Tentacle Tuesday: Junji Ito’s Remina

Cover of the original Japanese edition.

Occasionally, I like going with the flow when selecting the topic for a Tentacle Tuesday. I recently traded for a Junji Ito book I’d never heard of, Remina, and as one of its highlights (um… possibly the only highlight, but more about this later) is the profusion of tentacles within, it seemed like a natural fit for a topic of discussion.

We have only mentioned Junji Ito once before (in Tentacle Tuesday: Octopods Dig Manga!), but I am a fan of his work – or at least of the best of his work. In my assessment, that would be the genuinely disturbing Gyo (with the catchy subtitle of ‘The Death-Strench Creeps‘) and the haunting Uzumaki, as well as a handful of excellent short stories.

I’m by no means a horror manga pundit, but I’ve sampled a certain number of works by mangakas whose work has been translated to English, and found most of these œuvres quite unappealing, be it because of incompetent art, more human cruelty than I can stomach, far too much soap-opera-style drama, or glaring plot loopholes. Ito is not without his flaws, but something sets him apart from other authors working in a similar vein: he can depict stomach-churning gore and moments of quiet dread with equal aplomb. Cartoonists who rely on carnage to horrify their readers are ten a penny, those with a more subtle approach are few; those who can effortlessly transition from one to the other are something special.

As in that old joke about the horse that always takes its rider to the nearest pub, Ito does have a favourite approach: he starts with a most mundane object or incident, elicits a delectably menacing atmosphere out of it, and then gives it all a good twirl until the spiralling events send the protagonists (and sometimes the whole country, if not the whole planet as well) into the welcoming arms of total, uncompromising Armageddon. One might argue that he does that because it’s easier to finish it all than to think of a ‘proper’ ending, but it gives his work a certain surreal quality I really appreciate – everybody is going to die, and now that this little matter is out of the way, we can concentrate on the creative ways this is going to happen.

Remina was serialized in Big Comics Spirits from September 2004 to July 2005. The English volume (released by Viz Media, who have published the bulk of Ito material in English, slowly making their way through his whole bibliography in excellently designed hardcover editions) was released in December 2020. The plot concerns itself with a scientist who discovers a new planet and names it Remina in honour of his beautiful daughter. Of course, the planet turns out to be hurtling towards Earth at physics-defying speeds, annihilating everything in its path (which the main scientist somehow is completely unaware of, until his many lab assistants inform him of the latest developments).

And here it is, eating one of the planets in our Solar System with as much grace as an aristocratic lady carefully nibbling on a sliver of tomato.

In (not entirely unbelievable) leap of logic, Japanese citizens decide that the impending destruction is caused by Remina, previously an immensely popular and celebrated girl, and that executing this ‘witch’ is going to solve the problem. What follows is a series of chase scenes, with a giant crowd pursuing Remina throughout the progressively more and more destroyed city. Remina’s three protectors (the president of her fan club, her manager, and some uber-rich fanboy who tries to rape her later in the book) drag her around, trying to keep her safe from the murderous crowd, but they don’t do such a great job – she gets crucified next to her dad but survives, set free, captured again, flogged, tortured, crucified again, and so on.

It doesn’t help that Remina, like a lot of Ito’s pretty creations, doesn’t really have a personality. She just sobs, screams for her daddy and her lost love (the manager, who apparently she was profoundly in love with), and implores people to just leave her alone. Scenes of crucifixion and the creepy robes worn by her pursuers indeed suggest religious fervour – as the earth’s gravity changes, cities are destroyed, volcanoes erupt etc., the only thing almost everybody is interested in is Remina’s mutilation and dismemberment.

Still, there are some fun moments, most of these involving tentacles! Remina the planet has a giant eye and a coquettish, tentacular tongue that it flicks out to swallow the moon just as Remina the human is about to be killed.

