Panorama of Hell
Holy shit I actually own a single manga! Well consider this review to be for my daughters who like this sort of thing. (And any other weebs out there bothering to read)
A little background first…
So there was a comic shop I used to go to called “The Fat Guy’s.” Actually it wasn’t called that, it actually kept changing names (and locations) a bit, but the guy who owned it was a grossly fat berk who just sat behind the counter in the middle of his shop stinking up the place.
No seriously, this fucking guy was HUGE and he really did give off a terrible odor. Some days were worse than others depending on how hot it was.
You may ask why go in at all, well at the time he really did have the best comic shop in the nearby area. Lots of comics, books, games, RPG stuff, etc. I typically went in, grabbed what I could find quickly, paid and got out of there. Not sure how the terminal nerds stood around all day talking in there, let alone any of the Fat Guy’s minions who worked there.
Years later things got better when the new location was bigger (The smell wasn’t as condensed in a small area) and he got surgery which reduced his weight considerably. Actually saw him walking around now! However the place would always be “The Fat Guy’s”
Anyway it was during one of my visits that a single paperback book sat on the shelf with a bunch of comics.
Can’t say the cover doesn’t catch your attention
I should point out, I didn’t really know shit about manga stuff. Sure there was a section in the store that had 3 million books in a particular series, but it never interested me. Colorful hair, androgynous wide eyed characters, just wasn’t what I was into.
However, if they had more of these on display, I might have paid more attention.
Not having found anything else that day and after glancing through the book and noticing lots of bloodiness inside, I figured I’d get it.
After realizing you have to read the damn thing backwards like a yellow devil, I started to get into the story. (There’s even a note on the book on “how to read” it for the barbaric round eyes)
And I’m realizing about 1/3 way through this review is getting long so I’ll have to divide this up a bit to at least keep it organized.
The story starts off with a creepy looking painter narrating directly to the reader about what he’s doing. He goes on to explain how he uses blood in all his paintings, mostly his own and then shows off his impressive display of self inflicted scars. Not content on being a regular edgelord that cuts himself, he also says how he drinks hydrochloric acid to vomit up clots of blood and how it’s a daily routine for him.
So he basically hangs out in his dark room all day vomiting up blood, cutting himself and painting with blood, but a man has to have his hobbies.
His biggest work will be call the Panorama of Hell (Name drop!) but it isn’t finished yet. He’s pretty excited about it though.
In the meantime he’s decided to tell the reader about all his various other works which as you find out are based on places around him or people in his life.
He starts off with this factory that seems to be some mixture of a death camp and slaughterhouse. This guillotine chops people’s heads off and they get transported somewhere on a train. Blood gets all over the tracks which causes bloody flowers to bloom and these weird bird fetuses fly in to eat up the blood fruit.
(Yeah, be prepared to see blood mentioned A LOT)
The factory also has a blood river (naturally) filled with rotting corpses and garbage, and a crematorium where the headless bodies go in.
The painter being a big voyeur, likes to go watch the bodies burn since they “dance around in the flames” and it’s a great source of fun for him. (There are actually attendants doing all this manual labor in this place and they’re all just looking at him like the psycho he is)
I should also mention he’s also been going on about the beauty of all the blood and madness around him. He’s actually fairly happy with his life despite the edgy setting.
Of course there’s no smell like the rotting and burning of human flesh so then he starts talking about the beauty of the graveyard behind his house next. It’s all very inspirational to his work. He also goes about collecting stuff like rotten pig heads, fetuses, etc. and puts them in jars to keep in his house.
So enough about his immediate living area, he moves on to talking about his son Krazy Boy and Krazy Girl. Yep, this dude actually has offspring and he spelled their names with Ks because Ks are always funnier.
So Krazy Girl takes after her dad (wholesome) and likes to sit in a dark room and paint rotten cat heads and such. She also reads a bunch of strange books (Her bookshelf then shows books all by the author who wrote this one for a marvelous meta effect).
Krazy Boy on the other hand plays outside. He generally goes around swearing at various animal corpses or killing any of the weird animals he happens to find alive. Though like his dad, he also tends to collect things to take home. His favorite are pig eyeballs which he likes licking/eating like they’re candy.
