'AMOROUS' 好色 - ART PHOTO BOOK UPDATE: ERO GURO AND TOSHIO MAEDA

Erotic Grotesque known as Ero Guro (エログロ) a sub theme of literature and art expressing the ideas of concepts that are malformed, unnatural or horrific in a unrealistic way.

Ero Guro began appearing during the Taishō period during the 1920s. During World War II (1939 -1945) ideas were suppressed but re-emerged especially in literature, movies and Manga.

copyright © Toshio Maeda

 Toshio Maeda

Extreme violence in Japanese Art was not a new occurrence, many ukiyo-e artists dating from the Edo Period (1600-1868) produced musha-e (武者絵) warrior pictures based on historical or literary accounts. Many of these same artists also produced extremely erotic and provocative images known as Shunga (春画) spring pictures to varying degrees. Quite often the pictures would be accompanied by a narrative involving a soft and romantic interlude with humor. Also yūrei (幽霊) faint spirit has featured frequently in literature, theatre and art, so it comes as no surprise that the three genres should merge to some degree to become a new sub genre of Ero Guro.

copyright © Toshio Maeda

 Toshio Maeda

Well known ero guro Manga artists include Toshio Maeda (前田俊夫), who used the tentacle in Urotsukidoji (うろつき童子), later recreated into an anime. Many assume that the Octopus and the Shell Diver by Katsushika Hokusai was the inspiration behind Maeda's work, but he states that the ukiyo-e picture was not something that was considered. It was more that the tentacle was a successful way to subvert Japan's strict censorship on erotic Manga, and an artist would use any trick to challenge the restriction.

My big brother is two years older than me and he taught me how to depict manga when I was around 10. But before that I was really fond of reading manga myself. Not only manga but just ordinary books, I loved to read. That's how it got started.

I was forced to enrol in vocational school for architecture, because my grandfather was a carpenter and my mother believed I should follow in his footsteps, but I really wanted to follow my brother in design school. I ran away from my hometown Osaka to Tokyo when I was around 16.

I left Osaka and came to Tokyo to become a professional Manga Artist. At first I spent 3 years working in a Manga studio under very hard conditions, working around the clock. After that I went independent.

When I left the studio I considered whether to be a Manga Artist for boys or adults; but I thought Manga Artists for children cannot last long. Ten years is the lifespan as a Manga Artist for children, but as a Manga Artist for adults I thought for 30 years I could survive.

After I just began doing x-rated or erotic Manga, publishers for Children's Manga thought I was able to do some Manga for children because my art style could be adapted for them. I could draw action sequences and different types of genre. I started to do educational work, covers for magazines and illustrations for novels.

At the time erotic Manga was so dull, the erotic scene comes first, then the storyline comes next. I always felt it was dull and wanted to create the storyline. So the Editor-in-chief and I talked about creating something new and the tentacle might be a good way to avoid censorship. At the time censorship was so strict in Japan, even now genitals cannot be depicted. A human being could not have a large tenticle, so it may be a creature or monster from out of space. That is why I created the tenticle.

After I had a car accident, I lost my ability as an artist to draw precisely. An amateur couldn't notice it, but the editor and I noticed it. I quit doing Manga for the weekly magazine. I was searching for a way to survive. After I spent 4 years in rehab, I couldn't move my right arm, fingers or right hand because the rear tyre of the truck ran over me. My right side was paralyzed totally. So it took 4 years - I am not fully recovered, but I can use chopsticks or play golf. As an artist we need subtleties to move our fingers, we have to distinguish the weight, put pressure on the paper with the pen and ink, now I can't feel that. Sketching is another story, so just sketching might be better.

When I go to Conventions and Anime Expos I get orders for sketches. Now I can survive.

From the Edo Era, the Yakuza existed. The Yakuza now were born after the war. They didn't have a job because of their blood. So many untouchable people existed. A caste system exists in Japan, they were the lowest caste in Japanese society. Also they were Koren Japanese, they were segregated. Even now they couldn't get a good job. They became professional Yakuza, dealing with gambling, drugs and prostitution. At the time Japan was so chaotic, so police needed their help to control the civilians. We were defeated by China and America, it was so chaotic at the time. They needed the Yakuza to help make everything under control.

Before the war the Yakuza had a moral issue as a professional Yakuza not to hurt the citizens, just to collect money for gambling and prostution.

I was born eight years after the war. At the time the American Government was so afraid of Russia's influence, so they were trying to sell their TV shows to influence the Japanese people. Children and parents were watching Bonanza, Combat and Little Rascals. We were brainwashed by American culture because on the TV show there were fantastic gadgets - vacuum cleaner, microwave oven or washing machine. A nice looking crew cut man would fall in love with the innocent white blond lady. It was the ideal life. We thought Wow! Fantastic! American people overindulged themselves in spending in their civilized life. Compared with ours, we were in poverty, we were so poor. Nothing in our room, just a light and a fridge - just a wooden one and put ice in it.

We thought American culture is fantastic, the number one in the world. We all loved American culture.

When I was 17 I had encountered American comic strips, It was a golden age for American comics. In the Early seventies, or the end of the sixties. So many gifted talented artists at the time. I was so influenced by the American comic strips and I modified that into the Japanese style. That is why I had so much popularity amongst youngsters.

I thought the greatest work I had done was Trap of Blood. Before that title I had been doing Manga where the storyline was created by another writer. At the time in my art style of Manga I had to spend alot of time to create our own style. It was a realistic Manga style and it took so much time to create that. So we didn't have much time to read ordinary books or novels. That is why a Manga artist couldn't create a storyline. But I thought I could do it. The particular writer at the time was looking down at Manga Artists. He said Manga artists were so stupid because we were so idiotic.

We were drinking with the editors at a the party and he said that directly to me. He was the one creating my storyline with my work. I went bolistic. I told him I could create a better storyline than yours. He said give it a shot. After that I quit his story and asked the editor in chief to start a new storyline. It got so popular, it was a number one hit in that magazine, compared to the one with his storyline. I believed in myself that I could do that because I read tons of books - because I am a bookworm.

Interview by Retro Cynical [full video interview]

Toshio Maeda's erotic Manga, particularly his unique realistic style depicting aliens, monsters and demons with young women may seem provocative and highly violent and explicit; it is only when you look at it in the context of Japan's history of art and it's masters can you understand that it is entirely reasonable that he could push the boundaries in such a way.

copyright © Toshio Maeda

 Toshio Maeda

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