One of more iconic images of Remina, the moment before the moon gets swallowed….
This is a scan from a previous edition of Remina, where the translators were a little looser with language. In the book I have, a laconic ‘it ate the moon‘ is substituted for ‘it ate the fuckin’ moon!‘.

It uses the same ‘tongue’ to lick Earth and accelerate its spinning…

Typical Remina dialogue: “SOB SOB SOB.” Note that this is the second time Remina gets crucified. It is distinctly some sort of unhealthy obsession.

… which sends everyone airborne, and gives rise to funny kung-fu-in-the-air scenes as yet another protector kicks the collective asses of Remina’s would-be executioners.

Then there’s planet Remina’s surface, all writhing tentacles, acid pools and noxious fumes. That’s where most of the tentacle enjoyment lies.

Somewhat atypically, there is even a happy ending, albeit one involving some of the main characters floating around in space in an atomic shelter bunker with a year’s worth of provisions (and hopefully oxygen?)

As you have probably surmised, this is not Ito’s most subtle work. However, some loved it – for instance, check out Manga Judgment: Hellstar Remina (地獄星レミナ) by Junji Ito (伊藤 潤二).

~ ds

Q: What’s Michael? A: Kobayashi’s Most Special Cat

« Michael is, simply put, Japan’s version of Garfield, Heathcliff and Krazy Kat all rolled into one. » — Wizard: The Guide to Comics*

* I actually disagree with all three comparisons, aside from the fact that the first two comics are also about orange cats, but this is the review Dark Horse used to promote the series.

What’s Michael? (ホワッツマイケル? in Japanese) is a comic series by Makoto Kobayashi about a cat named Michael who goes about his cat life in a pretty standard way. He spends most of the day snoozing, has distinct food preferences, and likes to meow loudly at night while courting his favourite cat lady. One would not be entirely unjustified in thinking that cat lovers will read any old comic that prominently features felines (I have occasionally been guilty of that myself!), but I am convinced that there’s something special about this series.

One of the things that makes it so endearing is that Kobayashi has a very good grip on feline body language, making it fun to follow even the poorest excuse for a plot, like for instance Michael contemplating which cozy enough spot to select for a nap. That being said, he doesn’t limit himself to realistic cat situations, often featuring cats acting like (very goofy) people, parodying human and feline at the same time.

Natural cat body language… and different ways in which cats just can’t bend, cheerfully pointed out.

Some readers are more interested in the outlandish stories, of which there are many (ranging from cat parodies of various movies to plain weirdness), some develop a soft spot for the recurring human (or semi-human) characters. Michael himself switches owners like switching gloves, depending on the needs of the story, and there is not much continuity. Kobayashi’s ideas can be a little hiss or miss, but there’s something here for everyone… provided you like felines, of course… adventures of a vampire count who is scared of cats are side-by-side with wacky cat food commercials, depictions of everyday life of various cat-besieged country bumpkins alternate with cat street gang rumbles, and all of that is sprinkled with humans-as-pets interludes. And, naturally, our ordinary yet handsome tabby Michael drinks, sleeps and plays alongside Popo, his wife, their kittens, and a rotating cast of other cats (Catzilla comes to mind!) and the poor, often put-upon dog nicknamed Bear.

The Count’s quest for a pretty neck to bite is, as always, thwarted by Michael or one of his relatives.
Michael, Popo and their kittens on the prowl for a soft spot for a snooze.
One of the strip’s running jokes is that Michael passionately hates Morning Cat canned food, and will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid eating it.

The following sequence illustrates one of Kobayashi’s favourite tricks, namely to start off with more-or-less normal cat behaviour and veer off into an unexpected direction:

As you have probably noticed, Kobayashi often opts for exaggeration when it comes to people’s facial expressions, which sometimes leads to results that are more grotesque than funny. He also enjoys drawing pretty women, but that is more obvious elsewhere, for instance in his series Club 9 (Dark Horse has published 3 volumes of that and abandoned the project before the story’s end, much to my annoyance).

