Anime gets Splatterpunked! Baoh The Visitor

Lets take a trip back in time like say, 30 years ago when the Japanese medium, known as Anime has yet to make  it's big splash within the United States, until the mid nineties. 

Although many were aware of the animated form, most of the Movies, TV series and what was known as OVAs, were bootleg VHS tapes, sold via underground markets due to scarcity issues and worse, they were very expensive!

A 40 minute program titled Original Video Animation or  "OVA" for short, could set you back around $30-$40 adjusted for inflation.

OVAs are  basically brief movies or an extended episode since the time window is roughly well over 30 minutes and while some are complete stories, with a finite ending, others were 3 to 6 part episodic segments. 

Now, within the various genres offered by OVAs, i.e. Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy and  Comedy just to name a few. However, there was this little Subgenre that contained contents of gratuitous violence, as in disemboweled bodies, exploding heads and severed limbs which ironically, began with the animated feature adaptation of Hoto No Ken, or refereed to in America as Fist of the Northstar!

Splatterpunk,  a term coined by Author David J. Schow, was
a movement within horror fiction in the 1980s, distinguished by its graphic, often gory, depiction of violence, counter-cultural alignment and "hyperintensive horror, baring no limits." Although this movement was originally defined by mostly Horror films of old, the same can be applied to Japanese Animation even without weighing the burdens of  Horror tropes. 

The gory violence is enough to place my first pick, within this category so in honor of its 30th Anniversary,  let's talk about 1989's Baoh the Visitor!

Created by Hirohiko Araki prior to his breakout series, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure,  Baoh is an animated adaptation of the Weekly Shonen Jump Manga, centering around Ikuro Hashizawa, a 17 year old boy who after surviving a near fatal car accident, is "elected" to be some test subject for the scientific organization Called Doress, spearheaded by Professor Kasuminome, your archetypal mad scientist.

Kasuminone injects Ikuro's brain with the Baoh parasite, Baoh, which stands for, Biological Armament On Help, the result of Doress's creation.

Whenever Ikuro feels threatened, he transforms into a 6 ft, blue skinned humanoid armed with blade like appendages, rail gun like particles that shoot from his hair, electricity, superhuman, strength, speed and a regenerative healing factor,  thus making himan unstoppable biological killing machine to the extent that Doress has Ikuro within their crosshairs, in order to contain the "virus" if not for Public Relations and damage control.

Part of Baoh's plot is comparable  to Stephen King's Firestarter, especially in regards to Ikuro's traveling companion, Sumrie, a 6 year old girl who has psychic powers and a pet Nuroto who looks like a cat, crossed with a squirrel, more than likely, one of Doress' genetically engineered creatures.

The dialogue and exposition is at times, silly when you have the not so good Doctor being nominated for the "Captain Obvious" award, thanks to lines like "Baoh's electrical field has crippled Walken" or "Baoh has a laser Cannon" followed by "Baoh, break dark thunder"!!

He's practically spoonfeeding the viewership of Baoh's actions to the point of getting some satisfaction once he gets killed off.
To quote Tommy from 1990's Goodfellas, “I thought he'd never shut the fuck up"!

I now know where Robert E. Speedwagon from Jo Jo's Bizzare Adventure gets his dialogue from.
It seems like Araki likes to rework i.e. crib his earlier stuff into his more successful Jo Jo's Bizarre, as decapitation of doggies, is another one of his signature tropes.

As for the animation, it's  standard but also polished for that time, while Ikroo/Baoh has the pointy chin and narrow face as seen from the designs of Fists' Kenshiro, Sumrie's facial expressions is reminiscent of Big West's aesthetics, Macross Do You Remember Love or the succeeding OVA, Orguss 02.

Studio Pariot has a flair for stylized action and storyboards, one example I can recall is when Ikuroo first begins his transformation after being stabbed in brutal fashion by one of Colonel Dorudo's assassins. Baoh leaps in the air while performing a somersault, lands atop of the assailant's car, creating an opening and just melts his face like those Nazis from Raiders of the Lost Ark!

Another fun animated highlight, is how Baoh, peppered by bullets, seemed unfazed while walking like a Zombie. Toho makes exceptional use of storytelling whether its Ikruoo instantly changing into Baoh while performing a swan dive, or him outrunning Walken's psychic waves.

It may seem unimpressive to some, but I can see the ambition and appreciate the little things.
Baoh's soundtrack is dramatic, menacing and entertaining, sure it’s no big standout, but still a good listen. Aside from Baoh's energetic theme, the infamous abandoned building scene, helps to push the narrative of how much of a badass Baoh is! To balance out the action Horror, there's a calm ballad during the end credits, "Soldier" serves as a prodigious way to close out the short movie, that leads to a promising post credits ending.

In truth, Baoh falls more in line with "Biopunk" than Splatterpunk when you remove the blood and gore factor. The genre Biopunk, refers to Science fiction media, that entails biological experimentation gone awry for the most part. The metaphors of what happens when Man opens the Pandora box of science, only to have the results of their curiosity turn against them.

This is the core of Baoh's narrative. Simplistic in theory, yet compelling in execution!

It’s unfortunate that it was released as a one-off feature, that left many of us wanting more. Once the roll, its officially a wrap and in my opinion, this character should've had at least 2 more episodes, however, I can accept it for what is, not what it could have been.


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