If there was an award for the year’s most gonzo animated feature, it can be given out early. Surely nothing else in 2019 will be quite as odd and unnerving as Violence Voyager by Japanese artist Ujicha.
Read on to learn more about the film, which comes out on video on demand on October 21, and to see the trailer.
The film follows two twelve-year-old friends, Bobby and Akkun, as they get lost inside the nightmarish Violence Voyager amusement park. Cue sinister park managers, naked humanoid robots, and bloodshed galore.
While the story evokes kaiju horror and David Cronenberg movies, the visual style is something else altogether. This is a work of what Ujicha calls “gekimation.”
The term “gekimation” is a portmanteau of “gekiga” — alternative manga comics, often with adult themes — and “animation.”
But it isn’t actually animation. Instead, cutout characters are moved by hand in front of the camera (a bit like paper theater), and shot in live action. The camera sometimes moves, but the characters’ features don’t.
The technique was popularized in Japan by Kazuo Umezu’s 1976 tv series Ghost Story: Cat Eyed Boy. But it was never widely adopted.
Ujicha used it in his 2013 feature The Burning Buddha Man, a similarly freaky tale of a girl pitted against a group of magical beings who steal Buddha statues from temples. The film didn’t exactly prompt a revival of gekimation.
But the director returns to it in Violence Voyager, on which he worked for five years. He painstakingly hand-painted the cutouts and backgrounds, and created in-camera effects with light and fluids.
The film has won a handful of prizes and garnered buzz at genre festivals since its premiere in 2018. Village Voice called it “a brutally inventive nightmare born of a singular, disturbing vision.”
Violence Voyager will be released, courtesy of distributors Darkcoast, on digital streaming platforms on October 21. Catch it on Amazon, DirecTV, Flixfling, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, Fandango, or AT&T.