Apocalypse Zero Anime Review
Kakugo no Susume
Recommendation of Preparation
US Release By
Post Apocalyptic Marital Arts High School Action Parody
2 45-minute episodes
What's In It
- Gross Monsters
- Parody (I hope)
- Weird (and disgusting)
- Just Plain Stupid.
- Violence: 5 (extreme)
- Nudity: 4 (heavy)
- Sex: 4 (heavy)
- Language: 3 (significant)
A series of natural disasters has reduced the world to rubble, with the survivors doing whatever they must to survive in a world gone mad. But one young boy, Kakugo, gifted with amazing martial arts prowess and a superpowered suit of armor by his late father, has been charged with making the world (or at least his school) a safer place. But his sister Harara has a matching set of skills and equipment, and she's also on a mission to bring peace to the world... by wiping out humanity!
Quick ReviewSwitch to Full Review
Like a cross between Fist of the North Star and the South Park movie, Apocalypse Zero is somewhere between an outrageous send-up of post-apocalyptic gore-fests and a childhood nightmare given a deranged adult twist and rendered in bright cartoon colors. Though it borders on some sort of sick brilliance for those with a truly bizarre sense of humor, it is so gross, so juvenile, and so outright unpleasant to watch that children, family pets, and most normal people should stay far away--it can't be healthy.
Cartoony, ultraviolent, perverse, and all-around gross, this is a series to be avoided by all but those with tough stomachs and the most frightening senses of humor. You know who you are.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
I'm not sure what to make of Apocalypse Zero, but I'm darned sure that children, most normal people, and probably family pets should not watch it--it can't be healthy. That's all you really need to know about this disgusting and all-around disturbing piece of anime. Heck, I can't even describe some of it in a general-audience review--why Media Blasters didn't put it under their adult label isn't clear to me. As for the curious and/or warped reader...
It's obvious that there's something odd about this series from the first scene, which features a really skinny kid with a large head in a Speedo, battling a many-breasted radioactive bear beast. After some set-up and meeting the post-apocalyptic high school crowd (yes, there are still high schools, uniforms and all, in the ruins of Tokyo), the mayhem starts.
And that's what's so weird about Apocalypse Zero; it's essentially a generic post-apocalyptic splatterfest action movie and a generic high school superhero story mashed together into one nonsensical mess. It isn't paced badly and it's played so far over-the-top that it has a sort of campy appeal, but there's little logic or reason to any of it. It also ends rather abruptly. Not inconclusively, but there certainly could have been a lot more.
The cast of characters ranges from wildly psychotic (creatively so--one of the villains rants that the hero damaged his "individuality," whatever that's supposed to mean), to classic icy anti-hero. There's also the usual range of high school supporting crowd, among whom is Horia, the spunky girlfriend with a heart of gold. The only two memorable characters are villainess Harara, who executes her malicious destructive skills with an appealing amount of relish (even if she's as two dimensional as the cel she's painted on), and Horia, mainly because of a lot of spunk and some almost touching kindness.
The protagonist, Kakugo, threatens to develop into a properly conflicted anti-hero, but he pretty much just poses and looks grim and stoic. Which is actually a daunting task, thanks to his opponents. See, while "Post-apocalyptic high-school splatterfest" describes Apocalypse Zero accurately, a better analogy is a cross between Fist of the North Star and South Park. If that sounds weird, you don't know the half of it. The villains are the requisite giant bloodthirsty mutants (called "tactical evil" for some reason), but they're also very, very silly, and absolutely disgusting.
Case in point: The first monster is sort of like a cross between a stripper and Godzilla, drawn like an old American cartoon. Seriously. To describe her (or what she does to the innocent inhabitants of the city) in more detail would put this site way out of the family-friendly range, but suffice it to say you're going to spend several minutes looking at a very, very ugly woman the size of an apartment building who doesn't have anywhere near enough clothes on, and it's not a pretty sight. She's flanked on the other end of the series by an entirely naked mutant geezer, which is only slightly more pleasant to look at.
