Violence Jack – Hyper Grapple

Violence Jack takes on Pro-Wrestling.

Iron Muscle cover

The main strip that’s getting referenced here is Iron Muscle, an early 80s series from Dynamic Pro that’s a lot of fun. It’s in the future sport genre, with the sport being Giant Robot Wrestling. That is to say, Giant Robot’s wrestling each other, not men wrestling Giant Robots.

Kouichi Hagane’s father was killed in a bout with Wilhelm Odin, and Kouchi takes his place in the ring. The first arc deals with Kouichi’s revenge on Odin, while the second is a tournament arc, with a guest appearance from Boss Borot! Maybe because it didn’t hang around long enough, but it doesn’t descend into Nagai’s apocalyptic tendencies, in fact it gets lighter as it progresses. Kouichi, Odin and Sakura, the muscular female grappler from the second arc all show up in this arc.

Boss Borot's cameo

Odin is yet another androgynous blonde pretty boy, which handily allows him to also fill in the role of Susano-OH‘s androgynous villain and leader of his/her band of mutants, monsters and miscreants. Susano himself finally appears, fully corrupted by his demonic side and aligned with the villains from his strip. Also appearing from Susano-OH is Ryoko, his sister (a minor character in the original) who we saw in the first arc of the revived Violence Jack series, Dragon Fort.

Also popping along are Gakuen Taikutsu Otoko’s Mondo and Tatsuma once again. While not playing that big a role here, they do attempt to tidy up the fact that they had died in an earlier arc. And subsequently got better. Though as I can’t read much Japanese, I have no idea how they tidy it up, but the art clearly shows Tatsuma remembering Mondo’s death in the Bazooka duel in Golden City.

This arc takes place in Aquapolis, a city that seems to have survived the worst of the Great Kanto Earthquake, but has become terribly corrupt with various man on man bloodsports taking place, the main one being an ultraviolent form of wrestling. Like all ultraviolent future sports, spikes are involved.

Heading to the city are Mondo, Tatsuma, the aforementioned Sakura and Kouichi, and of course, Violence Jack. On the way Kouichi tests his strength against Jack and becomes possessed with some of Jack’s power (Lady Violence Jack and Kid Violence Jack appear to be similar extensions of Jack’s power).

Meanwhile we see the city is being controlled by a three horned demon who sits on throne of naked women. Up until now we’ve had a few cosmic and supernatural elements, but this is our first out and out indication that it goes beyond Jack himself. This is Susano-OH, his form here is based on one of his earlier demonic forms that resembles Zenon from Devilman more than the later forms he takes when the book veers into the post apocalypse craziness that goes several steps further than Violence Jack in terms of scope.

Kouichi, like in Iron Muscle is searching for Odin, but he and Sakura end up entangled in Susano-Oh’s machinations. The pair, along with Mondo and Tatsuma, find themselves attacked by the gang from Susano-OH’s pre-apocalypse chapters. Meanwhile, Violence Jack, currently Godzilla-sized arrives. This leads Susano-OH to absorb power from the city and grow to similar size and between the two of them their battle sinks the town.

The only other survivors are Tatsuma, Mondo, Ryoko, Kouichi, Sakura and Odin. In fact it’s questionable if the other people in the city were real and not just creations of Susano. Kouichi and Odin don their wrestling armour and duel, a mirror of the still ensuing fight between Jack and Susano. Whereas Kouichi breaks Odin’s neck, Jack drives out the supernatual forces from Susano, returning him to the mortal form of Susa Shingo.

We then get some happy endings as Susa is reunited with his sister and Kouichi with his father, who turns out to be a man swathed in bandages we’ve seen periodically through the chapter. That’s a little confusing, as there’s another man swathed in bandages in Susano’s gang of henchmen. Oddly his dad doesn’t really look like he did in Iron Muscle or indeed when we see him dying at Odin’s hands earlier in the arc. Instead he’s seemingly aged into looking more like a Kenzo Kabuto type dad. Though as his dad was a cyborg in Iron Muscle that might explain the difference.

At this point, it’s now really difficult to marry that first Violence Jack arc with what we have now. He’s gone from the tall, silent, mysterious berserk killer of that first arc, to this chatty, supernatural force that can split into three, imbue people with his power, grow to the size of buildings, raise the dead and basically do whatever the plot requires (except save people before they are tortured). Later arcs, as we shall see, tone it back down again, and you sometimes wonder why Jack in those arcs can’t just pull out the crazy stuff he does here. The Slave Farm arc in particular springs to mind as being a really big disconnect between Jack’s portrayals.

The fun is in the audacity of Nagai’s plots and ideas, and in the “star system” he’s using to recycle concepts. I don’t think Susano-OH had been finished at this point, it had gotten cancelled/gone on hiatus, and it’s possible this was intended to wrap it up in lieu of an actual ending. Susano-OH would eventually return following the popularity of the novelisations by Go Nagai’s brother Yasutaka Nagai, and get that insane apocalyptic ending that feels like Violence Jack by H.R. Giger.

The gratuitous violence and torture feels a little toned down here. People impaled on spiked helmets, faces being pulled off and a human dartboard are about the extent of it. The one sex scene here is drawn like they are participating in some kind of magical ceremony, really amping up the metaphor as I mentioned in earlier posts. It works really well, and this is certainly the best Weekly Manga Goraku arc so far in terms of art, with nice composition, panel layouts and cartoon reactions.