Lychee Light Club
written by Usamaru Furuya
“Among you there is one who will betray me.” Thus speaks Zera, the head of the Light Club, a sinister society of high school boys bent upon a perverse pursuit of eternal youth and beauty. Although they seek youth and beauty for themselves, raging adolescent hormones mean they pursue it in the bodies of others. To this end, they are kidnapping girls and women off the street, vivisecting those who do not live up to their high aesthetic ideals to confirm their unworthiness. Once they at last find the perfect girl, they will place her on the pedestal. Literally.
Unfortunately, actually finding the perfect girl is a tall order, and it is not something that these boys can accomplish by themselves. Therefore, they build a humanoid robot powered entirely by the lychee fruit to serve as their proxy out in the world. Programmed to believe that he is human, this robot, named Lychee, is tasked with finding their perfect girl. He succeeds. But as the Light Club descends into recrimination and violence, and the specter of betrayal lurks ever nearer, it may just be that this robot turns out to be the most human of them all…
Lychee Light Club is based upon a 1985 play of the same name performed by the Tokyo Grand Guignol, which manga artist Usamaru Furuya saw live as a teenager. The show’s promotional materials were produced by Suehiro Maruo (Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show; Ultra Gash Inferno), who is famed in Japan for his pioneering eroguro manga. Eroguro stands for “erotic-grotesque”—the visceral images of sexually explicit situations combined with maximally explicit images of human viscera. Tentacle porn, as epitomized by Toshio Maeda’s infamous Legend of the Overfiend anime and manga, is the apotheosis of the eroguro genre.
However, the eroguro drawn by Furuya here is not of the tentacle porn variety. Although as a manga artist he has become renowned for the three-dimensional, sculptural aspect of his illustrations, in this book he is true to the master—Lychee Light Club’s art is stiff, stylized, and, in spite of the base physicality of much of the subject matter, strangely, paradoxically alienating. Indeed, the (homo)eroticism manages not to be alluring, and the spilled blood and guts do not seem quite human. This is intentional, and the degree to which Furuya is able to pull this delicate balance off speaks to his sublime creative mastery.
In fact, one of the very few things in this manga that seems particularly (and peculiarly) human is the robot Lychee, and his story of humanity is actually every bit as compelling as the parallel story of betrayal within the Light Club. This, again, is intentional. The ultimate message seems to be that simply being human does not necessarily guarantee one’s humanity. Yet, on the other hand, the cruelest things we do emanate from our most human of desires and frailties. It’s a good lesson, and it makes Lychee Light Club farmore than just another eroguro sequential art spectacle. Highly recommended.-- Casey Brienza