Anyway, once the action starts, so does the violence. Chunks and gore abound--a veritable horn of plenty of unraveled innards, and an unusually high level of face removal--but Apocalypse Zero sets itself apart by featuring some of the more creative and gleefully disturbing mayhem I've seen. It isn't disturbing for its realism--it's all so preposterous that there's no danger of any of it being mistaken for "realistic" or "serious" violence--but it's so bizarre and perverse that it's sort of like a childhood nightmare rendered in bright cartoon colors. The themes range from old-fashioned exploding heads and squished schoolkids to "that's just wrong!" (Though I do have to give credit to Horia saying to a skeleton that happened to still be slightly alive, "Hang in there... you'll be okay!") It's totally and rather embarrassingly ridiculous, but even so, it's not for those with weak stomachs.
The visuals are another of Apocalypse Zero's unusual points. The animation isn't bad (especially for an older-style show), nor is the art (apart from generic backgrounds), and the Guyver-esque super-armor actually looks pretty cool. What mostly stands out, though, are the oddball character designs. On one end, there are the grotesque villains, who look kind of like a deranged American comic strip artist's take on a monster clown (think R. Crumb). On the other, the human characters are also rather... different; their heads tend to be bulbous, and for lack of a better word have an almost gooey look to them--a little like an anime character looking into a fisheye lens. Not unattractive (I thought Horia was cute), but odd.
Rounding out the picture is the acting, which in the English dub (I can't speak for the original dialogue) isn't too bad. The acting is fittingly over-the-top, and although some of the lines are positively stupid, they also don't seem out of place (it's possible, though I wouldn't even say likely, that some of the campy humor was added in the dub). Once again, I liked Horia, though Harara is the standout cast member--her voice drips evil and she spat out her lines in a way that works very well with the character. The huge monsters are cast and acted like Saturday morning cartoon villains, but that actually seems appropriate (good thing, too--they do more talking than anybody). The music isn't memorable at all, one way or the other.
So, now that I've finished describing Apocalypse Zero objectively, I come to the hard part: figuring out what to make of the whole. It's definitely intended as some sort of semi-parody of post-apocalyptic gore-fests and all those high-school hero series--there's no way that you could end up with an idea this weird, and villains this silly, any other way. Whether this attempt comes across as some sort of deranged brilliance, gross and juvenile, or just flat-out disturbing is going to depend a whole lot on your taste.
Personally, I have a pretty bizarre sense of humor, and while Apocalypse Zero put me off initially, I couldn't deny that after a while it did build up some of the most creatively perverse and just plain wrong things that I can think of. But, in all honesty, it's just so gross that I found it a bit hard to watch and so close to cartoony that it was a little embarrassing at the same time. I really can't say that I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to other people with my sense of humor, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to almost anybody else. I will admit that there are a few people who just might get a kick out of it... but they're probably scary freaks. You know who you are.
Have something to say about this anime? Join our newly-resurrected forums and speak your mind.
Shows with a similar sense of weirdness are The Ultimate Teacher (not as gross, or as violent), The Abashiri Family (not as violent), Devilman (much more serious), Dead Leaves (more artistically cracked), and probably the Ping Pong Club.
Notes and Trivia
Based on an eleven-volume manga series by Takayuki Yamaguchi; it was available in English from Media Blasters in the mid-'00s, but they apparently stopped translating it at volume 6. In addition to this anime adaptation, there was also a Playstation fighting game, three drama CDs, and a "Manga Video" stills-and-voice one-shot released in 2000, none of which are available in English. The drama CDs were produced at about the same time as the anime adaptation and feature the same cast, while the Y2K video has an entirely different voice cast.
The original title, "Kakugo no Susume," is likely some sort of pun on the hero's name, which literally means "prepare yourself." Read as a sentence, the title roughly means "I recommend preparing yourself."
Kakugo's sibling, Harara, is male in the original manga (and the "manga video" adaptation), though she seems pretty obviously female in this anime.
US DVD Review
The DVD collects both VHS volumes into one sick and twisted hybrid-audio digital disc, and throws in an art gallery to go along with it.
None of it is serious, but the gross-out factor and graphic violence easily bump it into the mature audiences only category--do not let your children near this, period. The 16-up rating AnimeWorks gave it is too lenient, in my opinion.
Violence: 5 - Faces removed, spraying innards--you name it, you'll see it.
Nudity: 4 - A vast amount of generally unpleasant nudity; probably should qualify as a 5, except most of the characters in the buff aren't even close to human.
Sex/Mature Themes: 4 - Hard to call, but definitely some unpleasant stuff and sexual content in the second half.
Language: 3 - Not all that bad in comparison.