So we're all clear that "Japan = Crazy" by now, right?
Oh, don't give me that look. I'm familiar enough with the wide expanse of modern Japanese culture to know that 90% of both the things produced in Japan are perfectly normal, sane, rational and boring just like the rest of the world. Particularly as birth rates continue to dwindle and the median age of the average Japanese citizen only grows older, the country's interest will continue to be less and less interesting to a curious glance from a foreign perspective. No, most people in Japan are no more or less crazy than the average person outside of the somewhat isolated island nation... hell, they might actually be even more dull than the average American, which is perhaps why they don't seem to notice - or at least not care - when their fellow countrymen do stuff like... well, like this, I guess.
Laugh while you can... shit's gonna get dark pretty quick.
It's perhaps largely this "out of sight, out of mind" cultural mindset that allows certain subcultures to flourish and at times even thrive, while other countries would try to rally against them solely on principle. One of the most bizarre forms of this is the presence of a market for エログロ/ero-guro, a shortening of the Western words "Erotic" and "Grotesque". Ero-Guro actually dates back to artistic movements going back to the 1930s and was resurrected in early bid for historical legitimacy by director Teruo Ishii for his now iconic "Joy of Torture" period-piece-cum-torture-porn films of the late 1960s with Toei, which started Japan's long history of overstated dramatic stylings with shocking pornographic-skirting exploitation that continues to this very day through controversial directors like Takashi Miike, Takashi Ishii and - most recently - Sion Sono.
Picture Django Unchained, except with way more... Japan. Stuff.
In the realm of comics, Japan was no less curious, with the 劇画/gekiga movement of the late 1950s having beaten America to the punch of renaming childish "Comic Books" to the more contemporary and age-appropriately sounding moniker "Graphic Novels" by about thirty years. Blatantly pornographic manga didn't take hold until the late 1970s, and gained traction with fetish-minded enthusiasts when publishers realized that they could get away with publishing "lolita" books without the pesky laws preventing you from filming underage sex-acts. This, in turn, indirectly gave birth to pornographic Japanese animation, but... that's another can o' worms completely. One I should probably explore when I have more time to do it justice, more sleep on a weekly basis, and less Ground Zeroes to obsess over.
This strong, if not particularly large, market for "extreme" entertainment has left a niche market for artists who's tastes are best described as eclectic: While artists like Junji Itoh, Hideshi Hino and Kazuo Umezz use the imagery of body-horror in a shocking but typically chaste manner, certain creators like Shintaro Kago, Suehiro Maruo and Hirohone Saizou are substantially less afraid to push the boundaries of sexuality and bodily disfigurement, with artists like Henmaru Machino, Takayuki Yamaguchi and John K. Pe-Ta having exaggerated the potential of the human body to their comedic, often horrifying extremes.
One of the less offensive Shintaro KAGO images Google Image Search will provide.
I'm bringing this all up to show to that there's a precedent for the notion of Ero-Guro in comics... where the only real cost is pulp and the artists' dedication. Artists like Mauro and Kago are brilliant fine art skills have been honed to blade-like perfection, to whom the phallic and grotesque imagery are merely a piece of the psychological make-up that drives them. Saizou and Yamaguchi seem to want to use their grotesque and offensive imagery to break down the viewer's emotions in unexpected ways, but the end result is no less fascinating - or, at times, unsettling. Machino and Pi-Ta may be shock jockeys with little more than a fascination for the absurd, but they go so far over the deep end that I can't help but respect what they create on its own ridiculous terms.
Mai-Chan's Daily Life...
And then, there's my man Uziga... oh man, anyone with a fascination for the darkest and most inappropriate parts of the internet have probably heard of Waita "Y-ta" UZIGA/氏賀Ｙ太, who's works of erotic-grotesque fascination have become something of an urban legend made flesh: A talented, dedicated artist who funnels all of his talent and angst into... well, frankly, into fascinatingly constructed snuff themed smut. There's nothing else to say about it - and that, in and of itself, is kind of beautiful. Uziga's works are so thoroughly honest and unpretentious about what they are and what they want to be that it's difficult to say too much about it in the first place. It's really just nightmarish oddities for the personal voyeurism of the viewer, the grim study of body-horror in its most primal state. Mai-Chan in particular, evidently his oldest creation, embodies something so simple and so terrifying it's almost impossible to think of how little the idea is used; a character who's sole role in the universe is not only to die, but to do so on a regular basis, facing the ultimate fear that we all must in a never ending cycle of suffering and torment. Hell in Earth, redefined as the weakness and inevitable destruction of the shell that houses our transient consciousness.
Alternately, you could argue it's sick shit for sick fucks. I happen to think even the sickets of shit for the sickest of fucks serves some sort of basic, universal therapy... but there's only so many people willing to talk to me about Subconscious Cruelty, Human Centipede 2 and Gantz in the world. So your mileage on that train of thought probably will vary.
