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"Just a little torture."
A notably gory manga by Hideo Yamamoto that was later adapted into a film by Takashi Miike (that spawned a sequel in the form of another movie and a prequel in the form of an anime). Ichi the Killer is set in the city of Shinjuku, specifically the red-light district Kabuki-cho, where Yakuza rule the streets. A band of hoodlums lead by an enigmatic old man referred to only as Jijii ("Old guy") hopes to change that.
The story starts with the extremely gruesome murder of Anjou, the leader of a powerful clan of Yakuza known collectively as Anjougumi, or "the Anjou Clan" in English. The culprit, according to Jijii when he and his group arrives to clean up the mess, is the titular Ichi. The rest of his group are very off-put by the gore, wondering what kind of monster Ichi must be. They clean up the room and empty the safe which contained approximately 300,000,000 yen (about $2,600,000).
The next day, the members of the Anjougumi are distraught to find their leader missing. Notably, Masao Kakihara, a high-ranking member of the group and a noted extreme masochist (his several facial scars, the extensions of his mouth, and numerous piercings attest to this) dismisses all notions of Anjou having run off with the money or of him having been killed, vowing instead to find his captors and punish them severely.
We meet Ichi, 22 years old and an extremely meek man-child, who is pushed around by almost everyone he meets. His only response to the torment is to apologize and smile nervously, which usually ends up just angering his bullies even more. However, with subtle manipulation and the use of Ichi's troubled past, Jijii is able to temporarily transform the unassuming boy into a monstrous killer, known for crying profusely during his murders.
The story unfolds with Kakihara ruthlessly tracking down Anjou's killers (which ends up hospitalizing a member of a fellow Yakuza gang, getting Kakihara ejected from the group) and later on, focusing mainly on Ichi himself. After encountering the hitman's handiwork time and time again, Kakihara comes to realize that Ichi might be possible of giving him the ultimate pain that he has so desired to find.
Eventually, most everyone on both sides of the coin have been killed save for Ichi, Jijii, and Kakihara, all ready for their final showdown. The ending of Ichi the Killer differs a bit in the manga and film versions of the story, with only the result of the fight between Ichi and Kakihara being the same.
Now has a character sheet.
Tropes found in the manga:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Ichi's boot razors, which he made himself in the welding factory where he works.
- Ax Crazy:
- Jiro and Saburo, the twin brothers who ran with Kakihara in their old gang.
- Ichi when in his killing trance.
- Banned In Japan: The manga was so graphic that it was banned in parts of Japan.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Almost completely averted; genitals are frequently depicted but never in full detail.
- Berserker Tears: Most of the time when Ichi is in his killing trance, he's bawling like a baby since the trance is tied into his memories of being bullied as a kid.
- Breast Attack: Several, played for Squick. One woman gets her nipples sliced off, and a prostitute is punched in the breast hard enough to crush it.
- Butt Monkey: Fujiwara, the most incompetent member of Kakihara's gang, who gets punishments like ass-raping dead rivals' corpses. Fujiwara is also the only one to abandon the gang, leaving only Kakihara, Saburo and Kaneko behind. This also saves his life.
- Career Killers: Kaneko, a low-level hitman.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: More evident in the manga:
- Ichi's doesn't have a lot of upper body strength, but his kills are so effective because his legs are really strong (since Prisons Are Gymnasiums), so much so that, after a miserable showing with a punching game in an arcade, he returns to the arcade after hours and destroys the machine with one kick.
- Jiro is strong enough to be able to dismember people with his bare hands.
- Clark Kent Outfit: Jijii, who is a beast.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Kakihara likes to dole these out to his mooks, in the form of body piercings in...sensitive areas.
- Combat Sadomasochist: Kakihara may be the definitive example.
- Subverted at the end. Kakihara gets really messed up during his fight with Ichi, to the point where he can no longer ignore his body's danger signals and begins experiencing pain like a normal person does.
- Covers Always Lie: Some covers make it look like Kakihara is the eponymous Ichi.
- Cowboy Cop: Jijii, a former policeman who has a vendetta against the yakuza. He used to be Ichi's probation officer.
- Creepy Twins: Jiro and Saburo. Everything about them is slightly off-putting, as if they came from the Uncanny Valley.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Jijii vs. Takayama and Ichi vs. Kakihara.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Ichi was cruelly bullied as a child; Jijii knows this and uses it to psychologically manipulate Ichi.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: One of the most Squick-tastic examples ever. Ichi cuts his palm with a knife and masturbates to the sight of his favorite prostitute being beaten and raped by her husband.
- Diagonal Cut: Ichi's standard method of killing.
- Disposable Sex Worker: Two of them. One is befriended by Ichi who later kills her along with her pimp. The second is raped and tortured to death by the twins during the search for Ichi.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Ichi gets a beating and kicking for the crime of driving past Kakihara with his bicycle. Kaneko feels sorry for him afterwards.
- Downer Ending: On several fronts.
