|I doubt he dressed like this in the fifties. |
Or for that matter, the eighties.
But as time went on, Umezu was given the opportunity - maybe even the impetus - to explore some profoundly dark places. I recently picked up '
The grotesque sequences just keep coming, and if you've got a taste for artful shock, they alone will keep you engrossed. For instance, while it's been done to death since (see Stephen King's cockroaches), one might consider these sequences of full-body spider infestation visionary.
What elevates 'Kami no Hidari-te' beyond mere shock, though, is the narrative surrealism. In many cases, the conciets are hard to summarize, which in my book is an endorsement. In the first of the three stories, an extended set piece revolves around the idea that 1) a young girl is being possessed by the vengeful spirits of murdered children, 2) the inside of her body has become a battle ground between those children's murderers and the young girl's brother, who is some kind of dream-warrior, and 3) the dead children are ejecting everything from newspapers to tricycles through her into the world, without killing her.
It's gory to an almost mind-numbing extreme, but the plot keeps things moving along and never allows any image to get stale. The same effect holds throughout the book, especially in the third story, which involves the genuinely surreal and delightfully unexplained flexibility of the boundary between dream and reality. The protagonist (the same young boy from the first two stories) at one point enters a dream state, transforms into a crow to kill a spider-queen by ripping her tongue out, and then awakes to spit out the mangled corpse of a spider.
And as I said, what's most insane about all of this is that it relies so heavily on conceits that imply that the intended audience is preteen. The same young boy character (Sou, meaning roughly "idea") is the protagonist of all the stories. His older sister never believes him when he says he's seen something (in a dream or reality, which ultimately become interchangeable), and adults, similarly, seem to distrust something about him. Both of these (like the inarticulate adults of 'Peanuts') seem intended to appeal to actual ten year old boys. Sometimes the kid protagonist is actually right, but then there's also the time that he murders his third-grade teacher, in the real world, without any remorse or consequences.
In short, if it was ever actually intended for children, this is a deeply fucked up book.