Suehiro Maruo was born in 1956 in Nagasaki. He is one of the pioneers of fucked up art, introducing a blend of pornography and horror in his mangas since the 80s. Some of his best works were initially published in an alternative magazine Garo which ran between the 60s and the 90s – his art is transgressive and innovative, yet visibly inspired by traditional Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo period (Ukiyo-e), or more specifically, to the Japanese artistic movement of Muzan-e, which roughly translates as “bloody prints“, illustrating various themes of cruelty and atrocity in the same style. The inclusion of erotic themes makes Maruo’s art style part of yet another sub-genre, that of ero guro (erotic gore), which combines eros with macabre acts.

Eye licking fetish in Suehiro Maruo's manga

One recurring theme in his art, for instance, is the eyeball-licking fetish (scientifically known as oculolinctus): many of his works depict a character – oftentimes an older male or demonic figure – kissing or sticking his tongue into the eye of another, usually younger girl. In his manga stories, it is not uncommon to see even more hardcore depictions of eye brutality, with characters having their eye balls removed with forks or their eye sockets filled with snakes. And if you think this fetish is already too extreme for you, then we recommend staying away from the majority of Suehiro Maruo’s works. With titles like “Putrid Night” (1981) and “Shit Soup” (1982), you can imagine where this is going. The artist does not shy away from portraing the most bizarre, taboo, outrageous sexual deviances known to humans. Sex and death are not just the focus in each of Suehiro Maruo’s artworks, they comprise most of it. There is another thematic sphere that appears in some of his works, though: politics. This is explicit in “Planet of the Jap” (1985), in which he imagines a world history in which the Land of the Rising Sun triumphed during World War II (after dropping atomic bombs on Los Angeles and San Francisco). American women are violated by Japanese soldiers, the flag of Japan takes over the Statue of Liberty.

Excerpt from Suehiro’s Maruo Interview for the “Sex in The Comix” documentary (2012)

If I had to compare the art style of Suehiro Maruo to that of a western artist, Salvator Dalì would come to mind. The two share a taste for absurdism and dream-like scenarios, while both delivering extremely refined, detailed, elegant in form works which one may consider fine art if it weren’t for the extravagant themes. Perhaps a curious coincidence, but there is even a story from Maruo, The Great Masturbator, which shares the same title as a painting from Dalì.

While extremely popular in his niche, Suehiro Maruo is far from a mainstream manga artist. The covers of his books are often elegantly decorated Because of this, his books can be pricey. More recently, Suehiro Maruo has been illustrating some of the stories from Japanese mystery fiction writer Edogawa Ranpo, such as The Caterpillar (2012), and The Strange Tale of Panorama Island (2013).

Suehiro Maruo Books in English

  • Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show (Amazon) [1997]
    • Story of a teenage girl that ends up becoming the servant of Mr. Arashi and his group of freaks, in a place filled with sex and violence.
  • Ultra-Gash Inferno (Amazon) 
    • Collection of extremly graphic and at times gross stories, includes “Shit Soup” and “The Great Masturbator”
  • Comics Underground Japan (Amazon) 
    • collection of stories from different artists, includes “Planet of the Jap” by Maruo
  • How to Rake Leaves (Amazon) 
    • written by Leonard Koren, Illustrated by Suehiro Maruo – quite literally a book about leaves raking so keep your expectations in place
  • How to Take a Japanese Bath (Amazon) 
    • written by Leonard Koren, Illustrated by Suehiro Maruo – again, literally a book about bathing
  • The Strange Tale of Panorama Island (Amazon) [2013]
    • Based on the 1926 novella by Edogawa Ranpo. A struggling novelist comes up with a plan to impersonate a wealthy boarding school friend after his death, so that he can use his family’s fortune to build an amusement park.

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Suehiro Maruo – bizarre Japanese sensual horror
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