Rejection and revenge when a victimized schoolboy is transformed into a huge poisonous bug.
Hideshi Hino, Japan's master of horror manga, was born in China in 1946 and soon moved to Tokyo. The apocalyptic post-war landscape and grotesque, twisted characters recur throughout his work. Best known for his semi-autobiographical, Panorama of Hell, he has 200+ titles in print.
Junji Ito's horror manga has attracted a lot of attention from American fans, and rightly so. Works like Uzumaki, Tomie, and GYO are beautiful and disturbing works, and I can't think of anything like them in American comics. But once you've gotten through Junji Ito's work, where else is there to go? Horror is one genre that isn't particularly well represented in the recent torrent of manga showing up on America's bookstore shelves. You might come across something like Vampire Princess Miyu or Hellsing, but in my experience, you have to make your way through an awful lot of stories about magical high school girls in order to find it.
Fortunately, DH Publishing is doing something about the situation. They's just started reprinting graphic novels from Hideshi Hino in America. Hino has published over hundreds of works in Japan and is possibly one of the most deranged artists I've ever come across. His comics feature deformed protagonists, rivers of blood, and all sorts of disgusting imagery. If you read Uzumaki and are hungry for something similarly bizarre, look no further than the Hino Horror collection. The first two volumes, The Red Snake and The Bug Boy have just been published, with at least six other volumes on the way. If the first two are anything to go by, this is very good news for manga fans.
The first volume, The Red Snake, begins with a poem entitled "The Night I Vomited Blood", and it doesn't get much more cheerful from there. The story concerns a young boy who lives in a mysterious house with is demented family. His father tends chickens in one of the rooms, and kills them if they stop laying eggs. His grandmother lives in a giant bird nest that's she's created for herself. His mother spends her time squeezing the pus out of the giant boil on his grandfather's face. And his sister seems to enjoy an almost sexual relationship with insects. One day, the giant mirror in the house develops a crack, and then things really start to get weird. There's not really much of a plot to The Red Snake; it reminds me more of a David Lynch movie or just a bad nightmare. It is truly weird, but this is one of the most memorable volumes of manga I've ever read.
The Bug Boy contains a slightly more traditional narrative, although it is no less bizarre. A young boy named Sanpei is going through an unhappy childhood. He has no friends and his parents an unhappy with his poor academic performance. The only companions he has are the animals adopted as pets. One day he gets sick and vomits out a poisonous insect. When he tries to pick it up, it bites him, thus beginning a horrible process that transforms Sanpei into a giant caterpillar-like bug. He runs away from home and tries to adjust to his new life as a creepy-crawly. However, he learns he has to ability to kill people with his poisonous stinger and goes on a bloody rampage, taking revenge on all those who were mean to him as a human. The Bug Boy is not as weird The Red Snake, but if you have a taste for the strange, you will no doubt find it just as satisfying.
I really loved these graphic novels, and I would have say they're some of best manga I've read in months. Obviously, they are not for everyone, but horror fans are going to eat this up. Kudos to DH Publishing for making the dynamite talent of Hideshi Hino available in America. -- Review by Chris Puzak, Blog Critics.org