Trash (Vol.1-3)

TW: There will be discussion of sexual assault, pedophilia, homophobia, transphobia, and other such nasty subjects. You have been warned. 

Editor's Note: And this is totally Halloweeny, I've seen stuff done with body parts in here that definitely put this series in a horror category somewhere.

Capturing that feel of old B-movies is hard. Making violent, exploitive content is easy enough. Anyone can create a gory story. The problem is getting the right tone and balancing the black humor with the actual dramatic meat in the story you're trying to tell. There's a lot of ways you can do this right, like the surprisingly subversive Murcielago or utterly insane first season of The Fruit of Grisaia anime. At the same time, it's much easier to get it wrong, like the morally simplistic titty-fest of Triage X, or the pre-teen's guide to violent philosophy known as Akame ga Kill. As bizarre as it sounds, you need some understanding of mature story telling to balance an immature work, because if you try to make it without that understanding, you get stuff like Trash. This slasher on Troma thriller hybrid is so close to being grotesque brilliance, but it quickly throws all that promise away and becomes much like its namesake.

The series follows three high school girls that also happen to be apart of the criminal underground of Japan. The leader is Konomi Minoko, who has become a big time yakuza boss and will threaten to sell off your organs if you piss her off the right way. On contract are her two personal assassins, Francesca and Bullet, actually the battle ax using and iron teethed Shirato Marin, and the gun wielding foreign bombshell Ishikawa Rushia. The two are the most violent and famous assassins in all of Japan, and for good reason, as they leave bodies in gory piles wherever they're sent. The two each have their own dark secrets, and their newest is a strange child they found on a recent mission with no memory and a reliance on a mysterious drug to survive. As they try taking care of the kid on Marin's insistence, they also have to deal with their contracted work for Minoko, along with the various killers that tend to appear before them on the job.

The first three volumes of Trash are like a layered cake that exposes something new with every section. The first volume is really promising and entertaining, the second starts to show some unfinished seems, and the third just utterly falls apart from the artist and author indulging in violent excess it's hard to get on board with. That first volume is something I'd recommend if you have a taste for violent garbage, just for the Hell Mosquito arc alone. It's the point where the series achieves nearly perfect balance in its many tones and parts, with a crazy villain who becomes a karmatic force on the actual antagonists of said arc, not to mention some really well timed jokes that don't make light of the horrific event that put all of this in motion. And it is horrific, but it doesn't indulge in the event, only the fates of those who carried it out, which is why the arc works. The short arc with the cat killer is also well balanced, doing a solid job of revealing more of Marin's twisted past and making her both sympathetic and tragic.

The second volume, unfortunately, is where we start having serious problems and the series moves from being fun exploitation to grim drama. The villain of the volume long arc is a great one, mind you, a serial killer raised from birth in the art of murder who does some stuff so disgusting that not even the artist is willing to show just what he actually did to one of his victims, only shadows that show entrails dangling someone in midair as they still breathe. It's not pretty. He makes for a great antagonist to our lead characters ...but then they had to introduce Minoko's child molester uncle and a seriously fucked up plot about a child from another country being sold into sexual slavery and then being payment to that serial killer I mentioned earlier. The series dips into subject matter it just does not have the maturity to discuss, and while it can make some truly despicable villains in the process (including one who ends up being a surprise), they do not fit in this series at all. There's much less comedy here, and far more plain vile scenes that shouldn't be here in the first place. They're not amusing in how ridiculous or gross they are, just mean-spirited or hit a bit too close to home in some regards. This is also the volume that reveals a bit of Rushia's back story, where some low level goons she normally slaughters like pigs kidnapping her and threatening to rape her, revealing a horrifying scar (not shown, thankfully) from her days as a sex slave. We even get a flashback, oh This is a really lazy idea, and it does not help the entire sequence plays out like pornography. The entire volume just leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.

And then there's that third volume. This is where the series tries to go full on black comedy, with a team of all women assassins chasing after Minoko, someone who saw one of their jobs, and an idiot who fell in love with Minoko that ends up trying to keep on making wisecracks as increasingly horrible things happen to him. Problem is that it's just not funny because of some horrid decisions. Ever wanted to see Minoko painfully tormented with a slingshot designed to kill a person by a sadistic lesbian rapist? No? Too bad, that scene goes on and on and on! Or how about a transwoman being portrayed as a crazy pervert that literally fucks cakes? Welp, it's in there! And the arc ends horribly as well, with a lame twist where a spoiled rich girl was behind everything because she just doesn't like people very much because she looks down on them, then tries to make a point about how Minoko is more mature than most girls her age. Which is stupid. It's really, really stupid. It's almost Akame ga Kill stupid. This entire volume keeps undercutting whatever good it accomplishes with just general grossness that demonizes people of different sexual and gender identities, not to mention the absolutely idiotic ending.

I could go on and on about the high quality of the art and the fun personalities of the cast, but it really doesn't matter. The series can't balance those good elements with the exploitive trashy bits it also wants in there, and the entire series suffers and eventually becomes a disgusting mess. This sort of trashy black comedy about serial killers has been done worlds better before in other works (and much gayer in Murcielago's case), making Trash's entire existence questionable. I don't know what kind of person would like what this ended up becoming, but I hope I never have to meet them. This was a huge disappointment, and now I feel disgusted with myself for reading that third volume. But there’s something about it that makes me want t read more. Maybe I’ll revisit it next year and see if things get any better - or any worse.


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