My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An adult Hideshi Hino, with the wide eyes common to manga characters placed onto a slender, slightly cadaverous head, narrates these gleefully gruesome tales of his cursed family. HIdeshi is the loser chubby kid, bullied at school and mocked for wanting to draw geeky manga. But in fact he is simply chronicling his home life, a life where his sickly sister is consumed by the red flesh worm inside her, his grandmother lays an egg, and the pustules on this grandfather's body release a creature that causes the family to grow increasingly violent and insane.
Surrounded by industrial sites that spew pollution into the air and water, HIdeshi spends his time by a trash-filled river the color or "rich diarrhea." (I'd love to know the exact Japanese phrase that prompts that translation.) He is even more delighted when he discovers the sewers themselves. They prove a treasure trove for his growing collection of oddities he keeps in large specimen bottles. HIs parents abuse him, he tortures small animals, and in what must be Hino's definitive double-page image he rejoices over a landscape of dead pets and sludge, waving his arms and crying out "This is hell! Beautiful hell! Paradise in hell!."
I am surprised at how much I enjoy these things, although I am also glad I am not the parent of a twelve-year-old who is reading them. American horror comics, predating these by a several decades, followed formats from hard-boiled fiction and dealt with sin and retribution, with main characters usually reduced to quivering states of abject horror as they saw their comeuppance bearing down on them. With HIno primiitve desires are given free range and revenge is for the most part guilt-free. Several episodes end with a parody of the Warner Bros, "That's all folks" exit line from Looney Toon Cartoons. Little Hideshi, after a childhood of torture and grotesque horror, grows up to be a successful artist -- one who really knows how to draw a maggot-infested corpse.
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