by Suehiro Maruo; story by Edogawa Rampo
published by Last Gasp; $24.95 US
I’m not sure where to start in describing this historical erotic fantasy manga. It’s for adults, certainly, with a bunch of (mostly female) nudes. It’s been anticipated since its announcement in 2009.
That article gives some important basics that take on new context after reading. It’s true, the book is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby… if Gatsby were a Lovecraft character, willing to work out all the details of faking a death in order to find a way to indulge his darker impulses. Artist Suehiro Maruo does draw beautifully, but without a story by a recognizably skilled writer (Edogawa Rampo, known for his mysteries), the images would seem self-indulgent and exploitative.
The plot description actually captures the majority of the book: a writer, who happens to look just like a recently deceased wealthy former classmate, takes the dead man’s identity, then uses his money to create an adult “amusement park” called Panorama Island. The depth of the work comes from the visuals, detailed executions of the pleasure playground and the extraordinary creations and experiences found there, including glass tunnels running underwater, a scattered collection of circus performers, and orgies.
I can imagine the work being found particularly shocking when the story was first published in 1926. I do wonder, though, if some of its impact is muted by having all the amazing inventions shown for the reader, instead of involving the imagination. Although perhaps that echoes the writer’s utopia, which is entirely one of the senses. It’s certainly an experience that will stay with me, as images float back into my consciousness at random times.
(The publisher provided a review copy.)