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Sex, Depravity and Absolute Madness: The Bizarre World of Ero Guro Nansensu

In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

Ero guro nansensu or Erotic grotesque nonsense, is a Japanese art movement encompassing visual, literal, cinematic and even the musical arts. The name is quite self-explanatory, describing this eccentric movement perfectly, but still, like much of the content found inside the movement, leaves you questioning just what the hell is it? In a nutshell ero guro, or simply guro, can be described as a celebration of all things bizarre. It’s a combination of erotic themes, extreme violence, obsession, fetishes and general immorality, with a healthy dose of complete absurdity and psychedelic madness thrown in the mix. Like many protagonists of ero guro storytelling, I found myself a woman obsessed while writing this piece. The more I explored, read and wrote, the more I found myself drawn into this monstrous world, and even though I feel like I’ve had a fairly decent look at the movement, I simultaneously feel that I’ve only scratched the surface. I’ve tried my best to encompass the various different art forms the movement has touched over the years and give you, dear reader, a well-balanced view of it all. Some artists, writers or films are undoubtedly missing, but I wish this will at very least give a decent first glimpse of this bizarre world.

Ero guro nansensu was born in the interwar years in Japan, defying censorship laws and general morality by embracing everything that was perverse, corrupt, grotesque and, of course, erotic, mixing these elements into a unique blend of horrifically intriguing nonsense. Rapid modernisation, changing social climate and the rise of fascism all contributed to the birth of ero guro. It not only offered escapism from the current political climate but also worked as a form of resistance against state-endorsed ideas of acceptable morality.

While the beginnings of the movement are in the 1920’s, the history of ero guro art reaches as far back as late Edo and Meiji periods. Ukiyo-e artists creating woodblock prints and paintings of the “floating world” offered their audiences a myriad of themes and genres to choose from, including scenes from nature, theatre, history, folklore and the supernatural. Even if you know nothing about art, let alone Japanese art, in this age of information you would be hard pressed not have come across at least one painting by Katsushika Hokusai, most probably the “one with the waves” (The Great Wave of Kanagawa that is). However, what might have eluded even the fans of this particular art form are the little sub-genres hiding within it, that dealt with, shall we say, seedier subject matters. Shunga or “spring pictures” were incredibly popular by artists and audiences alike and were produced in huge numbers during the Edo period.  They depicted human sexuality in all its glory, encompassing female sexuality, homosexuality and even bestiality (most famous one being Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, 1814, which is often cited as being the precursor of tentacle erotica). While surprisingly graphic in its imagery, shunga had a playfulness and gentle humour to it, setting it apart from Western erotica of its time. It’s depiction of sex was without shame and was enjoyed by men and women of all classes. The images were to be shared with one’s nearest and dearest but were also popular wedding gifts for young brides and even used as talismans of protection.  This particularly Japanese take on erotica is something that has continued to influence Japanese art, cinema and animation for decades after and is unquestionably one of the big influences behind the modern ero guro movement.

Lonely house on Adachi Moor

However, the real precursor to ero guro can be found in the ukiyo-e sub-genre of muzan-e, that offered images of more gruesome nature. Translation as “bloody prints”, the genre focused on illustrating the most brutal of crimes; torture and murder with occasional erotic undertones thrown into the mix. The most famous artist of the genre, and man often cited as the creator or muzan-e as well as the last master of ukiyo-e, was Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. During his career that spanned over two eras, Late Edo and early Meiji, Yoshitoshi explored many different subject matters including famous battle scenes and a series depicting acclaimed beauties. However, the work that he is perhaps most remembered by is Twenty-Eight Famous Murders with Verse (Eimei nijūhasshūku)depicting murders in extremely graphic detail, including beheadings and bloody torture scenes. In 1885 Yoshitoshi tackled the folktale The Hag of Adachigahara, a story of cannibalistic old woman that preys on travelers, particularly those who are pregnant, and created a piece called The Lonely House on Adachi Moor. While not quite as graphic as the paintings in Twenty-Eight Famous Murders with Verse, the horror of the image illustrating a heavily pregnant woman caught by the hag and hanging upside down over her fire, is something truly gruesome even with todays standards. Simultaneously, it’s impossible to deny the well-balanced composition and beautiful use of colour that the image has, making it easy to see why Yoshitoshi is considered in such high regard when it comes to muzan-e. The long-lasting impact of his art is a testament to his talent and the influence of this great painter are still present in the paintings of modern day guro artists.

