“I guess there were complaints, but I didn’t know about them at the time. Long afterward people would tell me things like, ‘Reading your manga as a child made me feel sick so I stapled the pages together,‘ or ‘I threw it down the pit toilet.’ I couldn’t believe it, why down the pit toilet?”
Hino is the author of The Red Snake, which I consider one of the finest, most horrifying comics of all time. It’s about family. That feeling of being trapped by your blood. It’s a book that feels like the sick, shameful recognition of a relative’s personal stink. It is disgusting.
The only English language edition of The Red Snake was released in 2004, by DH Publishing, as volume one in their Hino Horror series. It is currently out of print. As far as I’m aware these are the only manga they published. None of them are listed on the publisher’s Amazon page, but titles such as Yu Yu Hakusho Uncovered: The Unofficial Guide (Mysteries and Secrets Revealed!), J-rock Groupies: 200 Photographs of Unique Japanese Girls, and More Secrets of the Ninja: Their Training, Tools and Techniques are. I am sure you’d find much to enjoy in their non-Hino offerings if you’re the type who still owns a yaoi paddle.
There were 16 volumes in the Hino Horror line. I bought every single one of them. None of them compared to The Red Snake. Most of them are very unsatisfying. All of them had very questionable font choices. I do believe Comic Sans MS does not pair well with this man’s work. The more rough and tumble characters often speak in Cockney accents. This is the only time I’ve seen such a thing in manga. Based on this choice always I assumed DH Publishing was based in the UK, but who knows. Maybe whomever translated these books made a very interesting choice. The above panel is from volume 14, Skin & Bone. It is not very good.
It does have plenty of gore though. Lots of eyeballs popping out of sockets, or being puked up. The good stuff. Not scary but still, a tiny taste of some sickie kicks. Some of the stories are drawn in a style reminiscent of Junji Ito, an artist many years Hino’s junior. It is a very odd to see an artist whose protagonists usually look like El Hijo del Hans Moleman trying to do a Tomie.
Panorama of Hell is Hino’s other masterpiece. It’s also about family. It’s very loosely biographical — Hino’s grandfather was a yakuza, his father a pig farmer, he was born in post-war Manchuria as his family was retreating back to Japan — but I’m pretty sure the bit about his mother getting impregnated by the bomb that fell on Hiroshima is all fiction.
There are many depictions of abuse in Hino’s works. They are deeply unpleasant. These stories were published in magazines for children. Maybe they did belong in a pit toilet.
The English edition of Panorama of Hell was published in 1989 by Blast Books. It’s a much better presentation than DH’s offerings. Look at that lettering! It is just fine. And the translation is quite good, with one of the translator credits belonging to Screaming Mad George. You ever see Society? If you haven’t that’s a good one to watch this Halloween. Very relevant to our times and such. Screaming Mad George did some of the special make-up effects on that, and Predator, and Big Trouble In Little China, and I dunno, you go check out his IMDB page okay. He also had a hand in a PlayStation game titled Screaming Mad George’s ParanoiaScape. It’s not the best horror pinball game — that would be Devil’s Crush — but it sure is the weirdest. It sure is something. He also directed the live action adaptation of The Guyver, which used to air on cable every day a decade or two ago. The first time I saw that thing I was in awe, wondering out loud what the fuck it was, and this kid kept telling me “It’s The Guyver” and I kept telling him to shut up, it’s not MacGuyver, he is totally wrong, do you see Richard Dean Anderson blowing open a vault using paperclips and a Pringles can? But then later on I found out he was right and I was wrong and I owed that kid an apology. I shouldn’t have bullied that kid over TV. But you can’t really blame me okay, the Guyver is a pretty silly name.
Despite all the horrors in these comics there are also occasional bright spots like this page, one of the rare depictions of my body type in any visual medium. It’s also nice to see families bond over art.
Sometimes horror is more horrifying out of context. Like, one time I caught the climax of Motel Hell on TV. It had this dude wearing a rotting pig’s head trying to chop people up with a chainsaw. I found it unsettling. I couldn’t wait to watch the movie in its entirety. Then I finally saw the whole thing and it was, like, jokes. A kinda Texas Chainsaw Massacre parody. All telling you meat is murder. And that’s true, sure, but I liked that movie a lot more when I thought it was scary. I wish I’d never seen the whole thing.
Blast Books also published Hino’s Hell Baby, about an ugly baby who gets dumped in the garbage because she is so ugly. Then she goes on a killing spree, eating many of the people who called her ugly. It’s slight but good. The Bug Boy is a similar story, all about a kid who pukes up a bug one day, and the bug bites him, and he begins to rot and turn into a bug himself. Yes, it is like The Metamorphosis but better cuz it has lots of gory pictures. It is maybe the only other truly noteworthy Hino Horror release — Oninbo and the Bugs from Hell doesn’t live up to its title, I’m sorry to say.
The Bug Boy’s family hates him, of course. They beat him, and poison him, and bury him. Once again, adults and siblings are all abusive, they are the true monsters, we all know this I’m sure, let’s all go live in the sewers.
Bug Boy loves it in the sewers. It’s his party zone, even though it was filled with dead bodies before he even showed up. Lots of fetuses and corpses in the sewers in Hino comics. You’d think all that poop would be bad enough but Hino always gotta go big.
There are many extreme tonal shifts throughout The Bug Boy. I can dig that. I’ve always liked Tezuka. I loved when he’d totally spoil the mood by putting some dumb joke or stupid cameo in the middle of a heavy dramatic sequence. There’s nothing quite as egregious in this book but there is lots of puke, and a Tarzan sequence, and also the Bug Boy getting drunk off sake. Is it still underage drinking if you’re a bug? Don’t ask me. I’m also not old enough to drink.
In the 80’s Hino directed a few direct-to-video horror movies. One of them was titled Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood. It was a faux snuff film. Allegedly Charlie Sheen came across a copy in the 90s and was so convinced it was legit he called the FBI, who dropped the case once they watched the making-of featurette that showed damn, this ain’t real at all. I can’t tell you if Sheen’s reaction was justified. I have never seen the movie. It sounds way too gross for my taste. Plus why would I watch a movie when I could read a comic? Comics are so much better. Especially horror comics. Happy Halloween.