In Japan, What’s Michael? was published in the weekly magazine Morning starting in 1984, and it even won the Kodansha Manga Award in 1986. There seems to also have been quite a few collections released.

One of the Japanese editions of volume 1 and 2.
Cover of another collection from 1987; Bear likes to sit and watch cats playing.

In 1988, its popularity was also rewarded with a 45-episode anime which was also broadcast in Italy and Spain (at least according to a Russian article I found). The following is the cover of a collection of these episodes, as far as I could ascertain:

In the US, it was published by Dark Horse‘s manga imprint. I am not entirely sold on the translation (the aforementioned country bumpkins, for instance, talk as if they were in a cheesy would-be Western written by somebody who has no understanding of the genre), and it also bothers me that the comics were published in the standard American left-to-right reading direction. I think it is a relatively recent phenomenon to leave manga as it was drawn when translating it into European languages – audiences have become more refined.

An example of the story going interestingly off the rails, in the proper right-to-left format.

Apparently there are stories that have never been translated, as they were deemed unfit for Western audiences (those intrigue me, yet my knowledge of Japanese is nil!), but those that were selected by whomever is in charge of these decisions have been collected in 11 volumes, published between 1997 and 2006. Most of them are quite out of print by now; I managed to gather all eleven over the years, though while writing this post I discovered that Dark Horse has decided to rescue this series out of its out-of-print-darkness and re-publish the works in two 500-page volumes. Am I going to purchase those? Yes, of course, as there is bonus material involved! Though the wrong reading direction remains wrong, alas.

Volume 8 of Dark Horse’s initial What’s Michael? run.

I enjoyed reading a review of the first volume of the reissue on Al’s Manga Blog, and maybe you will, too: What’s Michael? Fatcat Collection Vol 1.

~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday: Octopods Dig Manga!

Last night, an octopus materialized into my office and reproached me for neglecting manga during my Tentacle Tuesday forays. I vowed to do better! As octopuses are impatient fellows, I decided not to tarry and complied immediately.

Shinobuna! Chiyo-chan
Panels from Shinobuna! Chiyo-chan, a comic by Kiyoto Shitara. Begun in 2017, it is still going and is being published by Tokyo-based Kadokawa Shoten. Read it here.

While the previous manga is about a schoolgirl trying to get her classmate’s attention (she’s also a ninja, not that it simplifies matters), the following concerns itself with a shy boy who falls instantly in love with a (male) student from his class and spends the rest of the story trying to get closer to him.

Go For It, Nakamura!, started in 2014, is written and illustrated by Syundei and published by Akane Shinsha.

That’s Nakamura’s pet octopus, Icchan. « Octopi like to go into crevices, don’t they?! Wow, look at how squishy it is! »

Adventures in Poor Taste’s Trevor Richardson wrote a slightly extravagant review of Go for It, Nakamura! that delves deep into this manga’s the cephalopod imagery. Just for the fun of all the octopus metaphors, I’ll quote:

« As a queer person, I couldn’t help but identify with that queer young man who doesn’t yet know how to use all the extra arms that queerness grants him. Who doesn’t yet know how to push his tentacles up against the metal lid of self-doubt and oppression and twist it off. Who isn’t yet able to expel all that confusion and rejection like a cloud of black ink and surge down to trenches where straight people never dare drift to join his fellow otherworldly, queer creatures in the dark. »

To those who aren’t into high school romance but prefer their manga on the side of the macabre and the bizarre, I propose Octopus Girl by Toru Yamazaki (1990), though the events still mostly take place at a school. Takoko, our main character, is bullied by her classmates and nearly killed by them when they decide to semi-drown her and then force her to eat a live octopus (to which, the story specifies, she is allergic, because eating a live octopus isn’t horrifying enough as it is). As a response to this ordeal, she turns into an octopus (with a girl’s head) and exacts terrible revenge on her bullies!

The English publisher describes it as “delightfully disturbing” – at any rate, I certainly agree with the “disturbing” part. Here, Takoko eats her own appendages for sustenance (don’t forget to read from right to left.)