As an art movement ero guro has come in waves. Starting from the shunga and muzan-e and reappearing again in more modern form the 1920’s and 1930’s. It’s next great wave came in the 1970’s with various mangakas and illustrators embracing the movement in new ways.

Miyazaki born and Osaka raised Toshio Saeki is undoubtedly one of the most influential artists of ero guro movement’s second wave. While his work remained largely unknown outside of the art world for decades, his enigmatic imagery has seen a surge of interest in Japan, Europe and USA alike in the recent years. His works, known for the simplistic drawing style, are certainly not for the faint of heart. They depict not only horrific acts of violence, but also acts of love between people, animals, plants and mythological creatures, extreme Shibari (type of bondage), genital mutilation and physical sickness. The influences of various Ukiyo-e and muzan-e artists is clearly visible in his work with obvious references to some of the more iconic pieces (such as the The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife). While all of this might sound somewhat horrific and not something most art lovers wish to hang on their walls, Saeki’s work comes with his trademark bit of humour that gives his work a levity which makes the grotesque imagery easier to digest. The character in his work, quote often depicted in various stages of being violated variably by themselves or someone (or something) else, usually exude a sense of pleasure making even the most depraved imagery seem somehow playful. Light-hearted, mischievous, grotesque and darkly comical, Saeki’s use of colour, his simple lines and incredibly outlandish scenarios are like pop art on acid and well worthy of extensive exploration.

Junji Ito is undoubtedly a name which most fans of horror comics, manga or otherwise, are familiar with. While his work is more synonymous with pure horror than ero guro, a great quantity of his work possesses many of the hallmarks of the movement. The most notable example of course being the Tomie series. Spanning over 20 chapters, the story of ageless succubus Tomie whose powers of regeneration would even give the creature from The Thing a reason to be envious, is not only a fantastic example of Ito’s body horror at it’s best, but also has the spirit of ero guro in its heart. It’s a story of an irresistibly beautiful and mystically alluring young woman who seduces pretty much everyone and anyone she encounters. Who drives men to madness, murder and destruction and who herself inevitably ends up six feet under in the process. During her saga she is drowned, stabbed, frozen, decapitated and dismembered, only for her to regenerate and come after the next helpless victim, enticing them even in her dismembered state. The stories are a captivating mix of gruesome violence and bizarre body horror with a strong erotic charge. I wouldn’t go as far as to label all the 20 stories as ero guro, as the story arcs vary widely between the different chapters. However, Tomie as a character is in my mind pretty much the perfect poster girl for what the movement represents; undying temptress with never ending lust for destruction. More obvious examples of Ito’s guro works can be found in his short stories, few of which can be found in the collection Fragments of Horror. Wooden Spirit, a bizarre tale of a young architecture student who is sexually attracted to buildings and Dissection-Chan, a story of a young woman whose greatest desire is to be dissected alive both fall on the guro side of horror. Ito’s beautifully gloomy art work is full of darkly bizarre imagery and while, as stated, most of his stories belong more on the traditional side of horror, his incredibly detailed illustrations filled with the most outrages metamorphosis and extravagant ways to die, certainly have the air of ero guro movement all over them.

Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show

Perhaps lesser known, but still a mangaka well worth exploring is Suehiro Maruo. His fantastical works of art are as fascinating as they are gruesome with a recognisably colourful style. His first attempt at getting published by the Weekly Shonen Jump in the early 1970’s was unsuccessful as the editors redeemed his work too graphic for the magazine, but after finding his feet and his audience as an artist he went on to be frequently featured in the underground manga magazine Garo, known for publishing stories with more avant-garde themes. His stories often take place in the early Showa Era Japan and often feature human oddities, such as circus freaks., his best-known work (in the West anyhow) being Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show. In more recent years Maruo has adapted the literary works of the writer Edogawa Ranpo and has given Tale of Panorama Island and The Caterpillar a new lease of life in comic form. Besides manga, Maruo has worked in the world of illustration producing artwork book covers, posters, record jackets and magazines. His artwork is known for extremely savage imagery and was in fact featured in a book titled Bloody Ukiyo-e (1988) alongside the traditional prints of muzan-e masters like Yoshitoshi and Yoshiiku.

Manga artist and illustrator Shintaro Kago is yet another artist with recognisable ero guro style of his own. His work in the world of comics deals with subjects like extreme sex and body modification and has been published in several different adult manga publications. However, it’s his offbeat, outlandish and on occasion, horrifically disgusting illustrations that have made him a name outside of Japan. Many of his paintings depict young girls with their heads and/or brains dissected in the most whimsical ways, often being cut up into a spiralling shape by a railroad track. Another running theme is heads being split open to reveal a mass of eyes, a different face peering through or something seemingly random, like a load of candy or a litter of cats bursting out. In a recent interview with Huckmag.com Kagu tells how as a child he loved Monty Python and how it influenced his sense of humour and love of the absurd. And that influence is indeed easy to see when examining his work. It’s not just the nonsensically grotesque world that he has created, but also the pale, almost faded looking colour palette that he uses that distinctly brings to mind the Python animations, and even though Kagu’s work deals with much darker subject matters, the same sense of fun and silliness still comes through in his work.

Takato Yamamoto

Takato Yamamoto is a name perhaps not known by many, but those with interest in horror related art have probably come across a painting or two from his enchantingly eerie catalogue. His work carries all the trademarks of ero guro from bloody violence to bizarre sexual imagery, but what really sets Yamamoto’s art apart is his unique blend of traditional ukiyo-e aesthetics with Western Gothic art, a style he himself named “Heisei Aestheticism”. It might sound like an unusual mix, but in Yamamoto’s hands, these two genres of art have merged together into something truly spellbinding. The paintings are generally dark, ruled by a few primary tones and filled with incredible amount of small details that draw the eye in and makes you want to study each piece with care. Many of the paintings have a great degree of symmetry that only baffles the mind even further. Androgynous characters are often depicted nude or with only partial clothing and posing with skeletons or twisted masses of flesh that engulf a large part of the image. Disembodied heads and various bondage scenarios repeat themselves throughout his work. Despite all this horror, the ambiance coming through all his work is not one of violence or chaos, but one of serenity. There’s a great sense of calm to all his work that somehow enhances the eeriness of the imagery even further.

