any sense whatsoever. This is a world that is by all measures worse than Fist of the North Star’s, yet there is still a high school, with a cafeteria, and bullies, and faculty fretting about how their students “must have an education… to change this world!” Of course, they’re also fretting about how two of their students were brutally murdered in the most horrifying ways imaginable, but I guess that comes with the territory.

Apocalypse Zero the manga ran for 11 volumes, which Media Blasters got about halfway through publishing in America before pulling the plug. Apocalypse Zero the OAV ran for two episodes, barely enough to cover the events of the manga’s first volume. The production staff probably knew this was going to happen, and took the liberty of adding a sexy-nurse monster character to the beginning of the second episode, who attacks Kakugo with her boobs. This is, of course, to complement the pervy old-man monster character from the manga, who shows up later in that same episode, and attacks with his genitals. Give and take, as they say.

Before I forget, Apocalypse Zero has a theme song. It plays only during the end credits of each of the two episodes, and it is sung by Hironobu Kageyama. Kind of like MD Geist!

Perhaps Apocalypse Zero‘s biggest mistake was that it wasn’t made in the ’80s. If it had, it probably would have been BAOH or any number of other legendary OAVs from the time period. Instead, it was Apocalypse Zero.

9 Comments

  1. I understand WHY you personally disliked the anime and it makes perfect sense, but I can’t agree there. As neat as the manga’s artwork is, I think presenting all that insanity like a kids’ show adds to the brilliance. I’m not really grossed out by anything in this manga OR the anime as it’s just drawings and it takes particularly bad real life things to make me feel disturbed at this point, so I judged it solely by the comedic appeal of what was going on – comedy was obviously a big part of the author’s intent considering you have a guy who uses his penis as a microphone to sing an ear-piercingly bad song as an attack against the protagonist.

    I was laughing my ass off at the way they did the climax of the fight with the fat dominatrix woman – the way it was something psychotic and insane delivered in such a ‘clean’ way was brilliant. I also think the character designs are done by one Keisuke Watabe, who might or might not be THIS Keisuke Watabe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSF3qIbKBSs and it wouldn’t surprised me because the designs are very animation-friendly. I don’t at all imagine them having had a big enough budget to properly animate the manga’s existing designs, unchanged, without going into slideshow territory, so as far as I’m concerned the whole ‘kids’ show’ feel was a good idea and works given what they had to work with.

    so basically: good review with well-worded opinions, but as an aside I recommend checking out the anime anyway if the idea of gross-out humor, graphic gore and psychotic batshit insanity being delivered in a way that’s very similar to a children’s anime sounds appealing to you.

  2. I think the exclamation point on the matter is the fact that Apocalypse Zero ran in SHONEN CHAMPION. This is a story for the kids, man! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    As fate would have it, I am currently in the process of writing something I was supposed to have finished over two months ago in which I name drop the mighty Apock Zee as a related cousin-in-arms, but let it be known that the Apocalypse Zero anime for all its truncations is still the best cartoon and I will hear no slights of it. The dub is absolutely the way to go, because attacks like DOUBLE BIG TITS BOMBER deserve to be yelled in English.

    The manga, however, truly is the greatest of comics, and it saddens me that the final five volumes were never translated into English, either officially or via fan outlets. Learning Japanese is too selfish a solution. This work of art is a gift for the entire world. Someone do it. FOR THE CHILDREN.

  3. And I thought Elfen Leed was gross.

    I can read a Berserk volume from cover to cover and not twitch once, but there is something about mixing gore to harem anime (or sixties giant robot anime) character designs that makes it particularly disturbing. Maybe we associate the designs to “safe” stories where nobody gets hurt or dies, or at the very least does so romantically?

  4. Wow, I just discovered this one through an AMV on YouTube a few weeks back (to the credits song, of course, which is fantastic).

    It looked… well, it looked like the sort of thing that’s great when compressed into four minutes of clips of the most inventive, visceral bits, and which is probably dreadful when watched in its entirely. I haven’t any desire to track the full OAV down, but damn, that is one catchy theme.

  5. Great article… I agree with the anime being kinda lame, but the manga is the craziest thing I’ve seen. Among all this weirdness, the strangest thing for me are some nationalist/militaristic undertones, mostly evident on the main character’s values and stoicism. It’s some pretty heavy handed moral discourse, in a crazy samurai sort of way. In Kamen Rider suits.

  6. Checked out the manga (or as much as I could find… were there any scanlation efforts after vol. 7?) on the strength of this piece.

    Is pretty great junk, love the whole genderbending strand too and indeed how, I dunno, ‘equal opps’ it is about thrusting male and female sexually charged imagery right up at you as often as it can, give or take a whited-out groin.

    Good times CD

  7. Incidentally I feel like Katsura’s Zetman is this one’s glum, straight-laced nephew

  8. Hmm…banned from otakon ? I was kinda hoping that fucker get banned from life. Motherfucking Surat…

  9. I got roped into watching the anime by my sister and i agree, it was poorly executed and made a total mess of things.(and messed with a few characters appearances slightly)

    However the manga is actually rather good. The art work has a nice style to it, the fiends are …interesting to say the least and while it is full of cliches it does well to keep things rather fresh.
    …I just wish someone would have warned me it wasn’t fully translated till i got really into it, I WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT DAMN IT! TT^TT

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