The unfortunate and surreal life of ‘pretty girls’ is told across fifteen tales from the modern master of the ‘Ero guro nansensu‘, Shintaro Kago. Tales of body obsession, extreme beauty techniques, and girls seeking revenge intertwine in a nauseating fashion that Kago has become known for.
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The work of Shintaro Kago is meant to offend sensibilities; with that in mind, it is important to gauge the content with this awareness of intent. Most notably, in approaching some of the more sexually explicit content, specifically stories of a derogatory nature towards its female subjects. Perhaps the worst culprit is in the chapter of “Communicable Mouth Disease”, which shows physical deformities through the act of promiscuity. This segment and others need to be approached with an openness and reflection found within fandom of the horror and exploitation genres. This exists as a pretext to the review, as this content is not for the easily offended.
In tackling some of the most explicit and questionable material, Denpa does shine some light on this edition in the story notes, which outline where the content was originally submitted. Knowing that the stories were marketed to different publications under different themes, helps justify the inconsistent quality, as well as giving the perspective of Kago marketing to different editors with varying criteria. This does not make some of the content more justifiable in its themes, but offers insight into the way that Kago markets himself and how it affects his work. Ultimately, a submission to literary publication is going to be approached differently than a pornographic magazine.
Ignoring the graphic nature and looking at the narrative of the work, Kago is able to construct some extremely bizarre and horrific scenarios. Taking on an interesting structure, these stories are approached in such a manner that foregoes establishing back story. This can be seen in “White String”, which presents the idea that we all have white strings that can be contorted to produce otherworldly results as a material fact. This lack of context is key in the tone of the mangaka’s stories, meaning each segment hits hard and fast to establish the graphic gusto with haste. There is a degree of balance, with the segments focused on horror feeling less sporadic. For example, segments such as “Miss Tomezuka’s Refined Hobby” themed around body horror, take the obsession of scratching to a horrific climax, which although easy to predict, is no less horrifying in execution. Regardless of approach, each segment presents graphic content that is going to challenge the reader. However, to those that seek it out or have a high tolerance for gross concepts, Kago presents a unique and perversely disturbing experience like none other.
Unfortunately, narrative works don’t seem to be Kago’s strength. Although the concepts are there, most of the stories fall apart within the dialogue, and the characters are generic, boring and one dimensional. This has been a consistent problem with the work of Kago, and the fandom existing more heavily around his visual style effects this sentiment. His work does not contain characters which are particularly memorable or dialogue that will leave a lasting impression. The focus on the art and concepts is more than enough to warrant the cult fan-base the mangaka has developed, but it is apparent his strength lies solely within certain elements.
Shintaro Kago has become somewhat of a recognizable figure through his artwork, gracing the pages of Vice magazine, producing odd animations and general interest in illustrations on social media. With this, owning any of his work has a large degree of appeal to have a physical copy of his illustrations, including this release. If it was not for the graphic and squeamish content within the illustrations, there are plenty of panels to be in awe of the talent shown, although this does help garner reason to reread and pick of the nuances of Kago’s visual style. This is particularity true in the full page illustrations at the start of each chapter, that offer up contorted visions of beauty.
Denpa, who published the collection and shows to be a growing name in niche manga releases, provides a somewhat bare edition, with the bonus content minimal,and only one page presented in colour. However, given the limited exposure to Kago’s short stories here in the west, the simplicity of the edition is understandable, and will hopefully be able to garner more interest and lead to other collected editions through Denpa. The cover layout and aesthetic is really well executed and would look stylish on any collectors shelf.
Kago is a unique talent, who blends surrealism, eroticism and horror through a sharp visuals, creating a sense of both repulsion and fascination. “Super Dimensional Love Gun” is not going to be for all audiences, the content can be hard to stomach, and it lacks a strong narrative structure. However Kago’s take on ‘erotic grotesque nonsense’ touches on different cultural aspects and genres, and fans of horror, erotica and dark comedy will find the content to latch onto and adore. With limited releases of the mangaka’s work, collections such as this and “Dementia 21” are either bound to become collectors editions, or be the start of an increased interest in the west of niche manga. Either way, it is plenty reason to tackle the absurd work of Kago and “Super-Dimensional Love Gun” is an ideal starting point.