Some time ago, I stumbled across a very interesting magazine response by the mecha maestro himself, Yoshiyuki Tomino. I’m not going to say any more at this point, but it seemed to me his nickname Kill-Em-All Tomino doesn’t only apply to his work in the industry, but apparently he’s also quite harsh in real life. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a point, though. While I kind of feel bad for the girl he responded to, I also think Tomino was right in telling her how demanding the anime/manga industry in Japan could be.
It’s still impressive how young people are inspired enough to even think about working in anime where the pay is low and the work can be tremendously hard, even today. Manga seems more enticing, but even there the demands are the same. After all, not every manga artist can make it big. It’s hard enough just landing a gig in a magazine. It just makes the people who do make names for themselves in the industry even more respectable, much more those who become household names. I just wonder how much young blood manages to enter the industry ever year and survive in it.
God’s Child (Nishioka Kyoudai)
Having only heard of the Nishioka siblings (brother and sister) in passing just about a year or two ago, I didn’t have any idea as to how they drew manga. As such, I didn’t know what to expect when I first sat down to read their latest work, God’s Child. The concept was intriguing, given the art I saw. As I read it, though, I felt like this just isn’t a manga you just sit down to read casually. It’s bleak, chilling, and unabashedly brutal. I didn’t expect the manga to achieve that kind of morbid effect with the spare, almost abstract art it employed, but I was surprised at how well it worked. The manga was an enjoyable read, even if it didn’t leave me with a good taste in my mouth. And I think it’d be the same for everyone else too.
If I were to liken Nishioka Kyoudai’s work on God’s Child to any anime/manga, I would say it’s similar to Cat Soup. The OVA adaptation of Nekojiru‘s oddly popular manga was a bleak, desolate journey through a rough surrealistic landscape that goes increasingly dark as it goes on. The key difference between the two works however, is that one has a very tiny sliver of hope at the very end while the other ends on a strange, yet fitting note. Cat Soup ending the way it did was something Masaaki Yuasa said he wanted to do, and I felt it gave the OVA a neat little footnote, even if it was fleeting. Pure power of imagery was the name of the game in the OVA–something which I can say is true, at least on a slightly lesser degree, for God’s Child. The surreal, dreamlike art heightens the darkness in the manga. It fit the nature of the story just as well as the more traditional way of drawing manga, if not better.
Cat Soup was brought to life by a set of endearingly cute cats, who really don’t look like they belong in the kind of world they lived in. They looked like they would fit better in something by Sanrio than Cat Soup. But, the thing that’s probably the most impressive about it was how they gave more impact to the cerebral bleakness that was the OVA. I don’t think any other design would work as well as the two cats did. Their simple forms and appealing designs gave a sense of disconnection, which only gave the surrounding darkness more weight. While hardly as defining as the OVA, I thought God’s Child had a similar effect with its art. The art in God’s Child doesn’t feel too distant from the subject matter of the manga, but I felt that it was kind of a new approach. I’ve seen only a few manga with strange, stylistically defined art, but they weren’t as alien as Nishioka’s drawings. It could only be because this is the first time I’ve seen such a distinctly personal style. Regardless, I thought the drawings of God’s Child were very far removed from other manga with such an approach. The signature look that defines the manga complements the psychological nature of the story. Characters with extraordinarily huge eyes and disproportionate features that look more like they would fit in an abstract painting more than they would in a manga give God’s Child its own special flair. It has a more artistic flair to it, which I don’t think could be achieved had it been drawn in the more traditional way.
Of course, the art alone isn’t enough to give the manga the grotesque and ugly effect it had. It would have to be helped by a story which is morbid enough on its own–which God’s Child delivers. It’s an ugly thing, really. There are a lot of other disturbingly ugly manga out there, like say, something by Kago, but God’s Child is disturbing on another plane. It doesn’t rely on exceptionally insane set-ups–some of which are even comedic–but it’s a rather simple story arc of a serial killer’s growth. Kago’s insanity is designed to scream out at you at every page, rather than getting under your skin. Oppositely, God’s Child is chilling in the way the story is more grounded, more down-to-earth–yet the main character clearly is whacked in the head. The slow progression from his childhood down to his perverted teenage years is cold, unsympathetic. The main character doesn’t give anyone even a slight room for sympathy or compassion. His story is just murderously ugly from its infancy all the way to its death. I guess it’s just the strange fascination that hooks people’s attention from the beginning stages, and doesn’t let go. In my case, that’s what kept me reading. The things that happen in the manga keeps you flipping the pages–nothing more, nothing less.
Which is to say, the many things that happen in the manga achieves as high a level of ugliness and perversion as the more ordinary whacked-out manga. Death is obviously abound in God’s Child, and the various ways it is dealt show different sides of perversion that only a sadistic nutjob could conceive. The funny thing is I don’t think the death scenes are that insane, or that disgusting, but it’s taken to another level by the soul-less art. Again, this is where the art shines for me. Normally, I wouldn’t be fazed by a scene of a girl tied up and lying face down on the toilet, or a bullied girl being forced to eat shit, or even two people being savagely beaten to death all the while the song Happy Birthday plays on the background. But, the way those scenes (or the people themselves) are drawn struck me as even more brutal, and even more cruel. It must have been those eyes.
Surely enough, in line with its unabashed and unrelenting nature, the short manga ends on a brutal and sadistic note. The way it ended really isn’t surprising, but what interested me about it was how unrepentant it was. Usually, I would have assumed that the story will end with the criminal turning apologetic as he is brought to justice. But no, that’s not the case in God’s Child. No apologies, no crying, no emotion at all. Instead, the manga ended the way it started–cold, emotionless, unapologetic. The manga also comments on society, stated through the eyes of the main character as he explores his growth as a man and as a murderer. The manga, as short as it is, tells its story effectively.
I guess God’s Child is also similar in form to manga by Hideshi Hino, though Hino‘s works don’t seem to me as especially disturbing and challenging, instead they’re more humorous to me. The imagery is dark, the tone is bleak, but the way it’s all presented is more absurd than sick. His manga are more campy than they are scary. Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that God’s Child is a horrible manga, headlined by a horrible character. Horrible, in the sense that there’s no sign of positivity in it at all. Whereas Cat Soup at least had a tiny ray of hope appearing at the end, God’s Child is filled with grey clouds all throughout. The bleakness of it all makes for quite a challenging read, but it is still enjoyable in a terribly fascinating way–an effect which I feel was the original goal of the Nishioka siblings anyway.
God’s Child’s appeal lies in its fascination with the ugly, with the curiosity that arises from its unfeeling atmosphere. The protagonist appeals to me because he’s straightforward in his callousness and in his evil. He’s not somebody people can and should relate to, but he provokes people to ask why he became like that. At the very start of the manga, it seemed as if he was already born with that sadistic tendency, but it still makes people wonder if it’s really that simple. I believe I may be exaggerating here, but I’d like to think that there was some larger goal behind the madness of Nishioka Kyoudai’s God’s Child, if only to relieve the bad taste in my mouth after reading it.