Violence Jack Needs A Proper Reboot

Devilman Crybaby premiered on Netflix on January 5th, 2018, and was met with acclaim as well as a few raised eyebrows due to its graphic portrayals of sex, violence, and drug usage. Based on the classic 1972 manga, Devilman, the ultra-violent anime follows the story of Akira Fudo, a sensitive boy who, through demonic mishaps, becomes the titular Devilman--a hero that is part demon and part human. Many fans don't know that the original creator of the Devilman manga, Go Nagai, wrote a manga where the plot is set in an alternate continuity with the Devilman universe and is called Violence Jack. 

Violence Jack is influential to other creators, including the late, great manga author Kentaro Miura, of Berserk fame. Following the bloody exploits of the titular anti-hero, Jack, the setting is a post-apocalyptic version of the Kanto Region. The residents barely survive after a cataclysmic comet strike caused what was dubbed "The Great Kanto Hellquake." Jack, a mountain of a man standing at almost eight feet tall and described as having the muscles of a gorilla, the fangs of a wolf, and burning eyes--protects the innocent and conquers all who oppose him. Jack will succeed by any means necessary, even if he uses gruesome means to get the job done.

The Violence Jack manga was released back in 1973, and, as is common in the anime industry, a three-part OVA series was produced in 1986, and unfortunately, it is a slog to get through. Each OVA is filled with unwatchable violent scenes, cannibalism, and other unspeakable acts. Unlike Nagai's manga, which was fierce, but ultimately more clever and where the violence is accompanied with an overall message, the Violence Jack OVA is violent for the sake of violence. It relishes in its depravity and has no further goal than to bring about a sense of nausea.

Violence Jack And His Enemies In Violence Jack

For fans of the original Violence Jack manga, such an adaptation is a slap in the face to an iconic work. But it doesn't have to be that way, and the success of Devilman Crybaby is proof that Go Nagai's work can be adequately adapted. For Violence Jack to be given the proper treatment, the original crew that worked on Devilman Crybaby could be hired again. There is no doubt that this proverbial adaptation of Violence Jack would have the same sensationalist qualities as Devilman Crybaby, but it would be a more faithful adaptation of the source material and have a bigger budget.

Having a ten-episode series would also allow for more room for character development. This was one of the biggest problems of the Violence Jack OVA. Characters would do things for the sake of doing things, and the delineation between "good guy" and "bad guy" was done in a way where nuance is thrown out the window. The manga also handles its violence better than the blood-lusting nature of the OVA series. In the manga, there is one upsetting scene where a group of women is assaulted, but Nagai handles such tragedy in a way where it is more implied, giving such a crime a sense of gravitas. The OVA, on the other hand, sensationalized it and is produced with a style that makes it seem like it is drawn for sick kicks. Hopefully, if there is a Netflix adaptation of Violence Jack in the future, it will have more taste than that.

Jack Looms Over His Enemies In Violence Jack

The original OVA for Violence Jack is not particularly well animated and to be fair; there were budgetary restraints. A Violence Jack series with modern animation techniques and a large budget would make the series pop. The increase in funding that Netflix would provide would also allow some authentic voice acting talent to be hired, which the original OVA lacked. Considering the vulgar beauty of Devilman Crybaby, it would be interesting to see what that crew would come up with for a visceral series like Violence Jack. 

Even though Violence Jack is not as famous in the Western world as in Japan, it deserves a second chance. It's a shame that the only exposure that the West has to the classic series is from such a substandard OVA. Who knows, with Netflix picking up some very well-crafted anime like Devilman Crybaby, it could only be a matter of time before Violence Jack is given a proper revamping. It deserves that much.

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