Welcome back to Spookfest, a bi-weekly review until Halloween night of horror/terror anime and why they suck (or not). The selection for horror manga is vast and some authors excel on this genre, one of them is Junji Ito, author of famous works like “Cat Diary: Yon & Muu” and “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” his works rarely made it to an adaptation, this time we will be reviewing one of the few. Today I’ll be talking about Gyo, also known as “It: Stinks”.
About the show
Gyo (ギョ) is an OVA adaptation of the manga from the same name. The OVA was produced by Ufotable, originally announced for Winter 2011, it was released until February of the next year. Gyo is 75-min length OVA and it takes some liberties over the source material.
The friends Kaori, Erika and Aki are on a vacation to celebrate their upcoming graduation, when suddenly an infestation of mysterious walking fish forces them to reevaluate everything they care about in order to stay alive.
Let me begin clarifying some points, I have read before the original source of this adaptation and I despise almost all works of Junji Ito. He suffers from the same flaws as the stories of Stephen King, great premise and world building but terrible and disappointing conclusions. Being one of the most prolific horror manga authors does not always lead to great stories. But even I can admit that this adaptation is an incredible disservice to the original material but I won’t lash upon this OVA because of its differences with the manga, as it has been said many times before, an adaptation should stand on its own merits. And Gyo, as a horror anime, it’s one of the most terrible, tedious and unappealing shows I have ever seen.
Reconciling horror elements with animation is not an easy task. There’s no relatability of fear when we cannot be in the mindset of being vulnerable. It could be a preconceived notion about the media (Animation is mostly harmless or action entertainment) but even that it’s something that directors should take in consideration and create a work that rise above those. Gyo does not do that. It breaks some of the most conventional rules of horror like showing its “monster” during the first five minutes of the show. There’s no build-up for knowing our characters, or the relationship they have with the “monster”. The audience is left with no mystery about the monsters, and the show stop its tracks to bombard you with exposition. At this point any trace of fear is left to body horror and jump scares.
There’s nothing wrong with jump scares and body horror, “The Thing” is one of the most acclaimed horror/sci-fi stories relies on them but if you ask anybody why it’s a good movie they will not point only to them. And Gyo lacks something important in horror: Tone. When we get to see the body deformations in The Thing, the movie already established an atmosphere of solitude, paranoia and fear. We are along for the ride and we are the edge of our seats. Gyo is tone deaf. In all the seventy five minutes of its running time, there’s not a single scene setting the tone for the show, they are only scenes that happen one after the other. One of the scenes that describes this unbelievable blunder it’s one where they arrive via plane to Tokyo, our main character wakes up by the commotion in the plane and we see that the city has been invaded by these monsters. Even the airport is full of them and all the passengers are worried for their safety. We cut to a scene with the pilots taking the risk and landing the plane even if it’s unsafe. Here it’s the point where any other decent story it’ll prepare to show us the danger of the situation, the feeling of hopelessness in the passengers and create a tense scene of the plane landing and all the crew trying to move the passengers to safety. This does not happen. Instead we got some fish being crushed by the plane, a terrible landing that damages it but somehow we cut from this scene to our MC being well inside the airport. How did she made it safe after this crash? What about the other passengers? How can she be so calm after this disaster? No answer for any of those questions and the show keeps moving.
None of the horror elements work, so what about our characters? All of them one-dimensional. We can not relate to them, their motives at best are idiotic and only at the end, we get to see a tiny spot of humanity in an y of them. Kaori, our main character, our eyes to the decadence and horror of this world never acts differently, she is the same person when the show begins and ends. We simply don’t care about her or really, any of the other characters. She being stoic about the whole deal could work, but you have to build it, you need those scenes to establish her as someone who will endure this disaster with a poker face. Don’t throw her into the show and expect the audience to give her a pass.
Animation and score is another detriment for this anime. Ufotable is known for its quality works and it comes as a surprise how cheap and stale this adaptation looks. Relying heavily on CGI, it makes more difficult as an audience to immerse on this world. None of the monsters look menacing and often times they produce the opposite effect making it laughable to watch. The score is almost non-existent and should not come as a surprise, often times the music in horror is 50% of the setting that creates a scene and as it has been said before, in no part of the whole story the show dedicates time to create a tone. It seems to be that the adaptation was supposed to be shorter and some of the previous criticisms could be a consequence of extending the running time but even that is not a sufficient excuse for this poor and dull animation.
Don’t watch Gyo, it’s a rushed and poor work of adaptation that tried to cash on the notoriety of its author. Read the manga if you really want to know the story, you will not miss anything from the adaptation. It cannot even qualify as a “it’s so bad it’s good” type of show. Anime is available where anime is.