« Teenage monsters lose their hearts and heads in a relentlessly gory collection of dark humor and horror! Carving a comical niche in modern horror manga, Toru Yamazaki’s Octopus Girl serves up the most disgusting dishes of heartbreak and revenge found on land or at sea. Have a side order of nervous laughter with your main course of bloodcurdling fear, some gore with your teen angst, and some killer instincts with your kawaii! These shocking vignettes will hypnotize fans of the macabre and the absurd, as intestines, eyeballs, and fluids of all sorts shoot enthusiastically across Yamazaki’s pages! »

Page from One Piece, a humorous manga series by Eiichiro Oda, serialized in Shueisha‘s Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine since 1997. Read it here if you’re so inclined – in terms of posting copyrighted content, otakus seem every bit as bad as Russians. « The story follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body gained the properties of rubber after unintentionally eating a Devil Fruit. With his crew of pirates, named the Straw Hat Pirates, Luffy explores the Grand Line in search of the world’s ultimate treasure known as “One Piece” in order to become the next Pirate King. »

Moving on to proper horror – in the sense of it being devoid of comedy -, two pages from Junji Ito’s Gyo Ugomeku Bukimi (Fish: Ghastly Squirming), published as a series between 2001 and 2002 in the Japanese weekly manga magazine Big Comic Spirits. I’m enough of an aficiona-Ito to own most of his work that’s been translated into English, and though a lot of his stories are rather hit-and-miss, Gyo is one of the genuinely gruesome ones.



Ito is quite adept at conjuring up quite far-fetched yet terrifying plots, with events spinning faster and faster out of control until… until he doesn’t quite know how to tie up the story. Having gone so deep into the utter destruction of the world, there’s no elegant dénouement available but sheer Armageddon. That is definitely a weakness, so I tend to prefer his short stories, where the conclusions are fast and hard-hitting. That being said, I definitely recommend reading Gyo (read it here, but remember to support the artist by purchasing!) and Uzumaki (another terrifying read likely to leave you with a phobia of spirals). For an excellent discussion of Junji Ito’s appeal, please consider the excellently written The Horrifying Appeal of Junji Ito.

Okay, a couple more horror comics!

MAngaDevilman Manga vol.1 ch.0- Devil's Awakening
Page from Devilman, written and illustrated by Go Nagai, published from 1972 to 1973 in Shōnen Magazine.  This has very typical manga art, which is to say, art that doesn’t appeal to me. But a vicious female demon with tentacles *everywhere*? I wasn’t going to say no to that.

I’ll leave off on a somewhat… sexualized… note with two pages from the dark world of Berserk by Kentaro Miura, first published in 1988 and still going on. It’s been called one of the greatest literary works in all of manga… well, I can’t vouch for that, as I haven’t read much of it, but it does seem complex, at any rate.


You may, if you so desire, read Berserk here.

Oh, as long as we’re on the topic of probing tentacles, I’ll wrap up with some Toshio Maeda, an erotic manga artist and pioneer of hentai. His best known work is Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend which been credited with popularizing the trope of tentacle rape. Fellow tentacle lovers, are you for or against such a use of tentacles? Please let us know in the comments.

Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend by Toshio Maeda, serialized in Manga Erotopia from 1986 to 1989. Were nipples verboten, one may wonder, or is this just a demon of some kind?

mangaToshio Maeda
Panel from Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend by Toshio Maeda. If you’re in the mood for further tentacles, visit The Tentacle Lounge, an aptly-named blog devoted to Maeda.

~ ds

Shigeru Mizuki and the World of Yōkai

Shigeru Mizuki, Japanese comics artist and historian, is probably one of the best-known manga authors. A lot of his stuff has been translated into English, so when I started my timid forays into manga, his name instantly popped up. Mizuki’s area of interest (and expertise) was the Yōkai, or Japanese monsters, ghouls, goblins and other assorted bogeymen – right up my street, I thought!

