I should preface this review by saying that Suehiro Maruo’s work is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. If you do not take to all kinds of ungodly images, you would do best to look elsewhere for your next comic read.
Of the manga I’ve read so far by Maruo, I’ve enjoyed Jeune Fille the most because the nature of its cast – a travelling circus freak show – lends itself so well to the grotesque surrealism that Maruo depicts. I also like narratives about freak shows in general, in that these spectacles were products of early modernity – a time at which institutional definitions of “normal” were gaining traction – and as such, they tell us a lot about about the foundations of modernity.
Jeune Fille’s protagonist is the long suffering Midori, a young girl who is basically an indentured slave to the rest of the circus crew who are, to put it mildly, a sadistic and oversexed lot. Things seem to take a turn in Midori’s favour when a demonic dwarf joins the circus and takes a liking to her, but he is just as violent as the rest…
As is typical of Maruo, the stories in this unhappy camp are hyperviolent and perverted although it’s not as extreme as some of his other works I’ve read. However, unlike his other comics, Jeune Fille also contrasts the extremities with twisted moments of tenderness and pathos which perhaps, makes it the most disturbing work of all.
I haven’t been able to find any English translations of Maruo’s work in print, but you can buy the French translations at The Beguiling. Call first, as they’re not always in stock. Ryan Sands is also working on an English translation for us Anglos so keep an eye on his website.