Friday, January 16, 2009

LULLABIES FROM HELL - REVIEW

Happy new year folks, sorry for my late return. I've been quite up to my eyes in shit, mostly just working on my portfolio I have to send off in a month or so. And then there's the CAO form ordeal...
But forgetting that, let's get onto some manga, eh?
First up, my review of Hideshi Hino's Lullabies From Hell, as promised two posts ago.

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LULLABIES FROM HELL
By Hideshi Hino
Dark Horse Manga
227 pages

Ashamedly, this is my first taste of Hideshi Hino. I first came across his art in the first issue of British Manga and Anime mag Neo, and boy it was fucked up. There was a review of The Red Snake and Bug Boy. One particular image from Bug Boy attached in the review has remained a stain on my mind for years since reading that review.
Over the last while, I've gained an interest in horror manga, and naturally I heard the name Hideshi Hino come up a lot. And thus, I was more than delighted when I spotted one of his books, in this case Lullabies From Hell, for a cheap price of six euro over in Chapters Bookstore. I bought it without a second thought, an I do not regret that decision.

Lullabies From Hell is the first work of Hino's released by Dark Horse, who by now are well-known for their catalog of horror manga. I was suprised to find that the 13+ volumes of Hino Horror I'd heard of before were not published by Dark Horse, but by DH Manga (hard not to make that mistake, right?).
This particular collection is nicely balanced one, to say the least. It opens up with an introductory story ("A Lullaby From Hell") concerning the manga-ka himself, and his childhood gift of determining the death of those around him. The first page is quite startling; Hino, a slim figure with greasy black hair, unflinching eyes and revoltingly twisted sneer, stares out of his run-down house, that lies amid various filth-clogged sewers and smoke-belching factories;
"My name is Hideshi Hino. I am a mangaka who obsessed over bizzare and terrible things... In this rickety old two-story house, surrounded by factories and chimneys, I draw grotesque manga every day."
Really sets the atmosphere, doesn't it?

The second story ("Unusual Fetus - My Baby") concerns a mangaka and his wife who consider the thougth of animals being born to humans, only for that idea to become ultimately realized. I liked the premise of this story a lot, and the sheer thougth of it is unnerving. Hino brilliantly portrays the frustration and confusion of a father of an alien child, whose every day is a tormenting stuggle to hide the mutant child. Unfortunately, this story is ended pretty abruptly, which is a shame for a manga that would make an interesting multiple-volume series. Hino adapts a more realistic, Gekiga-influenced style here. Richly inked and moody panels add to the sense of paranoia and suspicion surrounding this story.

The third is a more conventional horror story, titled "Train of Terror"; a group of kids emerge from a train tunnel into a world of alienation where everyone they knew has turned against them, and a silent stranger in a black fedora and trenchcoat pursues them. What I liked most about this one, was it's nightmareish quality that I can relate to; the unexplained black-clad figure, the turn-of-events ending, and generally the thought of your closest ones becoming demons.
Art stlye of this story was akin to good ol' Umezu, with some scenes reminiscent of Drifting Classroom.

The fourth and final story was by far the best in the collection; "Zoroku's Strange Disease".
A heartfelt, and grotesque story of a farmer back in pre-modern Japan who suffers a strange condition that presents him with large boils and lumps on his body an face. He is a simple man of few words who is constantly under surveillance from his family because of his mental condition. Zoroku is criticized and spurred by the village for his lack of productivity, as he prefers to wander off to remote regions to paint and observe nature. Eventually Zoroku's state worsens to a stage where he's cast to the darker regions of the forest to reside in a small cottage. The ending left me wordless, almost depressed, but I won't ruin it for anyone who's yet to read it. Hino magnificently illustrates Zoroku's transformation in an inhuman being, a bulging mass of skeleton and bulbous oozing boils not even the local wild carnivores will dare approach, never mind his own mother. Zoroku's pain is heart-breaking; his isolation incomparable; he is reduced to a blithering creature bathing in his own multicolored pus, urine and sweat.
The last few pages are some of the most memorable in manga, including a two-page spread of the men of the village gathered in warlike formation, adorning traditional Oni masks, standing silently in the chilling wind and snow, poised with spear and shield. Breathtaking stuff.

I've written just about enough now; if this review intrigued you whatsoever, then don't waste another second and order that shit! It was only released a few years back, so don't wait till its OOP and too late!
On an ending note; I am now in love with Hideshi Hino. I'm dying to buy Panorama of Hell, his Hino Horror collection and the recent art book of his as well. Whether Dark Horse plan to release any more Hino material in the future is unknown, but I'd certainly welcome it!


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* Sean Michael Wilson is one of the first non-Japanese author to have his work readily available on mobile phones over in Japan, as he relates to us over at his blog. He also tells of a new book on the style of Gekiga he's currently working on (not related to his other upcoming Gekiga work, Top Cow's AX Anthology)
* Ryan Sand's posts his favourite manga of 2008 over at Same Hat
* Deadbeat Scans begin work on scanlating Naoki Urasawa's latest manga, Billy the Bat. Unfortunately, only chapters 2 and 3 are available at the moment, but anyone who's an Urasawa fan should know to download them anyway!
* Scanlation group Kitten-Patriot release an interesting short minimal romance story from a 1967 issue of GARO; A Train At the End of Summer. Should be of interest to anyone who enjoyed Seiichi Hayashi's Red Colored Elegy. (Thanks to Oli of Bakaneko for originally scanning this in French!)
*The cover to Viz Media's volume 1 release of Daisuke Igarashi's fantastical series Children of the Sea has been released (the title looks a little off-center though, doesn't it?)
* Christopher Butcher shares some highly interesting thoughts and predictions for this year in manga, over at Comics 212 (RECOMMENDED READING!). He also gives us the lowdown on Yoshihiro Tatsumi's mammoth biography A Drifting Life, due sometime this year, along with the news of Tatsumi's previous collecions getting re-printed!

Coming up soon; a review of Adolf : An Exile In Japan, manga to look forward to in 2009, pages from a short story by Yoshiharu Tsuge, and the usual news...