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Apocalypse Zero Anime DVD Review

8 min read
This is just trash level anime.

According to Animerica way back in the day, “If nasty isn’t enough and disgusting seems dull, Apocalypse Zero will open even the most desensitized media zombie’s eyes.”

Some anime projects do deserve to remain in the dustbin of history. But sometimes you gotta clean that dustbin out and remember what you’ve been through.

What They Say
In the post-apocalyptic world that Earth has become in the 21st century, monsters, mutants, and demons all roam the land looking for human prey. Kakugo and Harara have been trained by their father in the ancient Zero fighting technique, to protect the last remnants of humanity, and restore hope and peace on Earth.

Powered by both their superior fighting skills and their secret techniques, as well as special living armor made from the souls of ancient warriors, they are sent into the world to defend the weak from demons and mutants who savagely attack and destroy human life.

Yet, with all their training, Harara succumbs to the evil within, killing their father and believing Kakugo is dead as well. But their fates are still intertwined. Kakugo comes to the remnants of a city to help the few human inhabitants. As he saves them from the ravages of cannibalistic monsters and depraved mutants, he once again encounters his psychotic sibling, and the bloodiest battle of the 21st century brings new meaning to Sibling Rivalry!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. Considering its age, it’s not that bad overall and holds up well but it is pretty much what you’d expect of the era. There is some decent usage of the forward soundstage with a few moments of directionality, but otherwise, most of this track is center-channel based outside of the music. It hits all the expected notes with the fighting, the machines, and just the rumble of it all in the old school form while the dialogue isn’t all that much, largely with a full feeling at best. That said, the dialogue is clean and clear throughout for both tracks and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 1996, the transfer for this two-part OVA series is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. Animated by Ashi Productions, the show has a pretty good look overall though it’s very much of the time with its character designs and the color design itself. But there are some really nice details in the backgrounds that help to give it a strong look of a post-apocalyptic world as viewed at the time and it doesn’t skimp on some of the slicker action moments, whether through the characters or other areas. It’s surprisingly free of cross coloration, a real bane at the time, but it still has some of the bleeding with some of the reds being oversaturated at times – but nowhere near as bad as when we first watched this on far less calibrated equipment decades ago. This is a good looking transfer overall with no real problems, but the source material doesn’t make it really shine. It’s true to the source material though.

Presented in a standard-sized DVD case, what we get is a very dark and murky looking cover as it captures the feel of the “hero” and the living armor suit he wears. The back cover gives a good summary of the show as well as providing a mixture of images from the show. The bottom section of the back cover provides for some decent technical and production info as it’s nicely laid out as well as the language features. The only discrepancy is the running time is listed as 90 minutes when it’s actually 75. Both episodes run just over 35 minutes.

The menu layout is pretty simple as there’s not much to the disc outside of the show. Other than the still image gallery, you get language selection and chapter selections off of the main menu that plays some music to a static image. Moving around is pretty easy and access times are nice and fast.

The small image gallery has a few pictures from the show, some nice artwork, and what appears to be the two Japanese release covers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi, Apocalypse Zero is made up of two OVAs that were produced in 1996. It was, surprisingly enough, planned for a ten episode run that ended up being canceled as the first two episodes underperformed when they came out. It does leave you wondering how much more was produced but never finalized, sitting somewhere in a cabinet that could be reconstructed into something. The original manga began in Weekly Shonen Champion back in 1994 and Yamaguchi got eleven volumes of it out through the summer of 1996 when it ended. He did get a revival run in Champion Red in 2010 where it ran for another five years and eight volumes. Media Blasters actually brought out some of the original run manga back in the day but I kind of wish both would get some big omnibus runs just to really get into the craziness of this property. With the anime, it saw Toshiki Hirano directing it and he had some solid credits to his name, going after this to the Vampire Princess Miyu TV and OVA series, being involved in the Iczer OVAs, and directing some of Magic knight Rayearth. It makes you wonder all the more about the cancelation some twenty-five years later.

