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Monday, November 28, 2011

Violence Jack: Hell's Wind: Old Jack vs. New Jack... Fight!

Violence Jack: Evil Town was a definitive improvement over the previous OVA, Harlem Bomber.  But, admittedly, one thing Evil Town had a minimum of was action. Sure, the last third of the OVA definitely delivered the action, but the rest was slower-paced story. For those who want mostly action, though, the last Violence Jack OVA, Hell's Wind from 1990, definitely delivers on that and then some.

From the ruins of Kanto a small village formed, and it's residents called it Hope Town. There, children go to school and try to plant flowers, a small trader business exists that allows commerce to thrive, and all is well. One day, though, an infamous motorcycle gang called Hell's Wind comes to Hope Town, creating havoc. Men are ripped in half in sadistic games of motorcycle tug-of-war, women are raped, and it isn't until Violence Jack and a battle-hardened woman named Jun come in to save what's left of Hope Town. Hell's Wind escapes, gunning Jack down with a torrent of bullets in the process, and kidnaps schoolteacher Miss Keiko. Jun wants nothing but the destruction of Hell's Wind after her boyfriend Tetsuya was ripped to shreds by a chainsaw and she was raped by their leader Dante, and the determination a young boy named Saburo Tenma has towards saving Miss Keiko prompts Jack to help take out the gang.

Out of all of the Violence Jack anime, Hell's Wind comes off the most like a Mad Max movie. Jack is obviously the Max-equivalent, and Jun makes a good female counterpart, even though the two don't exactly "team up", per se. Action take the main focus, with the beginning showing off how Jun's life was destroyed by Hell's Wind in bloody fashion, and most of the OVA has some sort of action going on, whether it's Jun's initial assault on the gang or Jack's final battle against them on his own. But, at the same time, there is enough time for story to be developed. It isn't as much of a focus as it is in Evil Town, but the main characters are developed enough to make you relate to them, and Jack himself is a mix of the supernatural force he was shown off as in Harlem Bomber and the more human-like being he was shown to be in Evil Town. In fact, Jack doesn't really appear until half-way through the OVA, letting Jun and the Hope Town residents get focused on first. Though Evil Town still wins out on story in the end, it simply can't beat Hell's Wind when it comes to action.

Also, this OVA has plenty of references to other Go Nagai works, which adds some nice fun for Nagai fans. Evil Town had a reference with the character Aira Mu, who was named after a major character from God Mazinger, but Hell's Wind is chock full of references. The whole Jun/Tetsuya thing in the beginning is a blatant reference to the Great Mazinger pair of Great pilot Tetsuya and Venus A pilot Jun, while Jun herself looks to be a prototype design for the Devilman Lady herself, Jun Fudo (Devilman Lady didn't come about until the mid-90s). Saburo has a small hideout of his own, and in it is a picture of what looks to be the Photon Power Lab from Mazinger Z. Hell's Wind leader Dante is obviously named after Go Nagai creation Demon Lord Dante, and I'm sure that Saburo himself is also a reference but I honestly can't say what. These references simply add to the enjoyment this OVA delivers.

That said, some people want more story than action, and Hell's Wind does suffer a little in this aspect. While the characters are relateable they are still simple characters at heart, and some might not like how Jun goes from a tough woman to an weak one the moment she's captured by Hell's Wind again near the end. Also, Miss Keiko is developed the least and is there simply to be the damsel in distress. Finally, the end of this OVA shows off Slum King once more, and it's disappointing to know that there aren't anymore Violence Jack anime after this one, which leaves the obvious Jack/Slum King rematch exclusive to the manga. Sure, Jack does appear in the comedy OVA CB Chara Go Nagai World, which turns Nagai's characters into super-deformed versions and puts them in more comedic moments, but that's not a real Violence Jack anime in the end.

Takuya Wada returns to the multipurpose chair he had in Evil Town, so everything works just as well as that last OVA did. Hell's Wind's main advantage, though, is having the best animation among the three OVAs, as the characters are drawn in a very sleek fashion, there's barely any moments of using limited animation, and though the violence isn't quite as explicitly gruesome as it is in Evil Town it still looks much better. The music is also better, fitting the more Mad Max-esque style this story has in general. Jack himself is now voiced by Unshou Ishizuka (Jet Black in Cowboy Bebop, Mr. Satan/Hercule in Dragon Ball Z Kai), who, interestingly enough, was the narrator for Harlem Bomber. In another interesting casting choice, Dante is voiced by Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Jack's seiyuu in Evil Town, which results in a neat battle between Jack seiyuus whenever Jack and Dante meet. Having heard all three Jack voices now I'll have to say that I think Ishizuka is the best; Tessho Genda had the gruffness but barely talked, and though Kobayashi's performance was great it was missing that animalistic style that Jack exudes, which Ishizuka is able to bring out. Saburo is voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi, who actually doesn't sound quite as nasally as his characters usually sound, and that's nice to see from the man at times. Finally, Jun is voiced by Run Sasaki, whose only major roles in the past have been Vanessa Laird in Macross, Kant Kestner in Brain Powered, and Alfin in the Crusher Joe anime. Still, Sasaki does a very good job with Jun, showing off a strong and weak side that are both believable. After hearing a little bit of Evil Town's English dub, I'm not expecting much out of Hell's Wind's dub.

Violence Jack: Hell's Wind is another great Violence Jack anime and its action-focused style works well as a compliment to Evil Town's story-focused style. Like I said before, Harlem Bomber wasn't a bad anime, but it certainly wasn't a good start to the Violence Jack anime. Thankfully, the following two entries completely make up for that and make watching all three worth it. Apparently, though, Harlem Bomber was actually the last of the Violence Jack OVAs to be released outside of Japan, and honestly it can be tough to tell exactly when each Jack anime take place in relation to the others. Evil Town starts off six months after the Kanto Hell Quake, and the men of A Zone simply assume that Jack had been trapped under that rubble for the entire six months. Hell's Wind obviously takes place some time after the quake, so it should happen after Evil Town. That leaves Harlem Bomber, and it could honestly take place either before or after Hell's Wind. Having not read the original manga yet I can't say when they take place there, so maybe it's meant to be ambiguous for the most part.

This is Right Stuf's uncut VHS of Hell's Wind...
Now you know why I used the Japanese DVD covers.

Honestly, I'd love to see these OVAs get licensed rescued one day, but the chances of that happening are extremely slim. The explicit content of Evil Town would probably require an adult label to properly release it, but the other two wouldn't be out of place in the catalog of a company like Discotek, who has released the Fist of the North Star movie with most of the extreme gore left intact, not to mention the multitude of crazy live-action gore-fests they've done before. If anything, I'd put my money down on Discotek but if it never happens I will say that if Violence Jack interests you then these three OVAs are definitely worth hunting down and checking out. Harlem Bomber does suffer the most, but Evil Town and Hell's Wind easily make up for it, and even today there isn't much out there that is as crazy and brutally insane as Violence Jack. I mean, the man can throw a helicopter as if it was a javelin... That's awesome!

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