Buried Garbage - Mad Bull 34

by Justin Sevakis,

As a New Yorker, I've always taken a perverse amusement in seeing my city through the poorly researched lens of anime. Take Marmalade Boy, for example, which features street gangs armed with knives and acres-large high school campuses with lush foliage... in Manhattan. Anime budgets and production schedules seldom allow for any real research about the exotic American locales they may take place in. For the most part, the city only acts as window dressing, and all the real drama is taking place between its characters.

What makes this week's Buried Garbage so hilarious is not only how wrong it gets New York, but in what it gets wrong about life in general. It's all about rape, ripping parts off of bodies with high-powered artillery, hookers, more rape, and keeping the peace. And rape. SOOOO much rape.

In the opening scenes of Mad Bull, we see armed robbers wearing short-shorts, Jason masks and rollerskates bursting out of a grocery store, taking a woman hostage, then taking a bullet in the head, which promptly explodes and blows brains all over the hostage. She goes into shock, and a rookie cop goes to make sure she's all right.

"She'll thaw out if you stick a finger in her ass," suggests his partner. That always works!

Clearly, this is pre-Giuliani New York. I moved here in 1999, and I sure don't remember any robbers on rollerskates. But if that level of sensitivity wasn't enough to warm the heart, before the end of the first episode we will see an attempted drugging and gang rape, a gang rape in Central Park by guys armed with sub-machine guns and a prostitute raped by her pimp. Did I mention that pretty much every rape victim was blonde?

Ah, yes. Such is the disgusting mind of Kazuo Koike, creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, Crying Freeman and Hanappe Bazooka. His tradition of grand misogyny was explored across 19 graphic novels by artist Noriyoshi Inoue, whose other claim to fame was the softcore yakuza piece of trash Ear of the Golden Dragon. In 1990, the manga was brought to life by Satoshi Dezaki (Osamu's less talented older brother, They Were 11 being the sole star in his workbook) into a crap-tacular 4-part OAV that's filled to the brim with boobs, blood and bullets. There really are few other selling points.

We join Japanese American rookie cop Diazaburo "Eddie" Ban (nobody EVER calls him "Eddie") on his first day on the job in the city's rough-and-tumble 34th Precinct. (The real 34th precinct is the Northernmost tip of Manhattan, an area bordering the Bronx called Washington Heights that is predominantly Hispanic. But never mind.) Diazaburo is disgusted to find out that his partner is the disarmingly good-looking Dee Laytner the barrel-chested jerk John "Sleepy" Estes. His nickname is "Mad Bull" (when it's not "Sleepy"). He shoots with lethal force, he diddles all the hookers in sight, and he keeps grenades hooked on his pubes.

Diazaburo hates the guy. He's corrupt. He's violent. He's everything the academy told him not to be. Nonetheless, Sleepy is intent on taking the kid under his wing (even offering him a night with about 15 of his best Chlamydia victims). The kid slowly warms up to Sleepy as he takes on a dangerously psychotic pimp who's murdering his girls. He's finally won over when Sleepy chops off the guy's head by shoving it outside of a moving subway... with a knife stuck in his chest. Moved to tears by the unique way Sleepy cares for the hookers (the money he steals from them goes to fund a free STD clinic!) he happily comes to the defense of the big guy when some of the higher-ups wonder if maybe, just MAYBE he might have used excessive force.

The creators of Mad Bull have obviously never lived in New York City (or America, for that matter), but it's interesting to see the subtle touches they do manage to get right. Police cars, the subway and city streets are reproduced more or less faithfully. The city in the 1980s had a huge corruption problem within both the city council and the police force. (I personally knew of at least one broad-daylight drug den operated by crooked police, even in my time.) It's completely plausible -- a proven fact, even -- that some of the less celebrated members of the force were getting their hands dirty.

But the unfamiliarity of a foreigner completely takes over in the details. There is no mafia (well, okay, wheelchair Latino mafia and the kamikaze Chinese mafia in tanks sort of count), no racial divide and no gang warfare. At one point, Sleepy comments to a friend of his on the city council that soon, he could be "promoted to Mayor!" Or better yet, in episode 2 a woman is transferred in from the Queens Police Department (except Queens is part of New York City). I imagine the "research" for this project involved renting a few New York cop movies, but I honestly can't think of one that would give such a bizarre impression of the city. Taxi Driver, maybe?

