I will not lie to you – Violence Voyager is an odd film.
Taking place in the decaying Japanese countryside, our story follows two middle school boys named Akkun and Bobby. Akkun is a Japanese child, while Bobby is continually referred to as a foreigner. Although hailing from America, the film is vague on whether or not Bobby is actually haafu.
Although this does not seem important, the fact that Bobby is a foreigner gives him a sort of god-like status amongst his peers. He is a transfer student, a theme not uncommon in any given anime currently airing. Initially popular due to his immigrant status, Bobby later rejects this in favor of hanging out with a child who is considered lame by the other children. Akkun is depicted as having a deformed head, the appearance of this ‘blemish’ later becoming more pronounced after a certain incident.
In our introduction to this pair, Akkun praises Bobby for creating a machine “No Japanese kid would ever think of making” for an arts and crafts project. Bobby denies the praise, but compared to his friend’s cardboard dinosaur the foreigner is clearly depicted as superior. This becomes a reoccurring theme throughout the film.
The blonde-haired boy’s uniqueness at being a non-Japanese exempts him from the rules others around him follow.
I’m not sure what it is, but any media I have watched that depicts rural mountainous life in some way is negative in nature. Not necessarily the story itself, but the people and their actions. In a queer manner adding to the undertone of despair, the residents usually have a hive mind mentality. The mountains obscure them from the rest of the world, creating an insular bubble that our protagonist is usually unable to escape.
In this vein, Oshimi Shuzo’s Aku no Hana or Production IG’s Shinreigari: Ghost Hound come to mind.
The pair make plans to visit their friend in the neighboring village, Takaaki. On the morrow the boy’s set out, a mysterious narrator hinting at the fate yet to befall Bobby.
Venturing up the mountain, the boy’s stop by Old Man Lucky Monkey’s home in the woods. After being scared by the Old Man’s pet monkey and tumbling down a hill, the elder stops to chat with the children. Uncomfortable in his presence, the usually chatty Bobby chooses not to engage. In this silence, Old Man Lucky Monkey warns the children not to visit the other side of the mountain. Despite further protests from Akkun, the Old Man convinces him not to visit their friend.
The sternness of the Old Man’s voice appears to frighten Bobby, who now cowers behind the other boy.
Shortly after their departure, the boy’s decide to ignore the ominous warning and stumble upon a rusted amusement park sign. Akkun points out never encountering the sign before, but Bobby ignores his input and pushes forward. The duo come upon a clearly makeshift bridge overlooking a ravine.
I have mentioned this once before that water could be interpreted as a boundary between worlds. By crossing this threshold the boys leave their old world behind, and enter the new dreamlike world that is Violence Voyager.
The rest of the film follows the narrative structure of a dark horror story reminiscent of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with a distinctively Japanese twist.
While the kids take refuge in the inner sanctum of the ‘Haunted Land’ robot graveyard, the audience learns of the park’s true purpose: human experimentation. Tomoyuki, a mutilated child, stands present as a foreboding for what is yet to come.
A little girl named Sayaka and her brother Kousuke retell the story of how they wound up in the depths of their hell.
Sayaka and Kousuke petitioned their village elder to search for their now missing third sibling. The older man could not be bothered to listen, resulting in the abduction of two more children. The concept of 面倒くさい, or mendokusai could be applied here. The elder could have viewed these unfounded claims as troublesome, electing not to further investigate. Without the support of any adults, the children took it upon themselves to find their missing sister. Sayaka also mentions enlisting the local ‘punk’ teens in her town, but their whereabouts are currently unknown.
In works of this nature, the undercurrent of appearing bothersome dictates social order. Because the children have no status, they are not taken seriously. Because Bobby is a foreigner, he has no qualms about disregarding the unspoken rules that dictate Japanese society. Bobby is exempt from these ramifications, therefore while the Japanese kids are later captured he is left to roam free.
Bobby, the foreigner, becomes the heroic knight in his own twisted horror story. Equipped with crude weapons and aided by the creatures of the forest, Bobby later takes on the mad scientist Koike in a final showdown reminiscent of an 80’s video game.
Does Bobby survive the encounter? Will Akkun and the other Japanese kids be resigned to a different fate?
I think this story in particular is best left to be explored yourself.
Violence Voyager is currently available on Amazon, DirecTV, FlixFling, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO and AT&T for digital streaming.
Thank you to TriCoast for the pleasure of viewing this film. It was a nice way to end the year out.
☆ In Asian Spaces