Dawn of the (Walking) Dead (Fish).
MyAnimeList synopsis: “Something in Okinawa reeks, and it isn’t long before Kaori and her friends realize that the smell is coming from dead fish, which are walking out of the sea. The fish are fused to metal legs and are infected with a disease contractable by humans that was invented as a weapon by unknown sources. After what happens to Tadashi, Kaori finds herself in a new world very much like the old one but with the stench of death.”
To avoid spoiling the plot too much, think ‘fish zombies’. Junji Ito’s horror is well-known for both its uniqueness and fresh ideas that have led some to compare him to Stephen King (of all people, ho-hum), yet despite the seemingly high-end production values of this OVA on UFOTable’s part, I can’t help but feel that the OVA didn’t do the manga quite enough justice.
While both versions of the story did focus adequately on the sheer monstrosities that now roam the world, the switch of protagonists from Tadashi to Kaori, who’s on a trip with her classmates, is highly questionable. It could have been to show another side of the story, but seeing as how Tadashi is now the one who dies, the adaptation seems to branch too far away from the original manga itself. While the interaction between Tadashi and the death of Kaori was an important plot point and a key tool to shape out the characters of the story, the death of Tadashi in the OVA, and his subsequent reveal not only make the characters essentially linear and cliche but also, leave much to be desired.
Kaori’s friends, Erika and Aki add absolutely nothing to the plot, aside from almost comedic chase scenes where both of them get progressively slower and slower as they run from left to right, and a scene of Erika getting DP’d, because that’s absolutely terrifying. If anything, only Aki’s confrontation with the infected Erika could add anything to the plot – a brief insight into humanity, perhaps? – yet is never further built upon anywhere else in the OVA. Not to mention the difference between the two version’s portrayal of humanity: while the anime has the survivors possibly, staying forever on a ship, watching the world die, the survivors in the manga actually work to try and combat the menace.
The plot armour that Kaori wears is also ridiculously thick. She survives every single attack unscathed – true, if she dies there wouldn’t be a show, would there? But she also survives a plane crash and a train crash completely unharmed. Same goes for her companion, who decides not to go to the ship for reasons unknown, but instead chooses to laugh maniacally lamenting the world’s fate. Way to go, dude.
Plot-wise, admittedly there were a lot of loopholes : the biggest one being, of course, ‘where do these skeleton-machine things even come from?’ This plot-hole was addressed similarly by both the manga and the anime – nobody really knows. Yet the manga gives much more depth to the situation than the anime. It’s implied that the creatures – and people – still possess some amounts of sentience: Kaori reaches out to Tadashi’s hand in the manga in response. This depth to the machines was lost as well when the anime shortened the bit about the human circus.
Props to the anime for really amping up the horror in the scene where the ‘faces of the death-stench’ were revealed. It was definitely scarier to experience it in colour. Yet, parts about how the machines seem to work in tandem to some unknown command were omitted in the anime, thus failing to shed any light on how these creatures were able to command their mechanical legs.
All in all, for a long-time Junji Ito fan like me, the anime did indeed satisfy my desire to watch an anime adaptation but it definitely, definitely failed to impress. A ill-advised switch of protagonists and omission of crucial plot points as well as useless characters made the OVA a bore to watch at times, and overall, underwhelming. I’d give it a 4/10, max.