Taking place after the bloody conflict in The Princess of the Never-Ending Castle, “Twelve Sisters” (shortened for sake of sanity) takes another trip to the mind-bending world of branching realities at war with one another. The abstract concept of a feudal castle growing into the sky and branching off into other realities may seem like a lofty concept (think the metaverse, but being able to see your neighbor through the window), yet Kago has proven to push the boundaries not only in extreme content but also in experimental storytelling.
The way the book twists in on itself as panels meld together, undeniably, makes for perplexing yet stunning visuals. In particular, a war waged through ‘seppuku portals’ that allow limbs to grab and smash is a beautiful piece of morbid absurdity even for the creator who embodies the nonsense behind ‘Erotic Grotesque Nonsense”. In addition, the ceaseless war between split realities offers devious eccentric rulers, such as the ‘Turtle King’ who makes his subjects jump from heights to force their legs into their bodies to take on his short stature – small man syndrome to its most devious and shocking end. Indisputably, Kago, with his ‘never ending castle’ series, has proven to be a profound talent in creating absurd, alternative narratives.
Those who enjoy the unapologetic and graphic approach of Kago will be pleased to know the degree of violence and depravity is amped up in this release. Consequently, the title works better for fans already familiar with the sensational work of the mangaka. The sexual violence especially is some of the most stomach churning the mangaka has ever created. Furthermore, there is one particular instance of cannibalism involving a baby that is particularly nauseating – you have been warned. Kago has never been for the faint of heart, but content wise this is one of his most challenging series to approach as it contains some of his most shocking depiction of sexual violence to date. Regardless, established fans won’t be shocked by the depth of which Kago goes, the violence is nothing more than a reflection of an absurd indulgence in controversy that the mangaka so wonderfully thrives under.
Compared to his other work which have been previously published in English, “12 Sisters” ranks among the most audacious and over-the-top; so, if you want to see the mangaka at the height of his abilities, indulging in extreme cruelty and unapologetically dark humor, this release is an ideal place to start.
Those worried about this title being a sequel to The Princess of the Never-Ending Castle need not worry. Certainly, it would be recommended to start with the first release, though it is not essential reading to understand the follow up. Thankfully, the book offers a decent summary of the bizarre landscape and the story exists on its own. They make quite the shocking companion piece together, but depending on availability, they don’t need to be read in order.
The release itself is rather glorious, big enough to kill a man in hardcover at 17 x 24 cm – it is a meaty boy. The quality of the print is top-notch and the oversized print allows for the reader to dig in deep and writhe around in the gooey goodness. Those familiar with Hollow Press will know this is the standard, as their presentation of their material has made them a notable purveyor of pristine limited edition releases for both manga and European comics. You can see a video sample below to get a better idea of the high standard of quality and care put into the presentation:
Positively, fans of Kago, including erotic grotesque nonsense in general, will adore and cherish this release – it is beautifully presented and wonderfully indulgent. Arguably, at 84 pages, the release does seem slight scant when compared to the whopping 192 page release of the previous entry, yet the large format really allows the reader to spend a lot of time with the work – an ideal coffee table book to deter undesirables from sticking around too long.
Ultimately, if you are a fan of underground and experimental comics, with a high tolerance for depravity, The Twelve Sisters of the Never-Ending Castle is an essential title. Here is to hope in the castle to continue to grow so Shintaro Kago can continue telling stories in the bizarre feudal landscape where anything and everything goes.
Check out the Hollow Press website for more titles
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