Despite my interest in Japanese monsters, the first Mizuki book I picked up, NonNonBa,  failed to capture my interest. Since then, I’ve tried looking through a few others I’d spot in bookstores… and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Mizuki is just not my thing, whatever other people may see in his work.

That being said, I still really enjoy some of his illustrations, especially if they’re in colour – and I love the way they give us a peek into the rich (and quite scary) world of Japanese folklore.

Gods of Pestilence or cute pets? Your choice.

Hiratsuka-juku is a post station in Tōkaidō. A famous painting by Andō Hiroshige depicts a part of the road that leads to it. Mizuki took the painting as a basis and added a « small » detail: a Gashadokuro, one of my favourite Yōkai (and man, there’s a lot of cool Japanese monsters to vie for that spot). The Gashadokuro, literally « starving skeleton », is a gigantic pile’o’bones held together by sheer malevolence, created from skeletons of people who died of starvation. It starts its rounds after midnight… and is invisible until it bites your head off. If you ever hear bells ringing in your ears, congratulations, you’ve about to be eaten by a Gashadokuro!

« Umibozu », from Graphic World of Japanese Phantoms, 1985. These ‘sea monks’ seek to destroy ships and won’t rest until the crew is at the bottom of the ocean.

Is this a Akaname, the filth licker? Readers versed in Yōkai, please let us know!

Futaba Kikaku Co.,Ltd.

A Suiko, or ‘water tiger’, although this one looks more like a balding dinosaur.

In the 1960s, Shigeru Mizuki released Yōkai Daizukai, an anatomically-oriented guide to traditional monsters from Japanese folklore. I don’t think it’s ever been released in English, but a French version came out in 2018 (and I fully intend to purchase it when I come across it).

Shigeru Mizuki-Yokai1
A Kuro-Kamikiri, or hair cutter, which doesn’t sound so terrifying… unless you live in a society where long hair is a status symbol and loss of it means disgrace.

Shigeru Mizuki-yokai2
A Fukuro-sage, a type of Tanuki (or
Japanese raccoon dog),  who has the ability to transform itself into a bottle of sake. «The Fukuro-sage usually wears a large potato leaf or fern leaf on its head and carries a bag made from human skin. The bag contains a bottle of poison sake. Anatomical features include a stomach that turns food into sake, a sac for storing poison that it mixes into drinks, and a pouch that holds sake lees. The Fukuro-sage’s urine has a powerful smell that can disorient humans and render insects and small animals unconscious.»

Shigeru Mizuki-Yokai3
The pillow-flipper or Makura-gaeshi move pillows about, occasionally suffocating people with them or even stealing their souls.

For a further assortment of monsters, click visit the Pink Tentacle blog.

And a final morsel – Craig Thompson‘s hommage to Shigeru Mizuki. The little boy depicted is from GeGeGe no Kitarō, Mizuki’s 1960’s series.


~ ds

Tentacle Tuesday goes “blub, blub”

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday features octopuses in water where, after all, they generally belong.

We open the festivities with a scene from Japan, the undisputed motherland of all things tentacular. As a bit of an aside, for those wondering what’s up with up with Japanese tentacle porn, there’s an interesting theory that suggests that the latter was just a way to avoid censorship and obscenity charges when drawing erotic manga.

According to hentai artist Toshio Maeda talking about his experience in the mid-80s, “At that time pre-Urotsuki Doji, it was illegal to create a sensual scene in bed. I thought I should do something to avoid drawing such a sensual scene. So, I just created a creature. His tentacle is not a penis as a pretext. I could say, as an excuse, this is not a penis; this is just a part of the creature. You know, the creatures, they don’t have a gender. A creature is a creature. So it is not obscene – not illegal.”

For now we’ll stick with this G-rated page from Panorama Island.

From The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, a graphic novel by Suehiro Maruo, based on the novella by Edogawa Rampo, the Japanese Edgar Allan Poe and godfather of Japanese detective fiction.