Besides the great ukiyo-e artist, the other major influence of the ero guro movement comes of course from the literary world and the movement would certainly not be what it is without the works of Hirai Taro, better known as Edogawa Ranpo (also romanized as Rampo). Even though Ranpo was not first on the scene with his mystery fiction, and his debut publication The Two-Sen Cupper Coin (1923) was predated by the works of such writer as Ruiko Kuroiwa, Kaita Murayama and Haruo Sato, his intricate storylines focusing on the logical process of rationalisation and linking them in closely to Japanese culture is what gave him an edge over other writers. While his earlier stories were more clearly focused on the process of crime solving, his stories often edged on the side of bizarre. For example, his 1925 story The Human Chair (Ningen-isu) told a tale of a man who hid inside of a chair because he wished to feel the weight of people sitting on him. Coming to the end of the decade and moving on to the 1930’s, Ranpo changed the tone of his stories from more traditional sleuth mysteries toward something slightly more off kilter, as he found that the more gruesome the stories were, the more people wanted to read them. His tales often featured a single-minded obsession of some kind; something completely mundane transforming into an all-consuming force that takes over an individual’s life. One of the best-known stories of this era, and one of Ranpo’s best known ero guro stories, is Blind Beast (Moju, 1928). It’s a tale of a blind sculptor whose obsession of finding the perfect models for his life like sculptures drives him to unspeakable acts of violence. Of all the Ranpo’s stories is quite possibly one the most horrific ones. The next year Ranpo published, The Caterpillar (Imo Mushi, 1929), a story of a war veteran returning home from unspecified war with his arms and legs missing and is soon faced with new kind of horrors, as his dutiful wife’s tender care turns into sadistic torture. Both stories have lived on in different forms well after their first publication, Blind Beast getting its cinematic adaptation in 1969 (Yasuzô Masumura) and The Caterpillar in 2010 (Kōji Wakamatsu). The Caterpillar also found its way on the pages of manga in the hands of Suehiro Maruo. Of course, these are not the only Ranpo stories that have made their way out of the literary world and into other art forms, but other stories such as The Human Chair have also been adapted into a comic form as well as being featured in the artwork of such artists as Toshio Saeki. Much like the great muzan-e artists Ranpo’s influence keeps on defying time and as new generations of artists inevitably find his writing, we will surely see more adaptations of his outrageous work in years to come.

Toshio Saeki

In the world of cinema, the ero guro movement saw it hay day in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It can be troublesome to define what counts as a guro cinema as unlike some other cinematic styles or movements, the definition of ero guro can be somewhat blurred. There is no set rules as in Italian Neorealisim or German Expressionism and most guro movies were born as little sub genres of other styles, such as Pinku cinema (“Pink Cinema” encompassing pretty much anything that includes nudity) or were pet projects of directors that admired the works of Ranpo or other notable guro artists. Some recurring themes can of course be found such as dismemberment, freak shows, fetishes, “deviant” sexuality, deformity, obsession (sexual or otherwise), gruesome and bizarre crimes dark humour and of course absurd, psychedelic nonsense. However, as these same themes overlap with many other genres, they do not make the definition of guro cinema much easier.

