Following up the bizarre “The Burning Buddha Man”, director Ujicha again employs a blend of animation and manga called “geki-mation,” a process creating grotesque body horror nightmare imagery from painstakingly detailed, hand-painted paper cutouts. Three-years in the making, this new opus is every bit as demented, bizarre and oddly engaging as his previous genre outing.
Setting out for the mountains, an American boy named Bobby and his friend Akkun stumble upon a mysterious amusement park called “Violence Voyager” as they try to build a secret hideout. As they make their way through the ruins of the park, the boys find themselves attacked by strange beings and held hostage by the owner of the park holding them with other abducted kids to use as food for his mutated son. With plenty of determination to help escape with his friends, Bobby learns the true nature of what he’s up against and tries to summon his courage to escape from the deranged park alive.
Much like Ujicha’s previous projects, the weirdness of the film is a major hurdle to get over, particularly the fact that there’s flat, stationary characters on-screen that don’t really interact with each other at all, with splicing and overlapping pictures used to create movement that still looks patently fake. That the mouths don’t move and there are very few scenes with actual movement by the characters, relying on the camera panning over the image instead to impart movement, creates such a distracting and disjointed concept that it can be off-putting for some to even attempt watching ‘Violence Voyager.’ However, the good part is that it becomes less obvious as time goes on and becomes numbing in the manner of exposure to the style. Still, this is a facet of the movie that must be mentioned.
Aside from the animation style, the film really has a lot to like. The weirdness of the story is one of the most impressive attributes here. Ujicha’s story, about the boys trapped in the nightmarish world of the cursed amusement park, creates an incredibly surreal backdrop for the madness within here. Employing child kidnapping, a mad scientist, robotics and grotesque body-horror, these seemingly disparate ideas are wrapped together into an engaging and wholly unique story line. The gradual discovery of these strange elements, from the initial theme park discovery and the real-life mutants inside, to the mad scientist and his different experiments, leads to a surprisingly touching and graphic storyline. The modifications to the kids’ bodies, from the square box-like appendages on the head, the eyes stretched out to form televisions for eyes and all manner of genetic modifications on the body, allows ‘Violence Voyager’ to weave its unique tale in memorable fashion.
That becomes most apparent with the fact that this directly targets young kids. Even though the animation style is far more forgiving of the violence, there’s no mistaking how it directly targets children. Victims are shown to be impaled with metal poles, harm their arms ripped off, disemboweled or just ripped to pieces. Non-lethal injuries, from being sprayed with accident or shown with melted body parts, run rampant in the film much like the actual body modification processes shown. On top of it all, the gratuitous and frequent child nudity for both male and female children, many of whom are barely double-digits in age if that, creates such a disturbing and uncomfortable feeling that permeates itself in the latter half when the action kicks up. Coupled with the obscure animation style, there’s not much else to the effort.
Despite the few minor, personal issues to be had with this one, ‘Violence Voyager’ is one of Ujicha’s more accomplished and enjoyable genre efforts. Give this one a chance if you’re willing to forego the weirdness or are intrigued by the prospects it has, while those who aren’t willing to go along with what’s on display should heed caution here.