- Enfant Terrible: Takeshi.
- Fan Disservice: It's pretty much a guarantee that if someone's naked, be it male or female, they're either doing something really twisted or having something horrific done to them. Case in point: the one time nipples are shown on camera in the film, it's when they're getting cut off.
- Gayngster: Kakihara appears to be this for Boss Anjo, but he explains that he's rather just In Love with Your Carnage (the punishments Anjo gave him).
- Glasgow Grin: Kakihara has one, held together by piercings. He's also fond of giving the Glasgow Grin to other people. He takes the piercings out to swallow people's hands when they try to punch him in the face, and at one point has them torn out, which doesn't faze him at all.
- Gorn: A shining example of this trope, particularly in Takashi Miike's hands.
- Groin Attack: Several; also, see Cool and Unusual Punishment above. Kakihara loves genital torture; he even shows pictures of all the ways to split a penis to the victim, before doing these things to him. Jiro and Saburo are more straightforward; they repeatedly Groin Attack a guy with knives until he bleeds to death.
- Hidden Badass: Under that tracksuit? Jijii is ripped.
- High-Pressure Blood: Sometimes justified, sometimes not so much.
- I Am Not Shazam: Kakihara is usually the one shown in advertising of the comic and movie - sometimes they even put a "1" on his face. The titular Ichi, on the other hand, is a sobbing weakling wearing a stuntman suit.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Kakihara uses his supply of needles to turn one of Jijii's henchmen into a human pincushion.
- In Love with Your Carnage: Kakihara was this way for his boss, and then gets this way with Ichi. His enthusiasm implodes when he realizes that the mysterious monster Ichi is actually the whimpering loser who got his ass kicked by Kakihara once.
- Loners Are Freaks: Ichi.
- Mob War
- Neck Snap: Done to Takayama by Jijii and to Jiro by Ichi.
- Old Master: Subverted by Jijii; after he breaks Takayama's neck with one hand, he reveals that that he's in his 30's but had plastic surgery to make him look older. On the other hand, he might be an old man and lying. Jijii isn't exactly known for his honesty.
- Orgasmic Combat:
- Ichi, who literally gets a hard-on from beating people.
- Kakihara as well, being equal parts sadist and masochist.
- Pet the Dog:
- Ichi has many of these moments, such as giving his money to an abused prostitute so she can have her nose fixed, and teaching a bullied kid how to fight back against his tormentors.
- Karen has a literal Pet the Dog moment, when she gets furious at the Vietnamese drug dealer for kicking a dog.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Ichi.
- Raging Stiffie: Ichi gets an extreme version. It takes the A Date with Rosie Palms scene above to relieve it.
- Rape as Drama: Happens with just about any woman Jiro and Saburo encounter.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: One of the reasons why the above-mentioned brothers skyrocket into Complete Monster territory. They even boast about having raped hundreds.
- Scars Are Forever: Kakihara's face and piercings.
- There Can Be Only One: Being Creepy Twins and Complete Monsters aren't enough for Jiro and Saburo. Their manga background shows that there was originally triplets, all of them monsters who wondered who was the one their father's sperm (no, really, THE SPERM) has blessed the most, so they have been trying to top each other in the "most heinous actions" scale, where the winner apparently kills the others. The third brother never made it to the main storyline...because his younger brothers murdered him. And Ichi didn't give the remaining two siblings the time to finish their competition.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Kakihara. His reaction to falling to his death amounts to "Woo, this is amazing!"
- Torture Porn
- Twin Telepathy: Ichi's presence is announced by Saburo suddenly feeling that Jiro has died. He recognizes the feeling from when his other brother died, and responds with a reaction of "I was hoping to kill him myself sometime."
- The Un-Smile: Ichi tends to do this when he's trying to look harmless.
- Xanatos Roulette: Jijii's ability to manipulate people borders on omniscience.
- Yakuza: Kakihara and all his associates. Jijii's gang are thugs who've been excommunicated from yakuza clans.
Tropes found in the movie:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Movie!Kakihara is much more handsome and charming than his manga self. Word of God is that this was so he could be more appealing to the audience and steal the show.
- Anachronic Order: The first scene takes place roughly halfway through the film.
- Bilingual Dialogue: In the film, Karen's dialogue switches between Japanese, Cantonese, and English.
- Gory Discretion Shot: In lieu of seeing Ichi behead Takeshi, we are treated to a hyper-explicit shot of Kakihara using skewers to perforate his own eardrums and pierce his cochnea. Possibly enforced due to the Double Standard of violence against children, or because Kakihara is just imagining that Ichi did it before committing suicide.
- Imagine Spot: The scene of Kakihara's death is revealed to be wishful thinking on the part of Kakihara as he throws himself off the roof when Ichi is unable to fight him.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Some subplots had to be cut out of the movie.
- The Stoic: Jijii is rather expressionless in the movie.
- Theme Tune Cameo: Kakihara's ring tone in the movie.