Sound reasons behind their inception or not, it'd be tempting to compare it to, say, the pointless and schlocky exploitation films of Hershel Gordon Lewis, but - with the explicit disclaimer that Uziga has improved, quite dramatically, on a technical level in the last decade since some of his first works were published - he's simply too good at what he does to be using it entirely as a crutch. His boundless, if morbid creativity suggest that he could, easily enough, have started a full-fledged career outside of vomit-inducing violence wank-material... and yet, he never has ventured too far out of it. He continues to exist on the utter fringe of gore-porn madness, being just opportunistic enough to release blatantly homoerotic Attack on Titan doujinshi, but not quite so desparate for a living wage that he'll go the easy route and show Levi putting his flesh saber down Eren's mutant cornhole: Nope, while that might still happen the only bloody penetration you're guaranteed is the kind that only a very select market wants to see, and baby, if you aren't already in the club, that's just not a door you want to knock too hard on.
真・現代猟奇伝/Shin Gendai Ryoukinden
("True Modern Stories of the Bizarre") - 2005
That's not to say that everything he's ever done has been extreme material for the cynically insane (and the cynically insane at heart!) doesn't have any inherent artistic, or even socially aware raison d'etre: The above is, in part, a collection itself is a record of late 20th century "True Crime" tales that gripped Japan, the most notable of which is a stark and unapologetic take on the tale of Junko FURUTA, a schoolgirl who was abused, raped and murdered by her classmates before being encased in concrete back in '89. The "Concrete-Encased High School Girl Murder Case" - yes, Japan really does love long, convoluted titles for shit like that - was an important shock to the Japanese system at the time, bringing to light the rather asinine lineancy that the country's court system places on minors who commit serious crimes and yet remain perfectly anonymous to the public, an issue that haunts Japan to this day. My personal favorite from the collection was Hamburg Steak, a slightly fantastic but half-plausible morality play that puts a young woman in the unenviable position of having to keep the wheels of a corrupt system turning so that she herself doesn't get chewed up and spit out by it. Did I mention it's basically one part Soylent Green and two parts Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
So, why bring up such basic Ero-Guro Author 101 material, when you probably either A) already know he exists and have adjusted all masturbatory habits accordingly, or B) didn't want to know in the first place?
Because, somehow, this happened.
Seriosly, MAI-CHAN'S DAILY LIFE/まいちゃんの日常 is getting a live action film adaptation. It's being overseen by Uziga himself, with directoral duties having fallen to a one "Sado SATOH"/佐藤サド - better known on Twitter as "Blood Fetish"/(フェ血ス）. Surprisingly enough, I haven't yet given enough of my black pit of a heart to Satan to have any idea who this guy is, though you bet your ass that now I'm morbidly curious what else "Sado Satoh" has worked on.
The starring role of the immortal house-servant has fallen on the delightful pornstar Ann Koshi/小司あん [Ann's Blog], whom I'm now downloading several hours worth of hardcore pixelated pornography for what I'm going to call "Research Purposes". Which may or may not be what I call violent masturbation from now on.
Considering she's already starred in videos where her throat has been fisted until she puke, this is probably something she's looking at as an easy week at the office, despite Mai-chan being - oh, Christ, what can I even say at this point? If you've been on the internet long enough you probably saw "that" image long ago. Those of you who don't know what I'm talking about... well, just to put Uziga's work into perspective: Mai-Chan's Daily Life is so fucking hardcore that the people behind "A SERBIAN FILM" said "Y'know, that's awesome and all, but we might need to tone that shit down."
It won't be the first Uziga film adaptation, however... just last month, Uziga's similarly grotesque but not-directly-pornographic RAIN FOR THE DEAD/雨あがりの君 (or, more literally, "YOU, AFTER THE RAIN") was released in Japan just one month ago, despite shooting having been finished sometime in 2012. The trailer above suggests an almost bipolar film that's one-part schmaltzy romantic twaddle and two-parts Cronenbergian social-nightmares, though how similar this may end up being to the substantially more offensive and, dare I say it, unambituous concept of "Destroy Mai-chan Repeatedly", it's too early yet to tell if what we're seeing here is in any way what we can expect from the upcoming Mai-Chan's Daily Life flick.
Be it good, terrible, or simply "meh", Mai-Chan's Daily Life set a certain watermark in the world of thoroughly grotesque art, and while I can't for the life of me imagine how the hell a feature length film of what's, effectively, an endless cycle of cynical and sadistic abuse to a single character without the means to change the punishing life she finds herself in, the fact that anyone would even attempt it has my attention. With any luck, we'll get the Japanese pop-shock version of 120 Days of Sodom... but more likely than not this'll just be a bizarre train-wreck that straddles artistic merit with inept insanity, like Hypertrophy Genitals Girl before it.
I'm not even gonna lie: I loved this fuckin' flick.