If you must start somewhere, you cannot go wrong with the director Teruo Ishii. Throughout his prolific career encompassing 94 films Ishii dabbled with variety of genres including martial arts, science fiction, erotica, film noir and horror. Working in a studio system devoted to serialization with dizzying speeds, Ishii proved himself to be adaptable to almost anything that was needed of him, jumping from one series of films to another with ease. In 1968 Ishii directed the first of his seven part The Joys of Torture series; in other words, his ero guro series. It’s somewhat debatable whether History of the Shogun’s Harem (Tokugawa onna keizu) or The Joys of Torture (Tokugawa onna keibatsu-shi) were the film to kickstart this glorious succession of films. Not because their finished date, both films were finished in 1968 and History of the Shogun’s Harem slightly earlier of the two. The problem lies more in the content and the fact that Shogun’s Harem contains only a very limited amount of torture or other violence usually associated with guro cinema. Be that as it may, after the somewhat luke-warm start with Shogun’s Harem, Ishii seemed to hit his stride with the theme and rest of the films to follow were certainly not short of brutality. The next two installments, The Joys of Torture and Orgies of Edo (Zankoku ijô gyakutai monogatari: Genroku onna keizu, 1969), were both anthologies detailing the sorry fate of their female antagonists, whose destiny seems to be tortured in various ways.  The Joys of Torture was met with crushing criticism and was amongst other things, called “depraved” and “disgusting”. However, this did not deter audiences from seeing it and The Joys of Torture was in fact the ninth most seen film of its year, raking in better audience numbers than even some big budget productions with bona fide film stars in leading roles. Ishii was, to say the least, a busy boy for the rest of 1969 and managed to get four other films on the market: Shameless: Abnormal and Abusive Love (Ijô seiai kiroku: Harenchi), Inferno of torture (Tokugawa irezumi-shi: Seme jigoku), Yakuza Law, Love and Crime (Meiji · Taishô · Shôwa: Ryôki onna hanzai-shi) and finally the infamous Horrors of the Malformed Men (Kyôfu kikei ningen: Edogawa Rampo zenshû). As one can conclude from the original title, Horror of the Malformed Men draws from the stories of Edogawa Ranpo and is fully immersed with the ero guro theme. The story follows a young medical student Hirosuke (Teruo Yoshida, who can be found playing a part in nearly all of Ishii’s torture series films) who after escaping from an insane asylum, tracks down his familial lineage to a strange remote island populated by malformed men and ruled  by their fearless, yet somewhat mad, leader Jôgorô Komoda (played by the choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata, another Ishii staple). The story is an amalgamation of several Ranpo stories. The principal part of the plot combines the storylines of The Strange Tale of Panorama Island (1926-1927) and The Demon of the Lonely Isle (1929-1930), but a perceptive viewer will note elements from other Ranpo stories as well. As an exploitation film, Malformed Men takes shape quite slowly and the first half film and might disappoint those who are looking for something more outrages. However, when the story moves on to the said island, the film steps up a gear and there is plenty of exploitative guro weirdness to be getting on with.  The controversy that followed the release of the film sadly but an end to Ishii’s ero guro series. While the previous films of the same series had all been faced with certain amounts of criticism and media polemic, in post Hiroshima/Nagasaki Japan, a film parading deformed men was seen as incredibly distasteful and Toei withdrew the film from circulation in order to avoid negative publicity. In the West, this move only fortified the films notorious reputation and for years many film fans operated under the assumption that the Malformed Men was withdrawn for its graphic content, it being too much for even Japanese audiences. Safe to say that when people finally were able to get their hands on it, some of them undoubtedly found themselves quite disappointed as Malformed Men does not match Ishii’s earlier guro works with its violent content and will seem very tame for the modern audiences.

Horrors of Malformed Men (1969)

The same year that Ishii’s exploits in the world of ero guro came to an end, Yasuzo Masumura, a notable director in the Japanese new wave movement, also tried his hand with a Ranpo story bringing Blind Beast to the silver screen. However, his take on the rather dark tale of torture and murder is a much more romantic one than what Ranpo wrote. In Masumura’s hands Blind Beast has morphed into a tale of two misunderstood souls, coming together in somewhat questionable circumstances, but still finding love in the middle of it. As an exploitation film, Blind Beast is a very tame affair that does not revel in depravity or violence. Instead Masumura has created a gentle reimagining of one of Ranpo’s most violent pieces of work putting the main focus on the theme of obsession. The depraved serial killer from the pages of Ranpo’s tale has been turned into a mixed-up mama’s boy who falls desperately in love with a local model Aki, obsessing over her perfect body. Aki on other hand represents the killer’s first victim Mizuki Ranko, who unlike his later victims, falls for the blind sculptor and even ends up living with him in his cellar apartment, eventually losing her eyesight in the darkness. However, Unlike Aki, who in the end is a willing participant in the sculptor’s obsessions, Mizuko’s fate takes a lot darker turn and she ends up dismembered and her body parts scattered all over town. Masumura has obviously taken quite a few liberties when reimagining the story, but what he has come up with is a great ero guro tale on its own right. It’s stylish, provocative and tantalizing piece of guro cinema that should not be ignored merely because of the lack of graphic content.