Don’t worry – the characters are in an underwater tunnel with transparent walls, so the girl is perfectly safe (for now). Read an interesting review of this manga here: http://goodokbad.com/index.php/reviews/strange_tale_of_panorama_island_review

Next in line is this cantankerous beak-mouthed octopus, actually Magica De Spell transformed (which explains why the creature appears to be wearing mascara – waterproof mascara, of course).

Uncle Scrooge no. 193, February 1982. Pencils by Pete Alvarado, inks by Larry Mayer. (This one’s a variant cover with a white Whitman logo.)

The last of Tentacle Tuesday for this week: a snippet of a rather gruesome story, in which a scientist transforms a poor, city aquarium-dwelling octopus who was minding his own business into a terrifying man-octopus creature who runs amok. In the end, the octopus reverts to his normal form and kills the scientist. (Justice, if not particularly poetic.)

The first panel of “Arms of Doom” from Harvey‘s Black Cat Mystery no. 32, 1952, drawn by Rudy Palais. So… how exactly is he going to destroy an entire city? He has 6 arms, all right, but he’s only human-sized, if a bit stronger than a normal man.

You can read the whole riveting tale here: http://pappysgoldenage.blogspot.ca/2010/10/number-821-octoman-is-here-let-it-be.html

~ ds

Satirical socio-cultural commentary from the Old Master

Alphonso Wong (also known as Wong Chak) is fondly remembered as the creator of Old Master Q, a truly long-running series that first appeared in newspapers/magazines in Hong Kong in 1962, was serialised in 1964, and is still in publication today. When Mr. Wong retired from his strip in the 90s, his son, Joseph Wong, took over the company, and he’s been managing the licensing ever since, as well as directing the team of artists writing and drawing the strip. Wong Chak passed away in 2017, at 93.

I’m no expert (the language barrier doesn’t help!), but people’s love for Old Master Q and Wong Chak is evident. To quote from Lambiek Comiclopedia,

[The strip] inspired its own magazine (“Old Master Q’s Crazy Comics”, 1965), toys, stationary, electronic scales, LED lamps, insulated cups, umbrellas and lunch boxes, as well as seven live-action film adaptations, four animated ones and two TV series. Copies of ‘Old Master Q’ can still be found in many Chinese hairdresser shops or doctor’s waiting rooms. Its success spread to the rest of Asia and translations in Europe, Latin America and Japan. Along with other well-known comic book characters, Old Master Q has his own statue in the “Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Book Stars” in Kowloon Park, Hong Kong. In August 2016 an Old Master-themed café opened on Nathan Road in Prince Edward, Hong Kong.

I prefer the art from the earlier days of OMQ, although I am glad that the strip is still around. (It’s a national institution!) To illustrate:

Please don’t forget to follow the numbers and read these top to bottom, right to left, as appropriate for a Chinese strip:

“Space Monster”, 1970. In panel number 4 , Old Master Q is saying “I am the first person to land on Mars! Hee, hee!”. In panel 5, he says “Friend!” to the aliens; despite his attempts at friendliness, they flee in panel 6, alarmed by “the strange beast that comes from space”.

Judging how often jokes about mermaids crop up, Wong Chak had a thing for them.

“Reminder of love”, 1970.

Wong Chak was impressively ambidextrous and could (and would) draw with either hand!


Here’s a strip from more recent days. As you can see, the reading order of the panels has been adapted to the Western palate, and there are English captions translating the Chinese text.


There’s as many collections of these strips as one would expect from a series so popular, including special-theme collections released for various holidays.


I eagerly await the day I’ll be able to read Old Master Q strips without having to painfully pore over a dictionary over every third character. (Especially given that I’m learning simplified characters, and Old Master Q uses traditional characters. Oof…) If that day ever comes, there’ll be a lot of material to dig into!

Old master Q

You can follow the modern-day strips by visiting the official website, https://www.oldmasterq.com/

~ ds