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Manga / Gyo

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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). It ran from 2001 to 2002.

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:

  • Adaptational Personality Change: Kaori's personality in the OVA is very level-headed, and has none of her negative traits in the manga. Her negative traits would be given to two characters who did not appear in the manga.
  • And I Must Scream: The victims of the walking machines may still be conscious. Kaori is conscious enough to recognize Tadashi, mistake him for being with Ms. Yoshiyama when she sees them holding each other, activate her machine so she can try to kill them, and reach out for Tadashi when she gets killed by the other walkers.
  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • Tadashi's uncle is forced to cut off his left arm when it gets caught by the walking machine he was studying.
    • Tadashi almost loses a foot when he steps on an open walking machine, although he's able to get it off and becomes more careful while walking around.
  • Ass Shove: One of the rare examples played entirely for horror. The pipes in the walking machines shove themselves into the mouth and anus of their host(s), as the machines are powered by the gas emitted by the germs in the body. It happens when infected humans get wired into the walking machines.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kaori is killed and Tadashi's uncle has fused himself to a flying version of the walking machines and kidnapped Ms. Yoshiyama. Yet, Tadashi does encounter La Résistance, who seem to be immune and are looking for a way to stop the walking machines.
  • Black Comedy: Tadashi discovers that Kaori has tried to kill herself by hanging...and the jet of gas coming from her butt is swinging her around as she hangs.
  • 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 Yoshiyama 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' emptied walkers taking on many human bodies to continue powering 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 goes into full-blown fits over a scent only she can smell doesn't help.
  • Circus of Fear: The setting of the penultimate chapter. Yes, there are clowns.
  • Cat Scare: Kaori is subjected to a Cockroach Scare when she tells Tadashi to check for the walking fishes in their apartment. One zips out from under a shoe-rack, making Kaori freak out, but Tadashi squashes it and tells her it's only a roach.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The very first person to discover the walking fish just happens to be the one whose uncle is the only one that knows the real backstory behind them.
  • 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 Circus Music: When the scent is blown into musical instruments, it comes out sounding like this, on its own.
  • Creepy Uncle: Tadashi's uncle, also a Mad Scientist.
  • Depopulation Bomb: The death stench is theorized to have been developed as a weapon for war. It certainly succeeds in decimating the population, but it's under nobody's control.
  • Devoured by the Horde: Subverted. Tadashi falls into a basin filled with tiny fish walkers and falls unconscious as they swarm around and on him. However, he wakes up in a hospital and is revealed to have been discovered and hauled to safety.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Apart from Tadashi meeting up with La Résistance, it's a total downer. Kaori is killed by the other walking machines and apparently incinerated (although given the context, Tadashi notes that this counts as a Mercy Kill), Tadashi's uncle is revealed to have attached himself to his own walking machine and forces Ms. Yoshiyama to join him and they fly off to destinations unknown, and the future is bleak besides Tadashi and the other immune survivors vowing to find a way to put an end to the catastrophe.
    • 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.
  • Dramatic Irony: When Tadashi and Ms. Yoshiyama discover Tadashi's uncle attached to a walking machine and he goes after them, they wonder if it's because he's still conscious and thinks they're romantically involved, and they try to explain to him that they're not. When this fails (it's unclear if he couldn't hear them or if that wasn't the problem), Kaori sees Tadashi and Ms. Yoshiyama holding each other (in fear) and makes the assumption they made about Tadashi's uncle, leading to her reactivating her walker and attempting to kill them.
  • Editorial Synaesthesia: Stink lines. These later segue into visible gas, downplaying the device.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Basically what the story is about, with the scent itself being the evil.
  • Evil Uncle: Downplayed; Tadashi's uncle isn't truly evil, but he is callous and rather unhinged.
  • 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, as the effects make all those affected bloated and covered in boils. 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: Due to the threat being a gas, it envelops 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.
