Sunday, August 9, 2009


"There was something eerie about the image of this lone man who, hav-ing no means to communicate his wishes apart from moving his eyes, stared unwaveringly at one spot in the dead of night. Although she felt his mind had lost much of its sharpness and grown dull, wasn't it possible that a completely different world now possessed the inside of the head of this man who had been so terribly disfigured - a world wholly different from the one in which she and others like her resided? It frightened her to think he might be wan-dering in such a place now."
Edogawa Rampo, "The Caterpillar

Buying many manga to read, but sending them back with seamail in the last week of course means it is going to take ages before I actually get to see those books again. Luckily though, I had brought back some manga in my own luggage.

I bought Arijigoku vs BaraBara Shoujo ("Antlion vs BaraBara Girl") when I attended a small signing event of Kago Shintarou to promote the release of this volume, as I needed something he could actually place a signature on. But Arijigoku vs BaraBara Shoujo is a pretty amazing book on it's own, even without Kago's signature on it. With signature? Even more amazing.

Kago Shintarou's work is full of erotic grotesque imagery like body mutilations, accompanied by a dose of comedy and satire. Arijigoku vs BaraBara Shoujo is an anthology of his typical comedy/horror stories (yes, that is a possible combination) and pretty much all of them are batshit-insane-awesome. At times as creepy as the works of Umezu or Itou, at times as unpredictable crazy as Boboboubo Boubobo. One of the more impressive stories, Rinne no Umi ("The Sea of Reincarnation") is somewhat similar to the classic shoujo manga Please Save My Earth. Only this one has loads of gruesome deaths. If Please Save My Earth was more like Rinne no Umi, I would have read more of it.
Kago Shintarou's clean artwork combined a strong sense of comedy work makes his work pretty accessible, if not weak to erotic grotesque imagery. I found the works of Maruo Suehiro, another manga artist in the erogurononsense field to be somewhat less accessible in general, because his works tend to focus even more on dreamy imagery, making his stories harder to follow. But then again, Kago's humor can be so nonsensical at times, it's just way over the top. Kago has also been producing short animations and live action shorts (he also has some up at his YouTube account). Having been shown two hours of these shorts at his signing event, I can say some of them are really entertaining, but the gap in quality between these shorts and his manga works are big.

Less accessible was F.C.R. by Hanakuma Yuusaku. Especially his artwork is very, very crude, which makes it hard to get into for most people. I got to know his work through Tokyo Zombie, which was plain crazy. The author said himself about Tokyo Zombie:

"I made sure to give fans what they wanted (or at least I tried). I crammed in zombies, trucks, pro wrestling, martial arts, factories, Mt. Fuji, pigs, intense battles, wealthy people, slaves, porno, gym teachers, a little dog, Calpis, tonkatsu, a prince, a professor and so on, to try and create a comic that was a sort of fin de siecle celebration of manliness."

Tokyo Zombie was either some kind of genius allegory for the Japanese mass consumption society or something created through the use of psychedelic drugs, but at any rate very entertaining. Apparently, there is even a live action movie starring Asano Tadanobu (and including a cameo by horror-mangaka Umezu Kazuo). F.C.R. is an anthology of short stories, which, while less entertaining in comparison, is just as weird as Tokyo Zombie. I won't even try to describe it. The book says: "The Men who bought and saved the free cockmen". That should say enough. Or not. Of course, having bought the book at Nakano's strange, strange store Taco Che, it had to be weird.

But I really, really want to read some less grotesque, more mainstream manga now. If there are bodily parts to be chopped of, let it be normal horror or functional dismemberment.

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