Manga / Gyo

Gyo is a Seinen horror manga by Junji Ito, also known for creating Uzumaki and The Enigma of Amigara Fault (which, incidentally, is an extra story in the back of the second volume).

During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army commissioned a secret experiment to create biological weapons. The end result - a deadly bacteria that infected corpses and released nauseous gases, and a walking mechanism fueled by these gases, for the purpose of spreading infection. This plan was averted when the ship carrying the bio-weapon was sunk by American bombers during the war - but the bio-weapon remains active, infecting the sea life and spreading back into Japan in the form of what appears to be undead walking fish.

It gets worse.

An animated OVA for the story was released on February 15, 2012 by Ufotable. There are some artistic liberties with the OVA story, such as Kaori becoming the protagonist, as well as new side characters to boot.

Trailer for the OVA can be viewed here.

Gyo contains examples of:

  • And I Must Scream
  • Ass Shove: One of the rare examples played entirely for horror, without a single hint of humor. It happens when infected humans get wired into the walking machines.
  • Body Horror: Those infected with the gas become bloated and covered in boils. A particularly gruesome moment as a result of the walkers comes when Yoshiyama tries to remove the tubes from Kaori's mouth. Her lips instead stretch when the tubes are pulled, and her mouth is visibly irritated once Yoshiyana gives up, making it clear that these machines integrate and become irremovable.
  • Body of Bodies: Something like this becomes a commonplace sight, with larger fishes' walkers taking on many human bodies to power them.
  • Brick Joke: The first walking fish is smashed and bagged, but its bacteria keeps producing enough gases to make it float to the mainland.
  • Cassandra Truth: The fact that Kaori even goes into full-blown fits over a scent only she can smell didn't help.
  • Circus of Fear: The setting of the penultimate chapter. Yes, there are clowns.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The circus master's interpretation of the gas is that it is coming from (or at least controlled by beings from) another world, which would definitely put the story in this genre. However, there are also other explanations offered up for the gas, of considerably more mundane origin, and it's never made clear who's right.
  • Creepy Uncle: Tadashi's uncle, also a Mad Scientist.
  • Depopulation Bomb
  • Devoured by the Horde: Tadashi nearly becomes a victim of this when he lands on a huge group of undead tiny fishes but he was eventually saved off-screen.
  • Downer Ending: Apart from the hero meeting up with La Résistance, it's a total downer.
    • The OVA tries to make the ending even worse by showing scenes of the infection in different countries, a clear sign that unless an immunity is developed, most of humanity is pretty much screwed.
    • Unlike the manga, the OVA implies that there is an organized effort by the Japanese government (or its remnant) to evacuate the survivors from Japan, or at least from Tokyo. Similar evacuation efforts may very well be taking place in other countries. Also, the internet is shown to be still functional when Tsuyoshi uploads the plague data.
  • Editorial Synaesthesia: Stink lines.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Tadashi is the only named character we know for sure survives.
    • In the OVA, Kaori is this.
  • Evil Hand: One of the legged machines is removed from the fish it was fused to, after which it latches onto a scientist's arm. Though he promptly amputates it it starts crawling around for a while.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Basically what the story is about.
  • Evil Uncle: More like callous and really crazy uncle.
  • Fanservice: Though it somewhat serves a purpose to the plot (washing the smell away), Kaori's shower scene in the first chapter is one of Junji Ito's very, very rare examples (possibly the only example) of nudity that seems partially meant to be eye-candy and not just horrifying. The shower scene is also used to implied that the zombie fish is around, though, but that isn't too scary, at least not more scary than other scenes. This unique case of fanservice is probably due to the quite light-hearted start of the manga. The OVA also has its share of the shower scene as well.
    • Fan Disservice: When the Death Stench starts to infect humans some chapters later, there is again a lot of nudity, also of Kaori, but this time, it certainly isn't played for fanservice. The term Squick only scratches the surface...
  • Fate Worse than Death: Ignoring the physical Body Horror for a bit, the bacteria slowly paralyses the victims' muscular and nervous systems, keeping them vegetative but very much alive. Kaori is even conscious enough to reactivate her walker and try to Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • Fog of Doom: Envelopes the setting pretty quickly.
  • For Science!: The apparent motivation for Tadashi's uncle improving upon the design of the old, rusted mechanical legs and constructing the two prototype walkers. What exactly he planned on doing with them is a mystery for the ages.
  • Ghostapo: A variation; the gas is implied to be somehow related to the horrific biological warfare experiments conducted by Japan during World War II, and possibly controlled by the spirits of people killed by them. This, oddly enough, makes Gyo one of the few works of Japanese fiction to address Japan's wartime atrocities.
  • Hot Scientist: Ms. Yoshiyama.
  • Just Before the End
  • La Résistance: In the form of a group of immune students from Kyoto University, who are studying the disease with the intention to create a vaccine.
  • Karmic Death: The soldier who shoots at the legged machines driven by human bodies, and then gets impaled by one.
    • In a sense, the karma goes even deeper than that, as the Imperial Japanese Army - the predecessor of the JSDF - was the organization that created the bio-weapon in the first place.
  • Mad Scientist: Tadashi's uncle.
  • Meaningful Name: "Kaori" comes from Japanese words referring to smell, and she has a very powerful sense of smell (causing her to pick up the Death Stench before anyone else).
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: What compels the walkers' behavior. They straddle the line between being a sentient bio-weapon and being literally powered by ghosts. The story provides no definitive answer.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: The disease can apparently infect anything. It was originally developed to infect mammals, specifically the original plan was to release infected dogs and have them spread it to enemy soldiers, but in addition to this we also see such diverse things as elephants, cattle, pigs and whales, the eponymous fish and sharks and even squid. Then again it is supernatural bacteria.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Zombie fish. With robot legs. Actually, just robot legs. Made by ghosts.
  • Raising the Steaks
  • Reality Ensues / Square-Cube Law: At one point, a sperm whale on robot legs crawls out of the sea... but immediately crushes the legs under its weight.
  • Scenery Gorn: The final chapter plays this to the extreme, with giant walkers composed from mountains of dead bodies.
  • Screaming Woman: Kaori. In nearly every scene. In the anime, however, she is noticeably much calmer.
  • Spider Tank: All the walking fish are fused with these. They steadily get bigger to carry bigger bodies.
  • Threatening Sharks: Walking ones, with spider legs. An early terror.
  • Time Skip: Invoked when the hero falls into a canal and goes into a Convenient Coma for a month.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The ending.

