Saturday, February 17, 2007
Kijin Gahoh (奇人画報)
by Shintaro Kago (駕籠真太郎)
Published in Manga Erotics and Manga Erotics F (Ohta)
1 volume (2002-2003)
Marginally infamous in the English-speaking world for his piece in Secret Comics Underground and his inclusion in Pulp's (R.I.P.) list of the 10 Manga That Must Never Be Translated for Kagayake! Daitoakyoeiken, a satirical manga in which Japan lays waste to all in WW2 with giant schoolgirl tanks that shoots cannons of shit, Shintaro Kago is... well, he's just kind of a sick fuck. Kijin Gahoh (Eccentrics Illustrated) finds him balancing black humor with the grotesque in a way that is both appalling and amusing.
The majority of the book is a series of stories about collections. The first one starts out innocuously enough, compared to the rest of the book. A girl with a fanatical crush on a boy in her class takes samples of everything he touches, to add to her collection. What starts off with bits of chalk, library books and umbrella handles eventually turns to pieces of her own skin when he makes bodily contact with her. When she learns he's been making out with another girl, she kidnaps the offender and removes the skin of her hands, her mouth, and (because he had gotten to second base) her breasts. This mutilation proves fatal for the poor girl, which sets up the punchline when her dad walks in on the gory scene. Rather than being shocked or upset, he is pleased that he can now add another brain to his brain collection.
The following story is far more disturbing, the test of mettle I had to pass to be able to read the rest of the book. A playboy with a penchant for taking pictures decides to combine photography with his favorite pastime of receiving head. In a structural move reminiscent of some of Naoki Yamamoto's short stories, Kago tells the story through a simple chronology of repetitive snapshots with descriptions. The pictures, each of a woman with his penis in her mouth, start off plainly enough, but as the playboy grows tired of the same old thing, the entries get more and more adventurous. He has one girl attempt the act with various types of food in her mouth. Each time, he describes the sensation and whether or not he was able to ejaculate. Eventually he is moving on to animals and women with horrible mouth infections. The entries get more and more sadistic, introducing torture until each one is of a corpse killed and mutilated in a specific way. As with the first chapter, Kago saves a punchline for the final snapshot. Finally out of all other options, the sicko decides to go for the final frontier by severing his own head and using it on himself.
The images are horrific to be sure, but Kago retains a playful air while telling the stories. There is a constant air of amusement and aloofness present that prevents any particular images from being too heavily repeated or emphasized by the author. Indeed, some of the stories are more humorous than shocking, most particularly the final chapter, in which Santa Claus is a figure of terror, striking without warning at any moment and deluging his victims with a bombardment of presents that crush them to death.
Kago's artwork is relatively detailed, but his use of predominantly straight lines, spindly physiques and slight hatching gives off a nervous, stark air that suits the macabre subject matter. Unsurprisingly, there is a noticeable increase in detail and attention on the more grotesque scenes. Between the unflinching portrayals of violence and the obvious lack of hesitation to use any subject matter that comes to his mind (fetuses, sexual fetishes, mutilation), Kago's work is a very heady and sometimes fascinating brew, but the kind of thing that could shatter social relationships if someone happened to stumble across it on your bookshelf. I'll get around to reading more of him someday... once I work up my stomach.