GYO: Great Gift for Grandma

Huezo Taveras Dec 10, 2006

A death stench creeps through a seaside town in Okinawa, Japan, bringing with it an abomination: mechanically legged sea-creatures that attack humans. Tadashi and his sickened girlfriend Kaori escape from death at the mouth of a prowling great white shark. Returning to Tokyo, the pair visit the laboratory of Tadashi’s uncle Dr. Koyanagi and his young assistant Yoshiyama. The sea continues to empty itself of its mutated sea life in a seeming torrent of revenge. Faced with growing peril, the four plunge into Dr. Koyanagi’s past as a young inventor and his father’s tie to a pivotal moment in Japanese history.

Critically acclaimed master of horror manga (Japanese comics), Junji Ito creates a masterpiece of existential and sardonic horror in GYO. Ito weaves social, political and historical threads with David Cronenberg’s clinical eye to science technology and the moral underpinnings reminiscent of 1950s EC’s horror comics. Not one to be satisfied with just this, Ito adds the fantastical to the tapestry, sending the reader into a world beyond comprehension.

Junji Ito doles out layered, coarse lines that add a level of richness and humanity rarely seen in popular comics today. His pen and brush strokes carve out the gnarled, cold and slimy texture of the mechanical grotesques as effectively as they do the gas-filled, cluttered cityscape of modern-day Tokyo. His representative rendering of the human characters, smooth panel transitions, and sparse use of extreme camera angles focus the reader on the story itself. Using traditional illustration techniques, the comic enjoys an organic feel that could hardly be attained in a film using computer-generated special effects.

GYO is a two-part black and white trade paperback with full-colored, embossed-letter cover that recalls classic 70s and 80s western horror films. Its 5 1/2” by 8” size makes it easier to carry around than most trades.

Historically, the sea has been a symbol of the collective unconscious. Unimaginably powerful creatures that defy human understanding, lie dormant below the aqua surface, looming in the peripherals of the world. This was the basis for many H.P. Lovecraft tales and Junji Ito – a Lovecraft fan himself – continues to explore this theme in GYO. If they wish to survive, end the destruction of their country and save the deathly sick Kaori, Tadashi, Dr. Koyanagi and Yoshiyama must delve into the sordid history of themselves and of Japan.

Although the dialogue occasionally suffers from redundancy, GYO shines as a gem of the J (Japanese) horror genre.

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