Horror manga has certainly gotten a boost in popularity thanks to the likes of one man in particular, Junji Ito. However, if you ask those who have gone further down the rabbit hole, you are likely to hear several other names pop up on a regular basis. One of those creators is Hideshi Hino, a revered horror mangaka who thrives in the filth of industrial waste, extreme violence, and unending gloom. Adding to the infamy of the work, his collection has spent the last several years on the high price end, given the long out-of-print status on any of his releases.

However, the horror auteur has been granted another chance to repulse a new slew of manga fans with the release of Town of Pigs, courtesy of Star Fruit Books.

As is often the case with Hino stories, the setup to the story itself is rather straightforward as he is a creator that always cuts to the core of his nightmarish visions. In Town of Pigs, a young man becomes the sole survivor of a demonic regime that took over his small village. He soon learns that the goal of the ghastly invaders is to turn the denizens of the remote town into pigs for manual labor.

This being a Hino story, though, has the means of transformation and the actual use of pigs makes for a morbid affair. Torture is par for the course and pigs are made to work themselves to death only to be chopped up and displayed as a reminder of what happens to those that slack. The witness to all this, a young boy, gives the book a degree of commentary and interjects some humanity into the story — a common theme through Hino’s work. In fact, stripping the narrative of the child away and the work would be seen as sadistic and even mean-spirited in nature.

The extreme aspects of the work of Hino work perfectly with his gritty aesthetic and unique art style. There is something almost cartoonish about the way Hino draws his subjects, as they have a soft roundness to them that is more often associated with art aimed towards younger audiences. Yet, the attention to detail, the added grime and the excess of violence really make the soft shapes become beautifully perverse for horror fans — a child’s worst nightmare manifested in ink. Hino’s style may not have a universal appeal like other mangaka’s, but it is unique and eccentric in a way that will charm many.

On ghastly visuals, The Town of Pigs may not be the most graphic or dark of Hino’s work. Certainly, the reader is gifted with visions of decapitation, men being forced to walk over hills of thorns, and (signature) eye-gouging. However, the story within is possibly one of the most engaging of the mangaka’s works to be released in English.

There is an intense build, engaging drama, and a final twist that plays like a metaphysical nightmare. Having previously read the entire Hino collection previously, I can say with confidence that this is one of his better-written stories from what was previously published. Notably, the conclusion poses a mind-bending scenario that is more unnerving than the extreme violence preceding it.

It is a real treat to once again get a new Hino, even more so with the option to also grab a physical release. To those who have come to appreciate the sickly visions of the mangaka, this is one of his best works. To new fans, it is the perfect introductory point into the maddening world of Hino Horror. As a fan, I can’t wait to see more of his titles make their way back to print in the West.

An absolute must own, visit the Town of Pigs and bury yourself in the filth! You won’t regret it.

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