Toru Yamazaki – Octopus Girl (Vol. 1) (2006) [Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian]
I’m a fan of Japanese horror comics, particularly ghost stories. Something about the cultural relationship between Japanese writers and the world of the supernatural inspires them to produce work that is as strange and as creepy as horror can get. Well, Octopus Girl is certainly creepy, but what Yamazaki has created here is more of a satirical spoof of the horror genre than a true horror comic---but it’s also kind of brilliant.
The premise is this: a young high school girl named Takako is terrorized by the mean girls at her school, who tease her and beat her and nearly drown her and call her “Octopus Girl.” (“Tako” is Japanese for “octopus.”) Somehow, after a particularly vicious attack, Takako finds herself cursed and transformed into an actual octopus. (She still has her human head but instead of a body, she has tentacles sprouting out of her neck.) In this octopus form, Takako essentially goes crazy and kills all of the girls who tormented her, then escapes into the sea.
Eventually, Takako learns to control the transformation between her human and octopus forms, and sets off on a series of bizarre, extremely violent, crazed adventures involving sea witches, a girl who was transformed into an eel by a mad scientist, a vampire granny, a psychopathic toddler, and so on. Along with the violence and gore, there are also some interesting meta-moments in these stories. For example, when the plot starts to get too silly, the “cursed hands of the readers” reach into the comics’ frame to throttle the characters, and when Takako spends too much time on a sideline thought, the foot of the comic artist himself kicks her back into engaging with the plot of the story! It’s very clever and very funny. In addition, Yamazaki’s black and white line art is excellent---allowing him to parody “shojo” style romance comics and then turn around and fill the frames with gushing blood. His ability to create disgusting and disturbing scenes is perhaps a bit too far into the “yucky” even for my taste at times. The mood is an unholy marriage of Tom Savini splatter-gore mixed with a Garbage Pail Kids sensibility!
So there you go… If you like disgusting, creepy, gory, violent, insane, silly, juvenile, horror comedy, then Octopus Girl might be right up your alley. If you are a nice person, a kind person, someone who believes in morality and decency and not cutting humans into ribbons and eating them, I’d probably avoid this book. It’s not particularly SCARY (I’ll get to scary Japanese comics when I get to Junji Ito), but it is very clever, demented fun---if you have a strong enough stomach…
---Richard F. Yates
(Commander in Cheap of The Primitive Entertainment Workshop)