Tuesday, 10 March 2015


It’s probably not a question you have asked yourself before, but what would happen if all the fish in the world sprouted legs and walked on dry land? That’s the question morbid manga master Junji Ito (Uzumaki, Tomie) posed when he created GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack. Takayuki Hirao directs this lively adaptation of Ito’s manga, an anarchic animation that reeks of the ‘death stench’, a revolting smell first encountered when mutant fish bring a city to its knees. As you have no doubt guessed by the rest of the title, GYO finds our frenzied fishy friends leaving the ocean behind in favour of big city life, causing chaos, confusion and devastation wherever they go.

We first meet Kaori in Okinawa, where giant mutant sharks with metal legs are attacking her friends in their holiday home. When she loses touch with her boyfriend, she heads off to Tokyo to find him, only to find that it has been taken over by even bigger fish – because there is always a bigger fish. GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack gets weirder and wackier as it goes, available in the UK courtesy of Terracotta Distribution after making a splash at the Terror Cotta Horror movie marathon.

Satashi Kon (Paprika) mentored Takayuki Hirao, entrusting him to direct the first episode of his one and only series, Paranoia Agent. Since then he has put his skills to great use on the massively successful Death Note series, but it’s Tokyo Fish Attack that will likely leave you breathless. Baring in mind Ito’s work is based on a type of sea pollution, you wont be surprised to learn that environmental issues are explored in the manga. At just 71 minutes long, Hirao doesn’t have time to explore the complete source material, so he concentrates on the action elements instead.

The opening act finds us in welcome horror territory and its all very entertaining, with horny teenagers feeling the full force of Bruce the shark on steroids. Hirao draws a surprising amount of tension from the girls-attacked-by-mutant-shark scenario, and the film plays fast, fun and loose as a result. One of the girls is stabbed in the foot by the mechanical shark and starts to mutate, giving Hirao the opportunity to explore fanciful extremities of body horror. At times you’ll feel like you’re watching the latest Sushi Typhoon production, with bodies twisting and turning out of shape, and madcap scientists experimenting on human/robot hybrids.

You’ll be forgiven for thinking Asylum Pictures is in town once the wave of mechanical beasties hits Tokyo. Mega sharks are a speciality of theirs, and GYO follows suit, gleefully toying with mutant monster mayhem. The downpour rarely lets up, with Hirao continuously bombarding the screen with ludicrous deformities and adrenaline pumping set pieces. It’s a fascinating blend of action, suspense and horror, and it’s openly apparent that Hirao is having a whale (forgive the pun) of a time. The action does die down eventually, and it’s here that Hirao loses sight of his endgame. Showing no fear when it comes to insane plot twists, GYO toys with all manner of logic defying lunacy, racing to the finish line before coming to a standstill and delivering a painstakingly dull conclusion.

In my experience sharks with legs rarely disappoint, but after an intriguing set up, GYO fails to find the fun factor, often mistaking absurdity and chaos for entertainment value. Killer sharks are neglected in favour of outlandish plot twists, none of which made a lick of sense to me, and the final act caves in under the weight of its own creation. For forty-five minutes however, GYO is an absolute blast. An incoherent blast, but a blast all the same.

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