I keep finding more and more Hideshi Hino manga in used book stores and comic book shops. Publishing companies in the mid 2000s was very, very into this particular creator. Rightly so, as Hino’s works are consistently poignant with a smattering of moral lessons and no shortage of blood, guts and maggots. As I’ve mentioned before, Hideshi Hino is an artist who dabbles in various media including film, self published zines, and of course comic books. For the j-horror fans out there, you may recognize Hideshi Hino as the director of two of the exploitation film series Guinea Pig: Mermaid in a Manhole and Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood.
Lullabies from Hell is special as it showcases several of Hino’s short stories that would later go on to become feature films. The first is Unusual Fetus: My Baby, a precursor to the 2004 Pony Canyon film Hideshi Hino’s Theater of Horror: Lizard Baby. Train of Terror would later become Hideshi Hino’s Theater of Horror: Death Train. But perhaps the jewel of Lullabies from Hell is the hauntingly beautiful story of an unfortunate simpleton named Zoroku.
While Unusual Fetus: My Baby deals with the fear of out-of-control inevitability and Train of Terror touches upon a mixture of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the reality bending of John Dies at the End, Zoroku’s Strange Disease has a humanity about it similar to the classic horror stories of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man. The story is small in that it only revolves around a selective group of characters, but because of this the author is able to take a very close look at the experiences of his cast. Tragic and beautiful at the same time that it is disgusting and over the top, Zoroku’s Strange Disease follows the exiled life of a man who simply wants to paint with colors mirroring those he sees in the glory of nature. How he eventually reaches this mastery of color is grotesque in the extreme, but so personal and touching that it’s impossible to not empathize with Zoroku as he makes the best of a terrible situation in his own limited sort of way.
Hideshi Hino has a fondness for the suffering of the undeserving. Often times his protagonists are people who have become outcasts due to their circumstances and physical deformities, or their natural instincts such as the animal-baby in Unusual Fetus: My Baby. The underlying message in his work is that monsters are not born, they are made by human hands. We see this in Hell Baby, numerous stories within the Hino Horror series, and even in the short semi-autobiographical story at the beginning of Lullabies from Hell. I highly recommend this book, not only because of the grotesque humanity in Hino’s art, but because of the book’s contents. Who doesn’t love a little slice of J-horror history!
Despite the timelessness of Hino’s works, the paper quality of Lullabies from Hell is not so timeless. Like nearly all print manga there’s only so many out there, and the supply of Lullabies from hell is plentiful in “used” quality, but new copies are currently running more than $100.00. So if you see a copy of this book laying around be sure to grab it for your collection. Dark Horse knew what they were doing when they signed on this title.