The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 119 – Mad Bull 34

Mad Bull 34

This week’s anime follows cops on the mean streets of New York. It is also described in The Anime Encyclopedia: 2nd Edition by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy as, “odious”, “a stunningly infantile story” and, “one of the most puerile anime ever made”.

Having watched this four-part Original Video Anime (OVA), I have to agree with this statement concerning Mad Bull 34. Released between 1990-92, and based on a manga by Kazuo Koike and Noriyoshi Inoue, this series is filled with both grotesque violence and graphic sex, including rape – especially rape. The first episode is even called “Hit and Rape”. In the first two minutes a rapist gets his head shot off. Just about every single woman in it is either sexually assaulted, groped, or is working as either a prostitute or a killer.

It begins with newly employed NYPD cop Daizaburo “Eddie” Ban (born in America from Japanese parents) joining the force in the 34th precinct, the most law-ridden precinct in New York. On his first day he is partnered to the gigantic John Estes, nicknamed “Sleepy” by his fellow officers because he is often caught napping, and “Mad Bull” by his enemies because of his habit of being too violent. Estes’s policy tends to be “shoot on sight”, violently killing any criminal he spots. He often defends himself by showing that the criminal would have gone on to have commit a worse crime if they had gotten away. He is one of the few characters in fiction to go to a drugs bust with a load of grenades tied to his pubic hair.

The violence is just one side to Estes’s bad behaviour. Aside from all the killing he is constantly sleeping with prostitutes, and even steals their money. His defence is that he then gives the money away to help women who have been the victims of crimes such as rape, or to help fund STD clinics.

Each of the four episodes see the two cops trying to solve some sort of crime, ranging from murder, to corruption, to someone in a specially designed supervillain-like suit who is going around killing cops. Ban often ends up having to go along with Mad Bull’s violence. His one ray of sunshine is that he falls in love with one of the women on the force, Lt. Perrine Valley.

As stated earlier, in the first two minutes a rapist get his head shot off. This is just the start of a barrage of violence and sex. Also in the first ten minutes of the opening episode Mad Bull shoots dead two roller blading armed robbers, which scares a nearby woman so much that she wets herself and clings onto Ban out of fear. When Ban asks how to get her to release him, Estes tells her to stick his finger up her arse. Later on Estes tries to give Ban his first sexual experience by paying for a load of prostitutes to strip naked and lying on top of him.

For me the most shocking scene is again in the first episode, where Estes and Ban are fighting a murderer, a muscular black guy with a rose tattoo on his arm, on a subway train. The murderer is trying to push Estes out of an open door. After a while, Ban manages to shoot the murderer in the shoulder, weakening him, which allows Estes to overpower him. The way that Estes attacks him is to bite into and shatter the murderer’s sunglasses, causing broken fragments of glass to cause multiple cuts to his eyes. Estes then forces the murderer’s head out of the train, and his head is taken off by another subway train coming in the opposite direction. A surprising number of people in this series end up being decapitated. In the second episode someone has their head cut off by a table; in the third it is cut off by a female Chinese assassin using razor-sharp fingernails.

The violence is horrifically gory, and all the sex scenes and rape scenes are too much. In comparison to a series such as Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend (No. 49), the fantasy erotica series infamous in Britain for featuring rape scenes involving tentacled monsters, I find the rape scenes in Mad Bull 34 a lot worse because the rape is being committed by human characters, and is therefore much more believable than just some ungodly creature. The worst part is that because there is so much violence, sex and rape, the danger is that you start to become a bit desensitised to it. You starting thinking: “Oh god, here comes another guy whose going to have his head blown off” or, “Oh no, don’t tell me she’s going to raped too.”

While these are the worst things however, they are not the oddest. Perhaps the oddest aspects of this anime come in terms of the production. The end of each of the four episodes features a different theme song. Most of them are by a Japanese singer called Maizurah, but the first song is “Time to Get Busy” by James Brown. Yes, that is as in James “Godfather of Soul” Brown. I’m guessing he hasn’t actually seen the show.

Also, at the end of each episode in the credits thanks the actual 34th precinct of the NYPD. I wonder how many members of the force have seen it? If they have, I wonder how they feel about their most famous fictional incarnation is of a cop who is a murderer, a thief and an adulterer? I’m guessing they’re not fans.

Mad Bull 34 is released on Region 1 DVD from Eastern Star.