Teen boy juvenilia, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to art. Ultraviolence, transgression, power fantasies, and cartoonish sexuality all have their place, and when wielded smartly can be both incredibly fun and worthwhile. Superjail!‘s grotesque, Vince Collins-indebted world is unique and riveting. I have played countless hours of Grasshopper Manufacture’s Lollipop Chainsaw, a game that subsists entirely on the conceit that it is fun to watch a hot cheerleader kill lots of zombies over and over and over again. Hell, I’m listening to Entombed’s Left Hand Path as I write this. What I want to make clear is that I am not against transgression, graphic sexuality, and absurd violence on principle, and I am not just “looking to be offended” as the laziest of the lazy reddit trolls might argue. There’s great joy in preposterous sex and violence, but there has to be a core there that animates it, gives it purpose and meaning, even if that meaning is as simple as, “Wouldn’t it be rad to have an awesome gun and fuck up some demons?”
What Crisis Jung, the new limited animated series from Bobbypills, fails at doing is providing something purposeful, something new, something beyond cliché. In form and content, it points towards a maximal parody of anime tropes merged with the history of French comics. In the anime corner, Crisis Jung features its own psycho-sexual twist on the magical girl transformation trope, more than a touch of Dragon Ball Z‘s power level obsession, and the repetitive story structure of any long running series (again, DBZ comes to mind, as does the circuitous pointlessness of things like One Piece and Naruto), meshed with Fist of the North Star‘s hilarious uber-violence and the monstrous villains of Ninja Scroll. In the other corner, we get the teenage sexuality and signature beautiful vistas of Heavy Metal magazine, a comics publication that featured countrymen (and forebears of Bobbypills’ style) such as Moebius, Caza, Enki Bilal, et. al. On paper, I am all for this, but after promising so much with its opening episode, the series rarely gets beyond spinning its own wheels, and never provides a real purpose beyond vague gestures and edgelord posturing.
Following Jung, a man on a mission to reclaim his dead girlfriend Maria’s decapitated head from Petit Jesus (more or less this is the entire plot), nearly every episode recycles the structure from every other episode (each being about seven or so minutes long): we begin with a movement to a new area, go on to a fight against a new, stronger monster, build to an increase in power for Jung, and then finish with the death of said monster. Sure, this is also the structure of most episodes of any cartoon, but the short length mixed with watching them strung together back to back exacerbates this problem greatly. Not helping matters is the fact that each episode recycles animation from the previous episodes in what was either a cost saving measure or a knowing nod to the anime it is cribbing from (or both). In almost every single segment, we see, cut and pasted, the sequences of Jung powering up, of Petit Jesus shitting out a new monster (literally), and Jung powering down after defeating said monster. These aren’t just similar animations–they are in nearly every instance the exact same animation. Given the tone of the rest of the series, this reads as parody, but after the first time it happens, the joke stops being funny incredibly fast. Each new episode feels like there are fewer and fewer new things happening, and more just being repeated, until the 70 minutes it takes to get through the entire thing feels more like three or four hours. A parody only works if you take something and twist it. If you just do the same thing, you’re just… doing the same thing.
By itself, this failure in structure to create any interesting forward momentum or genuine interest would cause me to not recommend Crisis Jung. But, when we look at the content, we get an even bigger turn-off. There’s almost too much to know where to begin. The stock bad guys are rapists with chainsaws for dicks who wear garter belts and stockings. All the women in this post apocalypse have facial hair and flat chests (and are slaves, incidentally), and it’s later shown that one man becomes a woman because his dick gets torn off. Our hero’s magical girl transformation involves him growing long red nails and massive breasts. This is played as absolutely hilarious, including when he uses those tits to shoot out pink lasers. Even if one were to try and be as generous as possible, saying this is all a commentary on how wrong rigid gender roles are and the necessity of femininity in even the most violent heroes, this is torn down by the ending in which peace and beauty are restored to the world through two straight, cisgender people having sex, and the beautiful paradise they create just happens to have no visibly gender-variant people in it. I would call it homophobic and transphobic (and, in its depiction of women as only slaves and people to fuck, sexist), but that would almost imply intent that I don’t think Crisis Jung actually has. There’s nothing to “get”–there’s no there there.
Why is our main character called Jung? Well, because, like, psychology, man. Don’t you get it? What do you mean that Jungian psychology is never touched on? What is an archetype? What’s the collective unconscious? What’s with all the religious allusions? Well, you know, like, religion is like, totally oppressive, and dumb, and atheism rules. Richard Dawkins, you know? Why are all the gender variant people portrayed as, at best, hilarious, and, at worst, literally evil monsters? Dude, you just don’t GET it. Stop trying to be offended all the time!
To be serious: nothing in the episodes seems to exist outside of the fact that someone at the studio said, “Yo, wouldn’t it be fucked up and hilarious if,” over and over again. It tries to be transgressive and extreme, but fails because no part of it is considered beyond the admittedly very good animation. There’s a place for films (hey, like Heavy Metal!) that scratch that juvenile itch to see just blood and boobs, to see fucked up things happen, to see people’s faces get torn off and people jumping around finishing a fight on one leg after the other gets cut off. Unfortunately, Crisis Jung is unfunny, ignorant, and, worst of all, just goddamn boring.
Crisis Jung is having its international premier at the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival.
Directed by Baptiste Gaubert and Jérémie Hoarau; written by Baptiste Gaubert and Jérémie Périn; starring Karim Tougui, Pauline Moingeon, and Martial Le Minoux; 70 minutes.