As for the show? Welcome to the world of the near future, where three years of massive seismic activity have turned things to utter crap. Apparently there’s some massive radioactivity floating around there too, presumably from reactors getting blown up from the seismic activity. This story focuses on New Tokyo, which is just like the old Tokyo, except all the buildings are in ruins. In this new hellish world, kids still have to go to school as the reasoning behind it is that they need to learn things to make things better. Schools have their own armed guards to defend the kids, and nobody stays out past dark. There are sections of New Tokyo that are completely off-limits, such as Section 13 where it’s home to large and still-growing cockroaches where no human can live. Giant moths fly around as well, and their dust movements cause machines to lock up. It’s just bad.

In one of the remote regions of Japan, we’re introduced to two brothers, Harara and Kakugo. The two are being taught in this snowy wilderness by their father the Zero form, a way of fighting that can help people. The two boys are quite slim and lithe. Kakugo is shown with a number of ball bearings seared into his flesh, and his opening fight with a multi-breasted mutant bear shows the bears acid blood splattering across him. Suffice to say, these are a couple of tough boys.

Even if Harara for some reason does have breasts.

Told in flashback throughout both episodes, we see how they both trained, both learned of the two pieces of powerful armor their father had ownership of, how Harara is actually the evil one of the two brothers and the battle the had him killing his father and supposedly killing his brother. It takes so long for this to be told, it’s told up into the final 10 minutes of the show. Of course, if it was all shown at once in the beginning, the lack of actual meat to this story would be even more obvious.

The present-day story deals with the supposedly dead Kakugo arriving in New Tokyo and going to school. It’s from here that he makes friends with some of the rough and tumble kids and the girl-who-will-always-be-in-distress. The kids are constantly getting into trouble with the various mutant evil that runs amuck in the city. Kakugo dons the Zero Form armor and then kicks their asses. He proceeds to do this until his brother possesses one of them and fights through that form.

The evil run amuck mutants are just insultingly stupid.

A huge woman who wears only straps that don’t cover anything, but gives her appropriately placed crotch spikes. She likes to kill girls who have “seduced” men and then give her love to the men. She basically squishes the girls so their guts pop out of their mouths, and then she ties the guy down in her bed, kisses him, and tears his face off. She then puts the face over one of her nipples and goes looking for more love. But not before she EATS the entire body. Later we see her vomit up a still-living person alongside dozens and dozens of skulls and ribcages.

Another is a building-sized blue creature, presumably female, who attacks after his flower creature is killed by Kakugo. This creature uses it’s tongue to attack and pass massive electricity through and then yanks a massive flesh microphone from its crotch area and sings, much to the dismay of those around it.

Another is a normal-sized female nurse that’s very attractive. She ensnares a few random people at one point and offers to make love to them. The first guy slips his hand inside her, only to pull it out and find that there’s nothing left but bones. She later attacks Kakugo and friends, with a transformation that gives a massive face through the center of her body, and her breasts turn into massive pieces of bologna-like things. Cut ’em off and she can just re-attach them.

The final bad buy is an oversized decrepit old man with his wiener in a bandage that’s eternally erect. He drools ice and has various ways of using this ability as a weapon, along with his cane. And yes, when necessary, he can unbandage his wiener and it turns into something to do with Golden Balls.

I kid you not.

In Summary:
This is just trash level anime. It’s long been lost to most viewers since it’s out of print forever and there’s plainly no impetus to add it to anyone’s ranks. Even those distributors that look for lost licenses are likely to avoid this one which, in its own way, makes it even more interesting while still being awful. There was a lot of junk licensed in the old days but there’s a decent-sized fanbase for this in Japan considering the manga itself. I understand the appeal that it will have for some – clearly not me – and I kind of want stuff like that to succeed for the variety that a good healthy marketplace of ideas needs. But this one may just be a step too far.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery

Content Grade: D
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: September 25th, 2001
MSRP: $24.95
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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