Many people may be aware of the name Issei Sagawa as well as the sickening crime he committed in France, in 1981 but many may not be aware of Sagawa’s self-produced manga set around his heinous crimes.

The Japanese-born student studying abroad in Paris, Issei Sagawa invited Dutch-born student, Renée Hartevelt, to his apartment for dinner where he shot her in the back of the head with a rifle whilst she read poetry from his desk. Over the course of several days, Sagawa proceeded to have sex with, as well as consumed the flesh of her corpse. After decomposition set in, Sagawa proceeded to attempt to dispose of the body by dumping two suitcases containing the remains into a lake in Bois de Boulogne park where he was discovered by police and promptly arrested.


Being deemed legally insane and unfit to stand trial by the judge presiding over the case, Sagawa was deported back to Japan. Once back, he was assessed by doctors at Matsuzawa Hospital in Tokyo who concluded that Sagawa was of sound mind, therefore releasing him back into the general populous. After his release, Sagawa found a lot of notoriety in his home country and had become an, ever so morbid, celebrity. Proceeding to star in exploitation films & porn, write restaurant reviews for a magazine, attend events as a public speaker, along with publishing a number of books, including a detailed recount of his crimes. Fortunately, this fame was short-lived, with Sagawa struggling with financial troubles for the majority of his life afterward. However, before this fall from notoriety, a lesser-known and more morally reprehensible manga was created  by the killer called Sagawa San (2000).

Set around his own perspective of the crime, this manga provides a terrifying glimpse into the mind of a cold-blooded murderer/cannibal/ne**ophiliac. Visually displaying Sagawa’s innermost thoughts before and during the murder, divulging in great detail the means of mutilating the body of Renée Hartevelt, along with his detention and trial and even life after returning to Japan a free man.



These sickening details of this infamous crime deliver a startlingly realistic iteration compared to most true crime stories, dragging the reader into the moment as if they were witnessing the event personally. The vivid descriptions of the texture of certain body parts, the various scents experienced during the several days-long event, and the process of having sex with the corpse allude to a nauseating experience the toughest of true crime buffs would struggle to finish.

Additionally, the visuals in Sagawa San provide an incredibly haunting depiction of the event. Containing both graphic photos of the crime and incredibly crude, child-like illustrations provided by Sagawa, this visual aspect is truly where the sickening nature of the manga becomes the hardest to stomach. One such image is a hand-drawn portrait of his victim accompanied by the characters for Owari (The End) puts into perspective the horrifying lack of empathy felt by Sagawa for his crimes. 

Hand-drawn portrait of Renée Hartevelt, drawn by her murderer Issei Sagawa

Although accepted by Okura Publishing for distribution, Sagawa San received a very limited release and is currently out of print. Even so, there are several available online for an absorbent amount and are only available in Japanese but be warned, this is an extremely graphic work.

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