Then there’s a demented moment where the painter is talking to Krazy Boy and he starts licking his head saying he’s a sweet boy. Then Krazy Girl gets jealous since she wants to be licked too, so as a loving father of course he starts licking her as well.
Then his two kids start fighting over who gets to lick some bloody crow fetus before they go watch the guillotine chop some more heads off. (And sing a little song about hell and blood) That’s about it for the kids because the painter’s wife appears and tells him to put them to bed because she’s going to open up her Hell tavern.
And she’s HAWT.
Okay, well if we go by the artwork, she’s certainly prettier than anything else we’ve seen in the book this far. He basically hit the jackpot especially considering he’s a freak that reeks of death and barely leaves the fucking house. (And remember this is the 80s, there wasn’t internet yet!)
So who’s going to this tavern near a fucking death camp factory? Well it isn’t the workers like you might think it would be, no it’s the ghosts from the graveyard. Those are her only customers.
So all these headless corpses stumble in ordering various meals, of course there’s a major problem which is they don’t have any mouths to eat with. No problem though, she just cuts “mouths” into them (Close to where the stump of the neck and chest meet) She also is chopping off various parts of their limbs and uses said limbs to serve as food to them.
While this display of necro-cannibalism takes place, the ghosts are all cheering her cooking skills and she occasionally licks a bit of the blood from chopped off limbs being very excited of how busy she is. After the feast, they all go back home where their limbs and such will regenerate so they can do it all over again tomorrow.
It doesn’t mention money, I presume she doesn’t get paid for any of this and she’s just doing it as a hobby for funzies, but if she is getting some sort of currency out of this, then she’s really raking it in with serving customers “food” they’re already bringing in themselves. (And never running out)
Alright, so that’s it for his “present day” family, now we go into some of his other family history. This is mostly told as “Three generations of tattoos” starting with his grandfather who has one of a giant snake on his back.
His grandfather was Yakuza with a major gambling addiction that just went around from gambling den to gambling den across Japan. He rarely was home and only showed up for new year’s day and summer festival. Occasionally he’d come back a winner and bring back a shitload of gifts for the painter’s dad and aunt. However, most of the time he came back a complete LOSER, looking like a disheveled bum.
During these more frequent times, the grandfather would get drunk, beat the shit out of the grandmother, tie her up and tell her to sacrifice everything for him and talk a bunch of crazy talk about his insides being filled with dice. Naturally the painter’s father and aunt grew to hate him. But that all resolved itself since one day he ran afoul of some other gamblers who ambushed him and wounded him pretty severely.
It didn’t kill him though, he just started laughing saying he’s the Snakeman and he’s not going to be killed by common pieces of shit. He finishes the job (in front of the horrified looks of his attackers) by carving open his own stomach which revealed that he did indeed have a belly full of dice. He dies in the snow bleeding to death, tasting the dice and giggling like a maniac the whole time.
Shortly after that happens it cuts to a scene with the grandmother’s blood body being hung upside down in a well almost like a crucifixion except it was just two stakes and ropes spreading her legs apart and suspending her. Apparently some psycho in the village just up and murdered her. (Says pervert, so probably raped her as well) From there, the painter’s father and aunt were split apart and it follows the next generation of tattoos. His dad had one of a Crimson Bat.
So we move on to the father’s adventures as a child after his parents were dead. He worked for some family who had a attic dwelling son (Since there weren’t any basements) who had gone mad due to studying too much. The father’s job was to make sure this NEET was fed.
The NEET was a disgusting fellow who not only drooled and snotted all in his bowl of rice, but he wouldn’t eat all of it. Since he’d get yelled at if he didn’t eat all his food, he made the painter’s dad eat the disgusting mixture or he’d threaten to drive ten penny nails in his head. The father did this a few times much to the sadistic delight of the NEET. One day though the NEET threw up everything he’d eaten and tried to make the father eat it, but instead, the father smashed the NEET’s head in with the hammer, killing him.
