This and the following arc, Golden City, are frankly far more complicated than my lack of Japanese language skills allow me to fully comprehend. However, I’m not even sure being able to read the language would fully explain some of what goes on here. Particularly as Go Nagai himself seems to pretend some of what happens in these arcs didn’t actually happen.
The guest stars here are the two leads from Gakuen Taikutsu Otoko aka “The Most Boring Guy In School” aka “Guerilla High“. It ran in 1970 and picks up some themes from Harenchi Gakuen (“Shameless School”), but places more focus on the violence and is both a satire on student uprisings and on Nagai’s own experience with the PTA protests at Shameless School (though that book itself does that far better).
The first volume plays out like a western, the remaining like a horror film. The “hero”, Mondo feels like a prototype Akira Fudo or Violence Jack, and visually Nagai draws on that particularly in the next arc. He also resembles the character Ryoma from Getter Robo, which is unlikely to be a coincidence as Ken Ishikawa was reportedly heavily involved with Gakuen Taikutsu Otoko too.
The other character pulled from that series is a character called Tatsuma. Arguably this could be seen as a precursor to Ryo in Devilman, being the androgynous male sidekick/rival of the hero. However Tatsuma takes his androgyny a few steps further, being introduced as a girl and basically being a Nagai heroine’s head on a male body.
In Violence Jack they are similarly a couple of would be revolutionaries who pre-Earthquake appear to be planning some sort of armed uprising. During the Earthquake they had somehow been arrested and locked up in prison (this is the first time we see that there is some sort of organised civilisation still in Japan beyond the Slum King’s domain).
They escape, have a tussle with some gangsters who they dispatch despite being handcuffed, then run into Violence Jack who frees them from their cuffs. AND IT’S RIGHT ABOUT HERE I START GETTING LOST.
They get into an argument, Jack beats them up, ties them up (here’s your bondage for this chapter folks) and drags them through the wasteland. They wake up in what appears to be pre-Earthquake Japan, then things start going all Golden Age Spectre on them as they are forced to relive the Earthquake over and over again, until finally…
Those are just three pages out of an amazing sequence where they appear to be confronted by the souls of those whose deaths they’d been indirectly responsible during their revolutionary days. It’s fantastic stuff.
Taught their lesson (or are they?), they find themselves back in the real world and wander off into the sunset. Cut to what is the start of the most puzzling aspect of Violence Jack for me:
Yes, THREE Violence Jacks. The one we all know and love. A Lady Violence Jack and a Kid Violence Jack. WHAT IS GOING ON?!? Seriously, if anyone can explain the deal with the other Jacks I’d love to know. I can follow all the stuff with Ryo, Maki, Slum King and so forth and how that ties to Devilman, but this bewilders and befuddles me.
Up until now, Jack has been kind of a giant tough guy, here though he clearly has supernatural powers and that’s an important shift in the story. Occasionally we will see him portrayed more like a mortal, but there’s a lot of future stories where he is portrayed with this power.
Actually in retrospect, outside of the argument Mondo and Tatsuma have with Jack and the dialogue between the Jacks on the last few pages that wasn’t too confusing. Let’s see what Golden City holds though…