I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately with too many big projects and lots of “going” and “doing.” (I’m a bit of a homebody.) So, to help counteract all my PROJECT ANXIETY, I thought I’d read something quick and fun and entertaining… Why, how about this lovely, little manga title based on a classic fairy tale. That should be a nice, relaxing, little read, right? (Maybe, if you’re a fan of horrific, psychedelic, creepy weirdness…)
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Junko Mizuno – Cinderalla (2002)
Junko Mizuno’s retelling of the well known Cinderella story, (Mizuno’s version is spelled slightly differently---I’m not sure if that’s to avoid copyright infringement issues), was originally published in 2000 in Japan, came to the U.S., thanks to Viz Comics, in 2002, (translated by Yuji Oniki), and the version that I read was a 2006 FOURTH edition printing, so the book has done quite well. The original story, probably most well known in the U.S. from the Disney cartoon, is about a girl who is made a virtual slave in her own home by her wicked stepmother after her father dies, but is helped to gain her “happily-ever-after” by a Fairy Godmother and a magic glass slipper. But did you ever watch this wholesome family classic and think to yourself, “You know what this story needs? It needs a giant rat, and some zombies, and scenes of graphic bodily dismemberment (the original Grimm’s folktale was much bloodier than the Disney version), and lots of naked breasts…” If THAT is the version of this story that you’ve always wanted, then you’re in luck, because Junko Mizuno has got you covered!
Mizuno’s art style, as the cover would suggest, is extremely sweet and cutesy, not unlike American fare, such as The Powerpuff Girls or Strawberry Shortcake. However, there is a DARKER element to her work than most American storytellers would be willing to explore. Look again at that cover, closely this time, and you’ll notice that one of the little birds has a BITE taken out of its skull and that the little black creatures in the girl’s hair are RATS! As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Mizuno also loves to depict her female characters topless (for some reason), and in almost every panel something (often a character’s mouth) will be dripping with some fluid. Creepy characters abound, with bizarre, often perverse, motives---and although there isn’t a LOT of violence in the story, there are a few scenes where different characters are grotesquely mutilated, and although the cutesy style masks the effects, somewhat, it’s still quite gruesome and icky when it happens. (In this sense the book reminds me, a LOT, of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, which was also very kidsy-looking but had scenes that were incredibly gruesome and violent along with the cartoon laughs.)
The basic plot of this version of the tale is that Cinderalla works, happily, at the restaurant that her father owns, and her father’s yakitori sauce is famous and draws huge crowds to their shop. Things are going great, until Cinderalla’s father dies. Given some advice from a rat, Cinderalla goes to the graveyard where her father is buried, after dark, and discovers that all the residents rise in the night as zombies. She brings her father home, so that he can continue cooking yakitori chicken, but they are followed by some other zombies, a mother and her two daughters, and Cinderalla’s father falls instantly in love and marries the zombie mother.
From here, things get weird…
Essentially, Cinderalla is enslaved in her own home, trying to keep up with the demands of her new zombie family, and the “Prince” from the original fairy tale is recast as a famous zombie singer, who Cinderalla falls in love with as soon as she sees him---but when she tries to go to his concert, she is told that only zombies are allowed in and that living folks aren’t invited!
Thus, Cinderalla’s wish from her Fairy Godmother is that she be turned into a zombie so she can attend the Prince’s show! And, instead of losing a glass slipper as she’s running home at sunrise (when she’s scheduled to become a living human again), she leaves behind an EYEBALL instead!
As I’ve mentioned, the book is cutesy, but VERY dark, sick, brutal, and unsettling. In other words, I LOVED IT! I’d read this story several years ago, but I didn’t remember just how weird and creepy it was until I reread it yesterday. The book is beautifully illustrated, Mizuno’s lines being somehow stylized and delicate, yet thick and grotesque and creepy all at the same time. And there’s probably some kind of jarring psychological effect that takes place when we see something displayed in the “STYLE” of children’s work, but reflecting these dark, demented, ADULT themes and occurrences. It’s unsettling---and extremely pleasing (to a dark, demented brain like mine.) The book is also incredibly funny and drenched in twisted folklore and mythological tropes.
It should be obvious that this book is not for kids (it does have a “mature readers” warning on the back), but I want to reiterate this fact. The book is DISTURBING. It’s full of nudity, sexual situations (Cinderalla’s new stepmother used to work in a strip club!), disturbing scenes of bondage and dismemberment, and freaky, nightmarish moments that will cause even the heartiest folks to cringe, (at least a little bit.) However, the book IS mostly played for laughs, and I get the impression that the extreme violence and weird nudity is meant to be chuckled at more than it’s meant to disgust. I appreciate when a classic story gets twisted and reinterpreted, and Mizuno’s take on this classic fairy tale is a real DOOZEY! In many ways, it’s closer to the darker, original Grimm’s version than the Disney take is, even if the details are more spooky, gothy, and supernatural in form. When I did a little research before writing this review, I noticed that Mizuno has written a BUNCH of stuff since this book came out, including a reinterpretation of Hansel & Gretel and something called Hell Babies! Yeah, I’ve got some new books to look for…
In the meantime, KEEP READING! It’s good for you… And if you read anything super-cool or super-creepy, let me know! I’m always looking for new books to review!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!