  • Gasshole: The first symptom of the plague is extremely violent, foul-smelling flatulence. It's not as funny as it sounds, though.
  • Ghostapo: A variation using Imperial Japan instead of Nazi Germany; 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.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The arrival of the Great White Shark is always precipitated by the sound effect "GASHUNK"
  • Just Before the End: From what the ending shows, the walking machines have completely taken over most of Japan and is ready to assimilate the rest of the world, leading to an uncertain apocalypse about to befall humanity.
  • Helping Hands: Tadashi's uncle lose a hand to one of the walking-machines. The same appendage somehow gains sentience on it's own later on.
  • 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.
  • Lost in Translation: The title in both English and Japanese (rendered as ギョ in katakana) is a phonetic rendering of an Alternate Character Reading for ("fish"). Normally read as sakana, the alternate reading typically appears in the context of compound words like the word for mermaid, ningyo (人魚, literally person-fish) or the Japanese name for the ichthyosaur, gyoryuu (魚竜, literally Fish-Dragon). A rough equivalent for the intentional oddness conveyed would be somewhere between "Pheesh" and "Ichthy"—something of fish, but not a fish.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Tadashi discovers that the walkers are now using humans, he calls out a soldier who is firing at these human walkers because he's murdering them. The soldier tells him that he has to because they're monsters. Considering that Tadashi later discovers while trying to free Kaori that at the moment, it would be immensely difficult or even outright impossible to remove the machines without greatly harming the host (or harming the people helping them), the soldier has a point.
  • 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. By the end, Japan's population is in grave danger.
  • 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).
  • Mercy Kill: Tadashi notes to Kaori's skeleton that her death is this, as she no longer has to suffer from being attached to the walker and doesn't have to put up with the smell of rotting corpses anymore.
  • 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 using animals as batteries. Made by ghosts?
  • Raising the Steaks: Here, the gas infection starts with animals, then moves to humans. However, none of them are anything but a store for the gas, and aren't mentally controlled by it.
  • Scenery Gorn: The final chapter plays this to the extreme, with giant walkers that used to contain fish now being powered by mountains of dead human bodies.
  • Screaming Woman: Kaori. In nearly every scene. In the anime, however, she is noticeably much calmer.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Don't overlook the terrible things your country did in the past, or else the ghosts of their victims will get revenge using walking zombie fish.
  • Spider Tank: All the walking fish are fused with these. The machines get bigger for bigger creatures emerging from the sea, and once they rot, the machines will accept humans to keep moving.
  • 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.
  • Surreal Horror: Bet you'd never have thought "fish on stilts" could be so terrifying, would you?
  • Take My Hand!: At the end, when Kaori is surrounded by a mob of walkers, she and Tadashi try to reach out to each other, but Kaori is overwhelmed and killed.
  • Threatening Shark: The first serious threat Tadashi and Kaori face is a walker attached to a great white shark. Later on, a policeman is attacked by a walker attached to a hammerhead shark.
  • 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 Deviation: In the OVA, it's Tadashi who gets infected instead of Kaori.
  • 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.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The OVA's first few moments are spent establishing everyone's character, just before the invasion.
  • 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.
    • Erika ends up slipping out of one of her stockings to free herself from Aki's grip.
    • When the group first encounters a shark in person, Erika ends up stuck when one of the shark's metal legs pins her skirt to the floor. She is pulled free by Kaori, but the same can't be said for her skirt.
  • Heavy Voice: This, combined with Voice of the Legion, is a side effect of Erika's infection.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Kaori's Shower Scene is upgraded to one of her friends getting DP'ed.
  • 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.
  • Sex Equals Death: Erika is a promiscuous person whose priority is getting laid, and gets into a threesome. She is the first on-screen character to be mutated and assimilated by a walker.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Kaori in the anime. However, on the flipside…
  • Tentacle Rope: One of the new monsters in the OVA is an octopus walker that predictably grabs Kaori. Luckily, she's saved before anything bad befalls her.
  • 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.