This is, of course, to say nothing of the sheer lunacy of any police officer bursting into a crime scene, guns blazing, and proceeding to disembowel the cackling perpetrator, bloody pieces raining down upon their victims like so many sakura petals upon a high school student. There are no lawsuits, and internal affairs cases are decided with lines like, "he HAD to do it! It was dangerous!" In fact, the only people that even seem to question the police are hot female reporters that end up getting saved by Sleepy when... (all together now!) Somebody Tries To Rape Them.

Mad Bull is a vile piece of misogynistic filth. It'd be offensive if it wasn't so stupid, but it's plenty stupid, both intentionally and otherwise. Diazaburro and Sleepy both dress in ridiculous drag constantly while trying to catch would-be rapists, as the series desperately tries for a laugh in between all the ugliness, daring us to laugh callously at the suffering. As neither the suffering nor the comedy is compelling in the slightest, one can only look askance at it and wonder what sort of people thought making it was a good idea.

The animation in Mad Bull is strictly bottom-of-the-barrel, the sort of cheap and dirty work that was commonplace in early 90s OAVs like this one. Animation is produced by Magic Bus, but a cursory glance over the credits reveals that most of the work was farmed out to Korea and mainland China. The same glance reveals exactly how much care and love went into Manga Video's release of the title: the first two episodes misspell the names of both the dub director and the licensor. By episode 4, they still hadn't corrected the former. I can almost imagine the producer, head-in-hands, sitting with the editor at the online editing suite. "It's fine, I don't care, just throw it in there," he says, not even bothering to look at the monitor. The music has been ripped out, replaced with a thoroughly unexciting hard rock score that sounds like a Metallica cover band was hired to write elevator music.

The actual dub is part of what makes Mad Bull as... uh, special as it is. Featuring one of Manga UK's patented "punched-up" scripts (meaning every other line sports some ridiculous usage for a four-letter word, or several), the entire production was dubbed in London, featuring Brits trying to fake Bronx accents. It doesn't work at all, though Alan Marriott's Diazaburro almost pulls off a cartoonishly exaggerated New Yawk twist. Some others end up sounding somewhere between French and Chinese before giving up entirely and defaulting to British inflections by part 3. The production is clearly such a rush job that a few lines couldn't POSSIBLY have been serious attempts -- in a few scenes Allan Wenger (Sleepy) can clearly be heard stumbling. "It's fine, I don't care, just throw it in there," I imagine the producer saying.

Today, New York is the safest big city in America, with violent crime at its lowest levels in its recorded history. Tons of gawking tourists bring their kids here with them, clogging our sidewalks while they stare slack-jawed at the big buildings. This is not the city of Sleepy and Diazaburro, of rapists that carry automatic weapons, or of pimps screwing their whores out on balcony ledges.

Our pimps now have the decency to close the curtains.

A Abundant. Available anywhere that carries anime.
C Common. In print, and always available online.
R1 US release out of print, still in stock most places.
R2 US release out of print, not easy to find.
R3 Import only, but it has English on it.
R4 Import only. Fansubs commonly available.
R5 Import only, and out of print. Fansubs might be out there.
R6 Import long out of print. No fansubs are known to exist.
R7 Very rare. Limited import release or aired on TV with no video release. No fansubs known to exist.
R8 Never been on the market. Almost impossible to obtain.
Adapted from Soviet-Awards.com.

Where to get it:
Mercifully, Mad Bull 34 has not been released on DVD in any country, though the VHS release from Manga Entertainment reached throughout the English speaking world. I can't imagine it sold well, and while VHS copies can be found they can be expensive and hard to find. Whether you're willing to pay money for this is a matter best kept between you and your psychologist.

Thanks to Anime World Order for some corrections.

Screenshots ©1990 KAZUO KOIKE/NORIYOSHI INOUEShueisha, Inc./Pony Canyon, Inc./Magic Bus.

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