A Visit To Panorama Island in The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island

Sometimes you have to gamble. The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island, an adults-only manga by Suehiro Maruo, is based on a story by Edogawa Ranpo (a pseudonym for Tarō Hirai, also a nod to Edgar Allan Poe), wasn't even on my radar until Deb Aoki retweeted it. I didn't recognize any of the authors, but the cover and one page looked beautiful, so I ordered the book.

A Visit To Panorama Island
The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island cover, courtesy of Domino Comics

It turns out Maruo is known for erotic grotesques (Ero Guro in the parlance of manga), and one of the first images that come up on a Google search is a boy licking the eyeball of a girl who is losing her face.

Well, I gambled.

The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island is about an author who steals a dead industrialist's identity and takes over said industrialist's life, culminating in building an island-sized adult amusement park. It unfolds how you think it would, though with particular attention to unsettling details, like the flies buzzing around a corpse.

There's no eyeball licking or brutal body horror, but there's a constant tension, whether it's the concern that the narrator's gonna be discovered or between the beautiful island and the machinations put into place to build it. My impression is that Maruo leaned into the grotesque and uncomfortable portions of the original story. The main character pulling out his own tooth to replace it with the dead man's false tooth is a visceral highlight.

Maruo's style feels clean and elegant. There's relatively little exaggeration in his linework. Joe McCulloch, over at a wildly not work-safe Comics Journal piece, described Maruo's work in …Panorama Island as restrained and comparing it to images of his other works, I can see why. Maruo's grotesques and unseemliness are in the corners of …Panorama Island. Unlike his other work, Maruo plays nicely here.

There's not much gore if any, and the back part of the book is mostly beautiful backgrounds and landscapes. I don't have any notes on the translation by Kyoko Nitta and Ryan Sands. San Francisco publisher Last Gasp published …Panorama Island as a stately comics-sized hardcover, complete with purple endpapers.

If you're willing to gamble with your horror, and you're of age, give …Panorama Island a try. You won't forget the trip.

About James Hepplewhite