Pile of Shame
Guyver: Out of Control
by Justin Sevakis,
Guyver: Out of Control
Guyver: Out of Control was one of the earliest anime VHS releases in the US, and being an alternate retelling of the same story that the same company, US Renditions, would later release in dubbed form, was one of the first titles to confuse the hell out of people as to what, exactly, they were watching. Guyver was an early OAV -- 1986, to be exact -- and while it follows the pattern of most OAVs of the era in that it was helmed by a young newbie, this one has Toyoo Ashida, fresh off of Fist of the North Star, handling producing, writing, and key animation under two different pseudonyms.
All of which makes the OAV sound much more interesting than it is. After a cold-opening in which a trucker who picks up a hitchhiker (ostensibly to rob him) gets his face eaten by some sort of terrifying monster, we're introduced to normal everyday-high-school-kid Sho, who has a cute girlfriend and is on the student council. Getting home late, he and his girlfriend witness the hitchhiker from earlier and some uniformed soldiers turning into giant grotesque dripping monsters and fighting until the former is left disembowled. Or rather, they witness the explosion that results. (They don't even jump, which is weird.)
At Sho's feet lands a small metal box. It's shiny, so Sho picks it up, and immediately regrets it. He tosses it, it explodes, and ensnares him in a bionic suit. He is the new Guyver, a bionoic weapon of destruction. And he's OUT OF CONTROL. A short time later, he's back to normal. But his girlfriend his injured, his friends at school keep getting shot, and Sho finds himself being pursued by the authorities (most of whom also can transform into gross, dripping monsters of some variety). But it's clear, Guyver, and now Sho, are special.
For all its origins in Japanese superheroes (Guyver's design aesthetic, most obviously), Guyver: Out of Control feels very much like a schlocky 80s American direct-to-video movie. The night time aesthetic, the damsel in distress, and even the music queues feel like director Hiroshi Watanabe (who would later go on to direct the Slayers franchise, among a ton of other, mostly middling fare) was frequenting the cheesier sections of the video store. There are odd little "American" touches that I can't tell if they're jokes or not. Sho's dad (who gets all of 2 seconds of screen time) sure LOOKS black (Sho isn't, obviously). The milk on the doorstep is HOMO brand. Sho spends some time wandering the vast and endless Japanese desert. Later, there's a clear reference to the film version of Orwell's 1984.
Later, we meet Valcuria, a scientist who helped develop Guyver (and antoher Guyver, herself). We meet her in a series of extended leotard workout shots, in case we forgot what decade this anime was made. None of this follows the manga, of course -- it was only a few chapters into serialization when this anime was being produced. (Later adaptations are much more faithful.) A lot of Guyver fans appreciate the spirit of this OAV over its more accurate successors; it has a sense of fun and anti-authority that the later installments don't.
That said, it's also more than a little lurid, in spite of the surprisingly cherubic character designs. The Guyver infecting Valcuria is CLEARLY tentacle rape, despite it not being all that graphic, and being of no significance in the story. US Renditions started a new division to release stuff like this, to make sure kids didn't confuse it with more mild fare, but it still ended up at Blockbuster Video with the same stupid 17+ sticker as all the rest of the anime. I'm sure more than a handful of budding teenaged otaku got a creepy surprise when they brought that tape home.
If you can stomach its handling of women, Guyver: Out of Control is an extremely dated piece of pulp that still somehow manages to be fun. It does so by not taking itself too seriously, and maintaining a pretty decent pace of action. I can't really call it a winner, or a classic in any sense, but I sure as hell can't hate it. If you're into bloody and pungent 80s cheese, it's definitely worth hunting down.
Note about the name: this Guyver OAV shares the same name as the manga, the 12-part OAV series, and everything else Guyver, which does translate roughly to "Bio-Boosted (or Strengthened) Armor". US Renditions retitled it based on some dialogue in the show, to avoid confusion.
Japanese Name: 強殖装甲ガイバー (Kyōshoku Sōkō GUYVER)
Media Type: One-shot OAV
Length: 55 min.
Genres: Horror, gore, Japanese superhero
Availability (Japan): VHS and laserdisc have been found, but alas, no digital release in any country.
Availability (English): US Renditions' ancient VHS release is all we've got, although a fan restoration (sourced from the Japanese LD) was released a while back. It still looks pretty rough though.
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