GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Pits of Hell

Breakdown/Fantagraphics. Apr. 2020. 200p. ISBN 9781911081081. pap. $22.50. Rated: M. HORROR
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In stories originally published in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Yoshikazu presents an unhinged and nightmarish vision of Japanese life at that time. In the opening tale, a teacher struggling to connect with his students is driven insane by their disrespectful antics and commits an unspeakably violent act, at which point they happily applaud him for finally revealing his emotions. In “Wiped Out Workers,” 100, 000 low-paid, unskilled laborers across Japan suddenly fall asleep at work. A government official suggests that employers use violence to wake them up; by the end, the streets are littered with dead bodies. Several stories explore the lives of degenerate gamblers, nearly all of them touch on the dehumanizing effect of living at the whim of a faceless government or corporation. Yoshikazu’s illustrations are angular and sketchy, far from the dynamic lines commonly associated with manga, but perfectly suited to these nightmarish and frequently surreal stories. An essay by translator Holmberg (The Man Without Talent) offers biographical information and contextualizes Yoshikazu’s cult status in Japan.
VERDICT Not for everyone, but fans of surreal or psychological horror are sure to embrace this collection.

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