The NEET’s parents however didn’t really give a shit, so the dad didn’t get into trouble, but he was out of a job now so he went to go visit his sister. He’d soon come to learn though his sister died of pneumonia due to the family taking care of her working her too hard.
So the dad goes vagabond for awhile and this is about the time he gets a tattoo of a great crimson bat on his back. Of course he also starts to realize traveling around Japan going from gambling den to gambling den is what the grandfather did. So wanting to avoid those footsteps, he leave Japan and goes to Manchuria (Since this would be around the time Japan was taking over the place) to start a new life. He gets married, works on a pig farm, etc.
And then Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. (Like dumbasses)
So the father gets draft and he just continues murdering the shit out of everyone hoping if he kills enough people, the war can end quicker and he can get back to being a pig farmer. Well I think we all know how it ended.
The father survives to come back home to Japan where he works at the neighborhood slaughterhouse and has also become a major alcoholic due to all the shit he did in the war, along with the retreat from Manchuria which resulted in his wife going insane. She’d given birth to the painter at this time (More on that later) and the painter’s dad HATED him. Thought he was a creepy little shit that kept watching him all the time (Which he was) so he beat the fuck out of him, claiming he was no son of his and was a demon child.
During some of these beatings, the painter said he saw the crimson bat rise off his dad’s back as if it was alive and hovered over them. He also talks about it seemingly being alive when the dad was slaughtering pigs.Later during one winter, the father was found floating face down in the hell river like one of the bloated pigs he slaughtered and the crimson bat on his back was gone.
Okay, now on to the final tattoo (And only half way through the book!)
The final tattoo story is the painter talking about his younger brother. He had a tattoo of a dragon on his back. (And also became an alcoholic) It doesn’t mention it, but presumably he was born sometime after they made it back to Japan.
The younger brother grew up to be a street thug, generally beating the shit out of everyone and anyone. He was always picking fights with people and when he got drunk he just did it all the more and took great joy in it.
Of course much like his ancestors before him, he was eventually found by hell river during a winter day laying in the snow with half his head bashed open. However, unlike his dad and grandfather, he didn’t die. He was in a coma and he briefly came out of it to ask his painter brother to forgive him then he went right back into the coma.
This is one of the few parts where the painter shows signs of any other emotion than sadistic glee or staring apathy. (Even when he gets beat, he’s never upset about it, he just takes it with an almost confused look on his face) The painter goes on about not understanding why his younger brother behaved the way he did (let alone his last words) it then shows how his younger brother was always trying to save him from getting beat up whether it was by his dad or from bullies. His younger brother basically took the beatings for him half the time (which of course explains why he grew up to love fighting).
The painter is upset that he couldn’t do the same in return since he just stared at people from a distance. When he saw his younger brother crying and alone, he just didn’t have it in him to talk to him or anything. So this one ends with how they eventually took the brother home from the hospital and is now basically just a lump of flesh with a dragon tattoo on it that moans every now and then.
Okay so we’re getting closer to the end and now the painter talks about his mom who is a MAD WOMAN.
He mentions she’s been crazy ever since he’s known her. She was cool with him when he was a baby, but by the time he became a child, she would beat the shit out of him worse than his dad would, while giggling “Stop staring at me you demon child!” Just so everyone remembers this is still a Manga, there’s a bit more incestious undertones since it shows her tying him up, putting stakes in his hands) and practically straddling him while wearing a low cut robe (Her tits are nearly hanging out) and nothing else. (His younger brother once again prevented her from beating him to death while he was little)
Then it jumps back to the present where get to see the mother (now an old lady) looking in on the younger brother and speaking kindly to him for a moment, but then suddenly going nuts and whipping the lump. The painter’s kids shout and tell their grandmother to stop and then she get confused asking if this is hell to which the painter tells her yes it is and escorts her away from the brother.
Then she and the painter’s kids start laughing about hell because it’s something the whole family can enjoy.
At this point the painter goes into how he saw visions of hell even when he was a fetus in his mother’s womb and we get the flashback origin story.