Tropes from the OVA:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The OVA adds a few more characters to the roster, while downplaying Tadashi and his uncle and making Kaori the main character. Given that the original manga only had four main characters and was relatively short and straightforward, it's natural to assume that more characters would be added to give the OVA more meat to the story.
    • Kaori herself has parts of her personality removed, specifically her obsessive clinging to Tadashi and her overly sensitive nose, while maintaining the same devotion to Tadashi. Her more negative attributes are shifted to two new characters, Erika and Aki.
    • Tadashi retains his levelheaded personality even if his role is downplayed in Kaori's favor. Their roles are generally switched, as Tadashi is the one who becomes infected by the gas while Kaori is trying to find him. The two don't even spend any screen time in the same room up until Kaori finally finds him at his uncle's house.
      • Right before he is attacked by a shark, Tadashi warns Kaori over the phone not to come to Tokyo, as the walking fish plague has spread there. Not that staying in Okinawa would have been any better...
  • Alien Sky: A grey, swirling sky is shown off throughout the OVA. It's actually pretty by the end.
  • A Threesome is Manly: Erika and her two strangers.
  • Bland-Name Product: In the OVA, Tsuyoshi uses a BloodBerry.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The manga had very little blood; the OVA has gallons.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: At one point in the OVA, Kaori slips and falls in a large puddle of blood.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Aki to Erika once she's been infected.
  • Final Girl: In the anime, where Kaori is the only named survivor.
  • Giving Them the Strip: Kaori sheds her sneaker to escape when she steps on a vacant set of walking-legs.
  • Heavy Voice: This, combined with Voice of the Legion, is a side effect of Erika's infection.
  • Madness Mantra: Aki chants "Die, die, die, die" under her breath as she simmers over Kaori leaving and Erika engaging in a threesome.
  • Monumental Damage: The world's doom is sealed with a montage of swarms at the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Empire State Building, and Kremlin.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Kaori in the anime.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Erika and her gentleman friends are less than truthful in their television interviews.
  • Voice of the Legion: This, combined with Heavy Voice, is a side effect of Erika's infection.
  • Wolverine Publicity: There's quite a few of those landsharks crawling around in the OVA.