Riki-Oh: Toukatsu Jigoku (Riki-Oh: The Wall of Hell), directed by Satoshi Dezaki. 45 minutes. June 25, 1989.
Riki-Oh, adapted from the manga by Masahiko Takajo (story) and Tetsuya Saruwatari (art), was a super-violent martial-arts thriller about an unjustly-imprisoned young martial-arts master (Riki-Oh in English is “King Riki”). It was also “post-apocalyptic”, although this didn’t affect the plot much. It was prestigious enough at the time that it was also made into a Hong Kong live-action feature, Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, which is the preferred version today. Wikipedia says of it, “It is well known for its extreme, brutal, and highly unrealistic violence, as well as its high camp factor and extremely poor English dubbing”. The anime dubbing is not much better; the subtitled version is preferable. The anime production was by the Magic Bus studio.
199X Yokohama; presumably about ten years after the OAV’s release. The future is full of radiation, global warming, and filth. A car of a prominent gangster roars through a rainstorm. Suddenly a super-strong young man steps directly in front of it and shatters its engine with a punch. When the gangster gets out, the youth breaks his leg as well as punching a deep dent into his skull. This is apparently not fatal, since the youth is charged only with assault.
The young man, Riki-Oh Saiga, is sentenced to nine years in Kokubu Prison, a privatized penitentiary. It’s a hellhole run by its most sadistic prisoners like Iwata and Bandoh. The movie develops a routine of showing how brutal the cell boss is – he’s allowed to commit any cruelty because the guards are all terrified of him – then Riki-Oh demolishes him, just because. He punches clear through Iwata. The guards are all terrified of Riki-Oh, too, even though when he isn’t punching through people, he just blows music on a leaf. Riki-Oh is finally taken to Warden Tokuzo Sugiyama, who is the baddest, most sadistic ass of all. Sugiyama sees in Riki-Oh’s record that his parents were respectable and well-to-do, that he went to the best high schools, then disappeared for two years before reappearing to attack the gangster. He asks Riki-Oh why he disappeared, how he became super-strong, and what he wants? Riki-Oh doesn’t answer.
It’s established during this that the other prisoners in Kokubu Prison live for the moment when they’re released, but Riki-Oh wants to get deeper into Hell. Also, there is something significant about a Star of David scar on Riki-Oh’s hand.
Kokubu Prison has four wings. Narumi, another sadist, is the boss of the North Wing. Sugiyama orders him to beat Imura, an “innocent” prisoner to the point of death to lure Riki-Oh into saving him, to give Narumi the excuse to kill him. Instead Riki-Oh kills Narumi.
That’s enough for Sugiyama, but he has his own boss that he answers to; the Chairman of the Prison. He says that if Sugiyama can’t handle Riki-Oh, he’ll get a new Warden. Yomi, the effeminate really sadistic boss of the South Wing, boasts that he’ll kill Riki-Oh.
Side business during this introduces Asa, a little prisoner about eight years old. (The OAV doesn’t even try to establish any rationale for an 8-year-old prisoner.) He comes to hero-worship Riki-Oh. After Riki-Oh tries to teach him to blow music on a leaf and gives him a toy flute, he offers Riki-Oh all he has; some wrinkled leaves. Riki-Oh recognizes them as opium poppy leaves. This turns out to be what he’s been searching for all along! A flashback establishes that when Riki-Oh was a student, his girl friend was killed by bad drugs. The doctor says that he’s being forced to buy bad drugs from the Kohnan Family, who are also the bosses of Kokubu Prison. Riki-Oh has gotten himself sentenced to Kokubu Prison to look for the bad drugs. Asa indicates that the poppies are grown in the South Wing; Yomi’s territory.
The Chairman, Sugiyama, and Yomi all gang up on Riki-Oh in the climax. There’s a lot of sadistic torture, death, and a prisoner revolt; and Riki-Oh finally triumphs. But he punches the Prison’s wall down, announces that he’s leaving for another Hell, and he walks out.
This OAV has been only Part 1. The “to be continued” ending excused any loose plot threads, such as the unexplained Star of David scar on Riki-Oh’s hand. You’ll get Riki-Oh 2: Horobi no Ko (Riki-Oh: Child of Destruction) next week.
Riki-Oh was released in the U.S. by Media Blasters under the AnimeWorks label, apparently not until April 11, 2006 when both OAVs appeared together on DVD as Riki-Oh: The Animation.
Next week: “Forgotten” OAVs #21 – Riki-Oh 2.