Friday, August 25, 2006

Lullabies from Hell: Retribution Part 1

by Hideshi Hino

What evil lurks in the hearts of men? Hideshi Hino knows, and it seems this evil has leaked from his heart to his brain and fingertips, as this first English release by Dark Horse is dripping with the hideous heebie-jeebies. Where Scary Book is a bit more fun, Lullabies from Hell feels like getting strapped into a Disneyland ride where every cute animatronic robot is spurting blood out its eyes and is trying to kill you. The ride ends when the rickety cart carrying you spills into a gaping hole to Hell.
If Hideshi Hino wasn’t a successful horror manga writer, he surely would be a successful mental institution patient. His imagery is uniquely cute and creepy at the same time. Many of the realities he creates feel like a parallel world, just on the other side of this one (like in the story “Train of Terror”), but very dark and very wicked.

The opening story, “Lullaby from Hell” is the real test of whether or not you are ready to enter Hino’s heinous world. In this story a horror manga writer (Hino himself?) tells his sad life story. As can be expected, as a poor young lad, the writer gets little love and support from his delirious mother and his violent father. What he receives is mostly abuse and punches. As the writer gets older he finds he isn’t as well-adjusted as he initially thought, but he has something better than a stable disposition… The ending of Lullaby from Hell comes from out of nowhere, and will take any and all readers by surprise.

The remaining three stories are also extreme tales of horror. Hino understands the limitless nature of the manga genre, and in takes advantage of this in the oddly green-themed tale “Unusual Fetus – My Baby”. What starts as a traditional told-around-the-campfire tale turns into a frantic story of survival in “Train of Terror”. The regrettable and repulsive tale “Zoroku’s Strange Disease” tugs at your heart-strings while sticking a finger down your throat.

Lullabies from Hell is definitely not for everyone (especially younger readers), and if you are not familiar with J-horror, it might be a little much as a jumping-off point, (The Scary Book series might be a better introduction). But for those who like to laugh at children when they fall down and car accidents, Lullabies from Hell will be a perfect macabre match.


Anonymous Peter Williams said...

Not sure if you're interested or not, but one of our writers has posted a series of reviews about Hideshi Hino at The Open Critic.

It's certainly not mainstream stuff, but it does seem to be coming in for more attention from the mainstream press. The Open Critic featured it because of it of the arguement made that it's rooted in the same pathos as all great literature ... Kafka for instance ... The Bug Boy and Metamorphosis for instance are eerily similar.

Regards, Peter Williams, The Open Critic

Ps ... reviews can be read here if you're interested ... Hideshi Hino Reviewed

2/15/2007 12:29 PM  

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