My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On the title page of The Bug Boy, we read, "This is the sad and horrifying tale of a boy with a terrible affliction."
That pretty much says it all.
Little Sanpei is another of Hino's wimpy protagonists with Peter Lorre eyes, shunned by schoolmates and even his family because of his fascination with bugs. You can't help but feel they have a point. Sanpei is also fond of runaway dogs, cats, wounded birds, and the like, but bugs are his passion. Then one day he is bitten by a strange, red caterpillar. He gets sick. He starts to stink up the family house. His family is too ashamed to deal with this in any logical manner. Sanpei dies, but from his mummified corpse he is reborn as, you guessed it, Bug Boy.
Now that he is a slug the size of a ten-year-old, he is shunned by family and his managerie of outcast animals. He has a rough go of it in the sewers of Tokyo, until he discovers that the bright red barb on his tail is lethal. This leads to a satisfying period of payback, but he is wounded and hounded back into the sewers.
This is Kafka filtered through J-Horror, with an end somewhat reminiscent of Jack Arnold's The Incredible Shrinking Man. The badly wounded Sanpei drifts out of the sewers, into the ocean, and toward the sunset, a part of nature at last.
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