Maruo Suehiro (b. 1956)
Impotent Boyfriends from the Beginning
Detail: panel No. 4 of 8

Japan, 1983
Drawing (genga), ink and adhesive tape on paper
Copyright: Maruo Suehiro / Publisher: Seirinkogeisha
Gift from the artist, 2014

Reflecting the artist’s lifelong appreciation of expressionist and surrealist films, this short story unfolds with brilliant cinematic structure. In the first half of the story (panels No. 1-4), we watch one of the characters descend into madness. Following the title page (panel No. 1), which depicts an anonymous femme fatale adorned with a neck brace and a mechanical hand, we are introduced to two characters (panel No. 2): a young man lying dead on the floor and his grieving girlfriend. Maruo describes the demented activities of the woman (the femme fatale of this tale) through a series of disturbing close-ups: the man’s flaccid penis, the woman’s expressionless face, and the man’s vulnerable left eye. By the fourth panel, the woman has desecrated her lover’s corpse in unimaginable ways.

The structure of the latter half of the story (panels No. 5-8) parallels that of the first half. After a series of beautiful hallucinations (panel No. 5), the woman begins to inexplicably mutilate herself (panel No. 6), and as she realizes that her boyfriend had betrayed her (panel No. 7), her violence escalates to an explosive climax (panel No. 8).

For further discussion of Impotent Boyfriends from the Beginning and other works by Maruo, please refer to this podcast.