Comic Review: The Terror of Japan! ‘Hino Horror’ by Hideshi Hino
Review by Comix
There are a lot of things that are both cute and deadly. Koalas, baby hippos, probably some species of butterflies. The work of Hideshi Hino is no exception. While the characters are the comic equivalent of bite-sized party favors, the horror that Hino unleashes on them is not for the faint of heart. Many cute and lovable characters are so crushed under the foot of unrelenting horror and brutality that it makes you wonder your own humanity. Having a cult-like following in Japan with the likes of other famed horror artists such as Junji Ito, Kazuo Umezu, and Suehiro Maruo, Hino’s work has also inspired countless movies, toys, and music to spread his visions of twisted morality. Though there are many fine examples of his comic work to showcase his ability, his most noted work is the 14 volume Hino Horror, one of the few comics that got translated this side of the pond.
The Hino Horror series is a collection of short and brutal work mostly focusing on morality and faults of the human condition. As each character goes about their lives, horror and pain rip apart each of their carefully constructed worlds to reveal a dark and disgusting underbelly. Horrible children get their comeuppance, greedy business men learn the real price of business and twisted families replay their tragedy over and over again. Though fairly standard by horror manga rules (I mean the short story format has been played to death), it’s Hideshi Hino’s ability to bring the massive of amounts of gore and decay into an otherwise limited genre that really sets him apart. Sure, you got all the basics like a spooky old ghost scaring kids in a school, or the girl who covets beauty and turns into some weird monster; pretty typical Japanese horror fan-fare, but something magical happens when it gets into Hino’s hands. He turns the torture and disgust meter up to eleven and makes you watch every terrible thing that happens to these people. While most horror artists will try to step back from over the top details, he practically shoves your face into it. Fountains of blood cascade on every page, strange creatures lurk in the sewers of the city, and murder, murder, MURDER! It’s ultra-violent! Some of you may read this and get bored at what seems like typical J-Horror fluff, but keep in mind, this stuff came out early in the Japanese horror industry, so it was then the standard for J-Horror. It’s the equivalent of Creepy or Eerie here in the states.
Fun fact, Hideshi Hino already has a strange and gritty history with the American public. As I mentioned before, Hino had also released several movies and they were just as bloody and perverted (if not more so) as his comics. One of the sets of movies that he had directed, known among cult movie lovers as the Guinea Pig Experiments, got anonymously mailed to, wait for it, Charlie Sheen. That’s right, good ol’ Tiger Blood Sheen. The particularly gruesome, one hour bit that he got from the set was called “Flowers of Flesh and Blood;” basically, one long torture film written and directed by Hino himself. Who sent it to him and why to Charlie Sheen, we will never know, but he watched and was so convinced that it was a snuff film that he reported the movie to American authorities. They, in turn, reported it to the Japanese authorities who tracked it down to Mr. Hino. Though they all knew it was a fake movie, Charlie Sheen was SO offended that he had the movie and the movie series banned from US shores for fifteen years. Though you can get the entire box set, “Flowers of Flesh and Blood” included, now in America, there is now an extra, hour long movie included with it just to show off the special effects used for the movies. I’d like to think Mr. Sheen had something to do with that.
Strange history aside, Hideshi Hino has proved time and time again that he has the balls, dick, and chode to push the envelope of horror as far as he can. Movie wise, on top of the Guinea Pig Experiments, he had also released another set of horror flicks called Hino’s Theater of Horror, which as much as I love the guy, absolutely sucks. It’s low-budget, basic cable horror that I think the Japanese audience watches when they can’t sleep. Honestly, just skip it, but do get the rest of his stuff. The comics are brilliant and The Guinea Pig Experiments are some of the goriest and nastiest stuff around. He also has an awesome line of toys made from some of his more famous characters such as Bug Boy and Hell Baby. Each of the toys are vinyl and vividly painted to bring out all the puss and blood action we have to expect from his creations. Unfortunately, the toys are a bit hard to find, so if anyone has a good place to snag them, let me know.
Depending on what you’re looking for from Hideshi Hino, it’s anywhere from super easy to extremely frustrating to get his stuff. The Hino Horror work released by DH Publishing, though not available in major book stores, does come in and out of comic book stores and used book places pretty regularly. Honestly, your best and cheapest bet is Amazon where the comics are often sold between a penny and a couple bucks in the used section. There’s also an art book called The Art of Hideshi Hino, published by Last Gasp, that has full color art pieces of his cover work that offers an amazing panorama of his more sublime horror art (with bonus comic!) The Guinea Pig experiments are, on the other hand, a lot harder to find and are mostly confined to the corners of Ebay and independent DVD companies ranging from a hundred dollars and up. Either way, Hideshi Hino has solidly left his mark on the world of not only Japanese horror, but horror in general. And if you’ve been reading my articles, this is the fourth installment of my masters of Japanese horror series. Now go forth and conquer Japan!