Reviews: Ichi The Killer

Holy. Shit.

"Ichi the Killer" is one of those things that I'm happy I saw, but at the same time, I never want to see it again. Both the manga and the movie are awesome and extremely disturbing. It's essentially a homosexual love story. It's also a psychological horror film, a gangster movie, torture porn, and a deconstruction of superheroes. There are slight differences between the manga and movie versions, and that's what I'm focusing on here. Takashi Miike changed the ending a bit, to be more surreal and left to the imagination of the audience. In my opinion the film had a better pacing, but I missed some parts of the manga, mainly the scenes of the crazed assassin Ichi's everyday life. Ichi is a sympathetic character at heart - a really sweet guy, even though he's mentally unstable and gets a boner from killing. We're shown how depressingly alone he is, living in a big seaside villa all by himself, eating by himself at his workplace, and his only friend being a bullied young kid (a Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming ensues when he teaches the kid how to fight off the bullies). In the movie, he's shown only as a freak and man-child who plays videogames all day. In the manga, you're actually rooting for Ichi to win (and he does). Kakihara, the sadomasochistic Yakuza antagonist, is identical in both versions - I loved how Tadanobu Asano made him look as campy and flamboyantly gay as possible. Perhaps the most disturbing thing is Ichi's approach to killing; he's a cry-baby who is filled with guilt, yet driven by rage and sexual sadism, and he breaks down in tears (because he remembers the bullies who tormented him at school) right before exploding into violence. The manga's ending is notable; Jijii has let go of Ichi, since he's wiped Shinjuku of all Yakuza at last, and trains the young kid Takeshi as a replacement. Ichi, meanwhile, has become a normal person. The last scene shows him completely at ease, asking out a girl. As he waits for her in the street corner, he accidentally kicks a Coke can at a gang of thugs. These thugs go up to him and start punching him. And Ichi starts crying. And that's a very bad sign.