The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 152 – Ichi the Killer

Ichi the Killer 1

As you might have gathered from the title, we turn to one of anime’s more violent titles this week. While the original manga comic has never been released in English, this small anime, as well as the live action films based on it, give a taste of the violent offerings it has.

Ichi the Killer was first a manga that ran between 1998 and 2001 by Hideo Yamamoto, which ran for 10 volumes. The first adaptation of it was a live action film in 2001, followed by a prequel in 2003. However, between these two there was straight-to-video Original Video Anime (OVA) made in 2002, which was also a prequel to the original series, that was 45-minutes long.

The anime tells the story of the title character, Shiroishi “Ichi” Hajime, who in the present day lives a mental asylum. He has a mental age of six due to him repressing his memories, which he does by doing lots of physical exercise. Despite this, he still has the sexual desires of an adult. He is released when a parole officer named Kakihara agrees to help rehabilitate. In this anime, we learn how he ended up in the asylum, and the consequences of his release.

Ichi got there for a number of reasons: when he was a student he was bullied by his classmates; his parents keep pressuring him to get good grades, and then at night Ichi can hear his parents having sadomasochistic sex. He then goes out one night, and sees a cat badly injured in a road accident. Ichi goes to help the cat, which bites him. This results in Ichi going into a violent craze, beating up the cat until it is dead. He also finds causing violence to be erotic.

He later kills some rabbits kept as pets at his school. Ichi’s best friend finds out and starts to blackmail him to be quiet. Eventually Ichi snaps again, killing his friend and his parents. The modern day story sees how Kakihara starts to actually manipulate him into doing his violent bidding, namely by killing members of the yakuza.

The main appeal, and to be honest, is the violence. Although it is easy to be desensitised by TV and film violence, even here there are things to be shocked by. The scene in which Ichi is surprisingly bitten by the cat which he then beats to death, is one that grabs your attention in a horrific way because you are not expecting it at first (although I do admit that I have given it away somewhat).

Later on there is a sex scene in which Ichi meets a woman who is a masochist. At first Ichi does not want to hurt her, but eventually he does. It is somewhat scary to witness such a horrific act. Later on you see Ichi, having fled this woman, in a park crying, where three men try to beat him up. Ichi kills these men in incredibly graphic ways. He snaps necks and he breaks jaws – and at the end of all this, he gets an erection and masturbates at what he has done, which is equally disturbing.

There is much to dislike about Ichi the Killer in terms of the quality of the animation, or the fact that is so horribly violent, particularly the sexual violence, but if this something that you are able to stomach, then this show is a short blast of fast-paced action.

Ichi the Killer was released on Region 2 DVD by Premier Asia. In Britain, only second hand copies remain.