Ichi the Killer: Episode Zero
The things you find when you're going through commercial titles... Stuff that, one hopes, only gets sales because people make judgments based on packaging, screen shots and an aggressively optimistic blurb on the back. I'm delighted to be able to give you a look under the shrink wrap on this one.
Apparently the main character, Ichi, is the lead in a manga. That's pretty irrelevant of course, but this title promises to show us his "blood soaked roots" and the source of his "barely controlled inner rage". What we actually get to meet is a young high school student who seems to be a natural born target for bullies. He's regularly beaten up at school and so tightly wound inside that he can't tell anyone about it. However, during the course of this very short... movie. He discovers a secret that cures his bullying, mainly that deep within his true heart he's a total psychotic nut-job who gets pleasure out of killing.
The synopsis was sort of disjointed because there's really not that much story, and having given away the gist of it I'm not sure how much there is to review. This is a really shallow and simplistic title. It makes up for that with a reasonable interpretation of a repressed guy losing his mind leading to scenes of extreme violence which cheerfully attempt to see how far they can go over the boundaries of taste. This is an R-rated title (over 18 only) and there is no doubt in my mind that's exactly what the creators were aiming for. It's graphically violent, cruel, combines sex and violence in the form of both females in the cast having masochistic / submissive tendencies, and is safely immune from any redeeming features.
It's an ugly, nasty little title. There's not much entertainment to be had, not much story or plot or character. He's just a psycho who flips out randomly and kills people. Although of course the progression gives him no shortage of people who unwisely choose to stress him out. The conclusion, such as it is, relates to him being recruited to be a psycho nut-case who kills people professionally. I assume at this point it leads into the manga which, unless I am mistaken, involves him graphically killing people. We get to see his outfit, which makes him look sort of like a ninja turtle (complete with a big "1" on the back) and has him wearing runners with razor sharp blades on the heel. I bet the manga is just a whole barrel of laughs and sensitive character moments. This title also suggests he gains great strength, and even skill, from his insanity... but you'd think there would also be an advantage to being able to think straight.
It's not particularly skillful either. You get the feeling the author is really into this sort of stuff, which gives it a certain power, but also adds to the repulsive qualities of the whole thing. It's as much about the creator reveling in it, and knowing violence sells, as it is an attempt to tell a story. I'm going to call it burnable because frankly I don't have time to wallow in the filth of someone else's mind. I'd like to think there's relatively few people who do. But if you actually do want a "DVD-nasty", in which the guy graduates from bullied wimp to fully fledged homicidal maniac then perhaps this is what you want. Judging from the fact this is optimistically titled "Episode 0", and I don't believe there was any follow up, I retain some hope for the human race.
Normally I don't mention extras on a DVD, after all who buys a DVD for the extras? This one is worth mentioning though, it's impressively bereft of anything. A short opening credit (for Siren, Australia's second rate distributor) and that's it, very low budget. The actual copyright is for U.S. Manga Corp, the company that chose M.D. Geist as a trademark just so you'd be under no illusions about their lack of taste.
Certainly even if you are into the premise, scary as that is, I think everyone will agree that the production is laughably amateur. Sure, anime is "moving drawings" at heart, but this was far too close to the drawing end of the spectrum. It's got ugly, badly proportioned characters, incredibly basic backgrounds (often just a single color), extremely limited color and some of the most primitive movement I've seen recently. For a title released in 2002 its massive technical limitations make it clear this was done on the cheap, even the title graphics look like they were done on someones home PC using whatever free pain program came with it. There's one scene in it, where they mock up a video game using live actors, which almost crosses the line into comic genius given the unbelievably poor results. Needless to say the "action" is similarly limited. The voices are as unsubtle as the premise, and they have basically one song total for background music (which admittedly sort of suits the production).
Meet Ichi the killer as he... well, kills people. If you wanted an incredibly low quality, shallow story about a guy who starts out sort of nerdy but develops into a homicidal psycho by the end of the story then this is the DVD for you. It's a cheap exploitative DVD nasty that is best avoided.