The real life guro horror story, the case of Sada Abe, also got its moment to shine on the big screen in Nagisa Ôshima’s controversial In the Realm of Senses (Ai no korîda, 1976). Abe was a waitress/prostitute who erotically asphyxiated her married lover Kichizō Ishida and was subsequently found wondering the streets with Ishida’s penis in her kimono pocket. In the Realm of Senses isnot the only film depicting the strange love affair between Abe and Ishida, in fact is was not even the first, but Ôshima’s treatment of the story has certainly made it the most memorable one. The film, notorious for its unsimulated sex scenes, teeters somewhere between erotic drama and pornography and Ôshima’s intense take on the story exudes the spirit of the guro movement from start to finish. It’s extremely explicit, more so than you would expect from your garden variety erotica, but in the heart of all the debauchery is a tale of obsession. A tale of love that burns so fiercely that it can only ultimately lead to the destruction of the people in the centre of it. While the film might be missing the trademark violence or absurdity that usually gets associated with guro stories, it’s this all-consuming and all-encompassing manic passion that ties the film tightly to the movement.

Coming to the 21st century ero guro influences can still be found here and there amongst Japanese horror and exploitation cinema. A notable film, heavy with guro themes is Sion Sono’s Strange Circus (Kimyô na sâkasu, 2005). In it, erotic novelist Taeko deals with her childhood trauma of being abused by her parents by incorporating her morbid experiences in her writing. A new assistant Yuji appears in her life, determined to figure out the secrets of her past and embarks on a journey of discovery, with very dark consequences. Without giving too much away, Strange Circus certainly encompasses many elements of guro storytelling. From incest, to mutilation, to dismemberment, it takes you to a macabre jaunt through a traumatised mind and the repercussions of such massively destructive life. It will not be for everyone, as it is quite explicit in its sexual content that detestably contains child abuse (although it must be noted that there are no actual sex scenes between the adult and child actors). Those looking for graphic content will also have to wait as the bloodiest scenes are left till the very end. The focus of the film is on the mystery of Taeko’s life and the pitch-dark atmosphere that Sono has so brilliantly created. The visual side with bold colours brings to mind the works of Suehiro Maruo, fortifying the ero guro connection. Horror film it isn’t, so don’t pick it up expecting such, but for those looking for more contemporary examples of guro cinema, Strange circus is a solid choice.  

The influences of ero guro have of course not only been seen in the cinematic format but naturally the tales told in the pages of manga have made their way into the world of animation. While Japanese animation might be the promised land of bizarre erotica, with myriad of films dedicated to violent love affairs between young women and inhuman beasts that only Lovecraft might have conjured up, it would be foolish to bunch all of these under the title ero guro. Just like not all Pinku cinema is guro, neither is all animated porn, but it is within this subgenre where the most guro influences can be seen. At this point it’s good to have a quick look of terminology and specifically the word hentai. While in the West the term has become synonymous with all anime pornography, that is not the case in its origin country where hentai is not seen as a specific sub-genre. In fact, the term was originally associated with metamorphosis or abnormality, but was also a shorter version of the term “hentai seiyoku” or sexual perversion. Therefore, in Japan hentai does not refer to your bog-standard pornography, but to films or visual material with more extreme content, such as sex with monsters, gang rape or sexual content including graphic violence. As such hentai is a natural partner of ero guro and the two overlap and mix quite seamlessly.

A name to remember when talking about modern monster erotica is Toshio Maeda. While he may not have been the first to bring tentacle monsters to the world of animation, he is still often referred as the “tentacle master” of the manga and anime world. The notorious Urotsukidōji (Legend of the Overfiend, 1986) gained him the reputation for spearheading the genre, despite the fact that his original manga did not actually feature any tentacle sex, but the monstrous rape scenes were added to the anime by its director Hideki Takayama. Few years later, in 1989 Maeda created Demon Beast Invasion (Yôjû kyôshitsu gakuen) that is now days seen as the first great modern piece of tentacle erotica. Maeda is cited at saying that the reason for creating the gruesome scenes was not purely the need to create something slightly different in the realm of erotica, but to get around the rather strict censorship laws surrounding sexual content. Rather weirdly penetration by a penis was a no-no, as for penetration by a gigantic tentacle was OK. In 2001 Maeda received a lifetime achievement award in the Big Apple Anime Fest and was hailed as “the most influential erotic manga artist in Japan” and Urotsukidoji being “the foundation for the entire ‘erotic-grotesque’ genre of Japanese anime”.

