Painting is the gateway to mayhem in Hideshi Hino’s “Panorama of Hell.” This is one of the classic no-holds-barred manga ( Hino is frequently mentioned in one shocked breath with Junji Ito or Suehiro Maruo ). Our guide to this inferno is a truly dedicated painter, drinking hydrochloric acid in order to spew out blood clots all over his canvasses and better convey an internal post-nuclear hell. And what canvasses these are, out-doing whatever monstrosity was in that Dorian Gray painting: each of them opens into a different hellish vignette, depicting a morbidly cute cartoon family that has eerie parallels to Hino’s own.
“Panorama of Hell” isn’t, of course, autobiographical ( OH GOD I HOPE NOT!!!) But it is a confessional of the subconscious. Hino peppers the work with queasy inside jokes about his own life, informed by a reportedly traumatic early childhood as a Japanese immigrant in post-WWII Machuria. The aftermath of war is a theme here: like the Nagasakians from “Crossing Midnight”, the Hino alter-ego in “Panorama” is the subtle end result of the atomic bomb.
Maybe I shouldn’t have said “subtle.”