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At nine years of age, O-Ren Ishii cowers unseen beneath the bed while mobsters attack her parents. Her father, a U.S. army officer of Asian descent, kills two of them but is mortally wounded by a third. Her mother is thrown onto the bed and stabbed by Boss Matsumoto, a ruthless yakuza. Two years later, O-Ren capitalizes on Matsumoto's love of little girls by seducing him in a school uniform and murdering him in bed. Before long, she is one of the world's top assassins, although she makes a fatal mistake when she and some of her fellow killers leave a former associate, "The Bride," comatose but still alive.
Although not a film in itself, this brief sequence appears as part of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume One. Tarantino's movie is a pastiche of Asian pulp genres and his anime sequence is no exception, conceived in apparent homage to the ultraviolence of Golgo 13 and Madhouse urban gothic like Wicked City. Its influences are thus restricted largely to a handful of exploitationers released in the 1980s, when Tarantino presumably caught the beginnings of the U.S. anime video business: eviscerations, stabbings, and all, while any similarity to the original story of The Gokusen is purely coincidental. The use of animation to present this particular part of the film may have also been a cunning ruse to avoid an NC-17 rating for the most controversial scenes-if he had used real actors for this sequence, would Tarantino have been able to show a preteen assassin murdering the pedophile who has just raped her? Nevertheless, the anime sequence was still slightly censored for its American release. In the uncut Japanese DVD release, O-Ren does not merely stab Matsumoto, but draws the knife lengthwise up his torso in graphic detail.
There are moments when The Origin of O-Ren seems to quote tropes and ideas from manga rather than anime-the spattering blood is inky rather than bloody, and in one notable moment O-Ren has the word "whimper" literally issue from her mouth like a manga sound effect. Production I.G., which must have come to this job shortly after completing Blood: The Last Vampire, puts a heroic amount of effort into replicating cel animation battles with 21st century technology-the sequence is largely motion-captured and then treated to look as if it were made in the old-fashioned way. Along with The Animatrix and the works of Hayao Miyazaki, this piece of footage was one of the anime most likely to reach a mainstream audience in the early 21st-century, although considering its origins in the writer's idea of what anime should be and its dated adherence to video-nasty shock tactics, some might prefer to file it among the False Friends. LNV