But, no matter how much you might love different subgenres of exploitation or sexploitation, giant tentacle monsters raping young girls is not something that is going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Luckily if you want to familiarise yourself with ero guro anime, you need not necessarily take that route. A film often noted as one of the only purely guro anime, Midori-The Girl in the Freak Show (Chika Gentō Gekiga: Shōjo Tsubaki, 1992) offers guro horrors of a different kind, although it should be mentioned that sexual violence is still very much a part of this story as well. The origins of the story go back to the 1930 and kamishibai, a form of street theatre popular in post war Japan. Shōjo Tsubaki or “The Camellia Girl” was a popular tale told and retold so many times that its origins are somewhat hazy, but the basic premise always stayed the same; an adolescent daughter of a poor family making money selling camellia flowers ends up being sold to a revue show and forced to perform. The ero guro artist Suehiro Maruo famously depicted the plight of the poor camellia girl in his graphic novel Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show and taking inspiration from this, the director Hiroshi Harada went on to create Chika Gentō Gekiga: Shōjo Tsubaki. In this version, Midori, a young girl who has just lost her mother, joins the funfair freak show where she gets abused, humiliated and raped and other members of the show, until a dwarf magician Masanitsu appears on the scene as her knight in shining armour. The production of the anime was a tortured one. Due to the controversial subject matter, Harada lacked the sponsorship he desperately needed and ended up creating the 56-minute animation pretty much singlehandedly himself over the course of five years. The film is known for incomplete and even missing parts and including animatics rather than actual animation as large part of the story. The film was quickly banned after its release because the illegal content and finding a copy was a difficult task to say the least for years to come. Screenings of the film were also few and far between as Harada was only willing to screen the film if the venue was presented as a carnival freak show itself. Now days it’s possible to get this little guro gem in DVD format and you can even find certain versions of it lurking around in YouTube.

Chika Gentō Gekiga: Shōjo Tsubaki

Besides, the visual arts the influence of ero guro has reached it slimy tentacles even as far in the art world as the music industry. A Japanese musical movement called Visual Kei (meaning visual style) has been one to adapt some of the aesthetics of ero guro. Visual Kei, as the name might suggest, is style characterised by the use of elaborate visual aids such as extravagant hair styles, flamboyant costumes and flashy make-up, often coupled with androgynous looks. Musically Visual Kei is usually associated with heavy metal, punk or glam rock, but the movement contains various music genres including electric pop and has several different sub-genres, ero guro being one of them. Due to the often-explicit nature of guro themes not many bands utilize the most graphic material but have rather opted to embrace the sensual and odd and taking their inspiration from the more fetish side of the guro movement. The band Cali=Gari is often cited as the pioneer the ero guro Kei. Other notable bands of this style are MUCC, Merry and perhaps the Visual Kei band best known in the West, Dir En Grey.

Ero guro nansensu is by far one the most intriguing art movements I have ever had the pleasure to come across. It’s not merely a movement of literary and visual arts but an ideology and spirit of it’s times. It comes and goes, always reappearing at opportune moments to bring us a new wave of its grotesque horrors. It’s utterly dark, yet often whimsically comical and endlessly, endlessly fascinating.

About Niina Doherty

Niina is a life long genre fan and enthusiastic amateur writer. Originally from Finland, but currently based in the UK, she mostly spends her time writing, painting, watching films and in general tomfoolery with her little boy. Besides Diabolique, Niina also writes for Horrornews.net as part of their Asian horror review team.

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