So basically when we NUKED Japan (Specifically Hiroshima) the explosion sent forth a single beam of…well I guess radioactivity? Gamma Rays? Shit I dunno. Anyway it sent this beam from Hiroshima, over Korea and all the way to Manchuria hitting his mom.
(There we go again, Japan always blaming shit on us nuking them. If isn’t giant monsters being awoken from their slumber, it’s something like this.)
It is due to the power of THE ATOM that the painter became very aware of all the bad shit going on outside his mom’s womb. From the Russians invading the territory to the Chinese taking their revenge. He mentions his dad nearly getting killed during this escape, but a Chinese buddy managed to get him out of it.
Anyway he’s born during the Japanese escape from Manchuria and he’s laughing while holding blood clots in his hands. Immediately the old lady who helped delivered him says he’s a demon child and he should be killed. The mom refuses to and so they carry on with this forced retreat which is miserable due to the extreme cold and lack of food. The Japanese survivors are starting to turn on each other. It’s at this point some how the painter gets loose from his mom’s arms and goes to lick up some of the blood from one of the bodies.
This horrifies nearby onlookers calling him a demon child and now the father is saying maybe they should kill it. Again, the mother refuses though. Suddenly more Chinese folks stumble upon them and start throwing rocks calling them Jap bastards and such. At this point the mom gets hit in the head by a rock causing her to bleed and when she looks upon the blood she starts laughing and goes insane from it all.
Moving on, the story shows the young painter torturing and killing animals, gathering (and licking) their blood to paint with. He also mentions how his dad and his mom beating him just helped with his visions of hell for his paintings. Then one day he’s thinking about how great it would be if the kid’s house down the street burned up. He get the idea to make a model of a mushroom cloud and pray to the “Emperor of Hell” for the kid’s house to burn down.
And not long after, it happens. The power of positive thinking folks.
Feeling so excited, he goes to watch it burn and realizes that he has power thanks to his REAL father, which of course is a nuclear bomb. (Or “death incarnate” via technology I suppose)
At this point the story is mixed in with some news articles about various accidents, tragedies, mass death and even the Falkland Islands War (Hey this was the early 80s remember) showing how he’s only been growing in power with his paintings and he’s trying to kill as many people as he can, but it’s just never enough.
So he returns to mention his last masterpiece which is still unfinished, the Panorama of Hell. His goal is to set off all the world’s nuclear weapons. This will be his greatest work as an artist!
But he doesn’t want his family to live through the hell he’s about to unleash, so he goes to murder all of them. And this is where reality starts blurring with delusion (If it hadn’t been already)
All of his family are various objects. Like his wife is a mannequin that he destroys, his kids are puppets, his brother is just a rotten pig corpse, and his mom is some sort of moving clockwork figurine. He chops up all of them all the while ranting and laughing insanely. (And apologizing, saying it’s better this way)
He then leave his home and finds it’s snowy outside with a bunch of the blood berries the birds were eating earlier. After popping some of those in his mouth, there’s a huge wall in the area he’s never seen the other side of it and today would be a great day to do so.
He breaks down the wall with his hatchet and it’s basically going into Cthulhu realm now where it’s a sea of blood, bodies floating around, a giant bloody mouth in place of a sun (or moon) on the horizon. He starts vomiting up a bunch of blood in the snow probably due to being so thrilled with all this wonderful madness.
He starts ranting about how the world will end soon and how it will be so glorious that it will be by his own hand. Hell is coming, however due to him being a demon spawn from the Emperor of Hell, he won’t die…
(And now here’s where he gets really meta)
He points directly to the reader saying “BUT YOU WILL DIE! HE WILL DIE! SHE WILL DIE! THEY WILL DIE! EVERYONE WILL DIE!”
Then he throws his hatchet which spins for a couple panels and then when you turn the last page the hatchet is pretty much coming “out of the page” implying it hits the reader.
So that’s it, leaving the reader to wonder if there were supernatural shenanigans going on or if the painter was just some lone delusional nut off his fucking rocker. Or perhaps a combination of the two like in the movie American Psycho.
Well if nothing else, it’s an example of a single Manga that I actually read and enjoyed.