DH Publishing have done an admirable job introducing the West to Japanese culture with books on the bizarre world of Cosplay, movie posters, silver screen samurai and a revealing look at real-life ninja, but are now mainlining undiluted Japanese manga direct to you via their Cocoro imprint.
Cocoro are republishing all the works of Hideshi Hino, the cult godfather of Japanese comic book horror in Japan in English translations. To be as authentic as possible, the books retain the Japanese formatting and should be read from back to front. If you start from the front of the book, you’re greeted with the exclamation “Whatta you doin’?! This is the back of the book!!”
Living Corpse is the fifth book in Cocoro’s series, but an important one, because it takes autobiographical details from Hino’s life and weaves them into a surreal horror story about a corpse that won’t die and doesn’t know why.
Born in 1946 Hino was convinced that his career lay in film after seeing Masaki Kobayashi`s Seppuku, a classic Japanese movie from 1962. But after a friend asked him to fill in a few blank pages in a magazine, his career as a manga artist took off, and he published his first graphic novel in 1978.
Living Corpse was first published in 1986 under the title Shi Niku no Otoko. It was created after a period of ill health in Hino’s life that became so bad that he was hospitalised. The thought of dying and leaving his family penniless weighed heavily on his mind and it’s this theme that forms the central arc that the book’s main character, Shinkai Yosuke, follows.
Shinkai stumbles into a village by the sea with no idea who he is or why he’s there. It’s only when he catches sight of his reflection does he realise that he’s actually a decomposing corpse and should be dead. His flesh is disintegrating and maggots pour from the holes in his body. He’s not a mindless zombie, but a sad, confused individual trying to make sense of his condition.
Although visually repulsive, the real horror in Living Corpse is of a metaphysical nature, questioning the nature of our existence and the force that keeps us alive. This is perhaps one of the more thoughtful of Hino’s novels and provides valuable insights into his other books.
Living Corpse (2004)
by Hideshi Hino
Format: Paperback, 192pp