Last night, an octopus materialized into my office and reproached me for neglecting manga during my Tentacle Tuesday forays. I vowed to do better! As octopuses are impatient fellows, I decided not to tarry and complied immediately.
While the previous manga is about a schoolgirl trying to get her classmate’s attention (she’s also a ninja, not that it simplifies matters), the following concerns itself with a shy boy who falls instantly in love with a (male) student from his class and spends the rest of the story trying to get closer to him.
Adventures in Poor Taste’s Trevor Richardson wrote a slightly extravagant review of Go for It, Nakamura! that delves deep into this manga’s the cephalopod imagery. Just for the fun of all the octopus metaphors, I’ll quote:
« As a queer person, I couldn’t help but identify with that queer young man who doesn’t yet know how to use all the extra arms that queerness grants him. Who doesn’t yet know how to push his tentacles up against the metal lid of self-doubt and oppression and twist it off. Who isn’t yet able to expel all that confusion and rejection like a cloud of black ink and surge down to trenches where straight people never dare drift to join his fellow otherworldly, queer creatures in the dark. »
To those who aren’t into high school romance but prefer their manga on the side of the macabre and the bizarre, I propose Octopus Girl by Toru Yamazaki (1990), though the events still mostly take place at a school. Takoko, our main character, is bullied by her classmates and nearly killed by them when they decide to semi-drown her and then force her to eat a live octopus (to which, the story specifies, she is allergic, because eating a live octopus isn’t horrifying enough as it is). As a response to this ordeal, she turns into an octopus (with a girl’s head) and exacts terrible revenge on her bullies!
Moving on to proper horror – in the sense of it being devoid of comedy -, two pages from Junji Ito’s Gyo Ugomeku Bukimi (Fish: Ghastly Squirming), published as a series between 2001 and 2002 in the Japanese weekly manga magazine Big Comic Spirits. I’m enough of an aficiona-Ito to own most of his work that’s been translated into English, and though a lot of his stories are rather hit-and-miss, Gyo is one of the genuinely gruesome ones.
Ito is quite adept at conjuring up quite far-fetched yet terrifying plots, with events spinning faster and faster out of control until… until he doesn’t quite know how to tie up the story. Having gone so deep into the utter destruction of the world, there’s no elegant dénouement available but sheer Armageddon. That is definitely a weakness, so I tend to prefer his short stories, where the conclusions are fast and hard-hitting. That being said, I definitely recommend reading Gyo (read it here, but remember to support the artist by purchasing!) and Uzumaki (another terrifying read likely to leave you with a phobia of spirals). For an excellent discussion of Junji Ito’s appeal, please consider the excellently written The Horrifying Appeal of Junji Ito.
Okay, a couple more horror comics!
I’ll leave off on a somewhat… sexualized… note with two pages from the dark world of Berserk by Kentaro Miura, first published in 1988 and still going on. It’s been called one of the greatest literary works in all of manga… well, I can’t vouch for that, as I haven’t read much of it, but it does seem complex, at any rate.
Oh, as long as we’re on the topic of probing tentacles, I’ll wrap up with some Toshio Maeda, an erotic manga artist and pioneer of hentai. His best known work is Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend which been credited with popularizing the trope of tentacle rape. Fellow tentacle lovers, are you for or against such a use of tentacles? Please let us know in the comments.