Artbook Spotlight: The Art of Hideshi Hino
January 13, 2012
Hideshi Hino – Presspop Gallery/Last Gasp – 2007 – 80 pages – ISBN 9784903090054
If you enjoy horror manga, odds are you’ve run across Hideshi Hino at some point. He specializes in gory thrills. Quite a few of his one-shot volumes have been translated into English. The selection of books here is an interesting balance between stories written for children, like Oninbo and the Bugs from Hell, and more mature and deranged stories, like The Red Snake. Many stories are both at once, such as Zoroku’s Strange Disease from the Lullabies from Hell compilation. It’s about a mentally handicapped man in a remote Japanese village that begins to rot and develops colorful sores all over his body. The townspeople eventually banish him to a swamp by himself, then later show up to kill him when the smell from the disease reaches the town anyway. The ending is bittersweet, but also a bit morally ambiguous and shockingly dark for a story that ran in a magazine for grade school children in 1969. In an interview, Hino says he received letters from children for years stating that they had to staple the pages of his story together so they couldn’t see the images of Zoroku rotting. This story, incidentally, is also the first of Hino’s horror stories. He mentions being inspired by Kazuo Umezu and Yoshiharu Tsuge, but the fable-like nature of Zoroku was directly inspired by The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury.
Hino’s also quite fond of writing “autobiographical” work starring artist characters (sometimes named Hideshi Hino) that have bizarre things happen to them. The best of these, and one of the best volumes of horror manga I’ve ever read, is Panorama of Hell. Panorama of Hell is mostly fiction, but contains shades of truth, such as his family’s exile from Manchuria after World War II and details about his yakuza grandfather.
Anyway. His art style is highly unusual, and I was shocked the day I found this book in the comic store completely unlooked-for. While a tad expensive for what it is (the paper stock is pulpy instead of glossy, and it’s very short), it’s odd to see an artist like Hino with an artbook of his own, and it’s worth having for Hino fans. Most of the artwork represented is from stories that have been translated into English, and there are also three short color stories in the back of the book.
I’ve scanned less images than normal this time around because I don’t want to show off too much. The book is short, so the more you see the less there is to discover. It’s worth supporting this release, which I believe is a joint Japanese/English publication.
Also, one of the images below is NSFW.
The cover, when shrinkwrapped, has a sticker with a pull quote from Junko Mizuno on it. The introduction, “Psudo Amida Sutra of a Dreaming Embryo,” is written by famous ero-guro artist Suehiro Maruo, and is mostly a string of strange and unrelated words that do not form sentences. It’s appropriate, though.
Hino’s MO is mostly children or rotting corpses, sometimes both together. His children are quite distinctive, usually stout, lumpy, and wide-eyed. His style is more cartoony than most other horror artists, which often makes his subject matter that much more disturbing. His rotting corpses are never more graphic than what you see above, but he’s quite good at setting and context. While this rotting corpse is only slightly disturbing-looking, it becomes much more upsetting when it emerges from a river full of body parts onto a bank strewn with rat-infested garbage.
There’s a few Zoroku illustrations, he lends himself to color more than Hino’s stories usually do. Hino’s drab and hopeless settings aren’t terribly vivid, though they work better that way. Unfortunately, a lot of the images in this collection omit the usual backgrounds, and are just characters against a solid color as you see in the first image. I assume these pieces are promos for older work, and they’re interesting collected together like this, but they make for a boring art book.
Strangely, several of the images are what appear to be colored/tinted panels from Hell Baby. I have no idea why. It’s not really the most interesting, visually, of his volumes. Then again, I’m not the biggest fan of Hell Baby, so maybe I’m biased. This page does give you a good idea of what the backgrounds look like in the books themselves, though.
This image is a little different, since these are ghosts or spirits as opposed to Hino’s usual body horror and monsters. They’re still rotting a little bit, but their attire suggests they like to menace more than they like to decompose.
This is my favorite image in the book. No explanation necessary. Strangely, this is before a series of illustrations from the story “Unusual Fetus – My Baby” in Lullabies from Hell, which is about a woman giving birth to a lizard baby, the first in a long string of vicious animal-babies being born to human women. Though it’s some sort of spontaneous regression in the story, this image suggests it might be amorous lizard men at the root of the epidemic. This isn’t even remotely hinted at in the story itself. To further complicate matters, Hino’s stories never have erotic content, and this is the only such image I have ever run across in his work.
The stories in the back of the book aren’t much more than a bonus. They’re all 6 pages long, and read more like the essence of a Hino story than a story in and of themselves. It is fairly novel to see them in color, though. This story, “The Red Fruit,” is strangely Gorey-esque, except for the part where the sister slices open a kitten and eats its guts.
In short, it’s not really a book that would be of interest to anybody but Hideshi Hino fans. However, if you are a fan of his work, it is an absolute must-have for all the weird and wonderful it contains between its covers. You might check your local Half Price Books if you’re looking for a copy. I seem to recall stacks of it on display at many of the stores about a year back.