Shintaro Kago’s Surrealistic Fashionable Paranoia, Interview

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Shintaro Kago (駕籠 真太郎 ) is a guro manga artist. He debuted in 1988 on the magazine COMIC BOX.

He illustrated both a cover and numerous articles under the title kagomaniacs for VICE magazine. He was contacted by Flying Lotus to create illustrations for the 2014 album, You Are Dead! The cover, as well as each song on the album, has original artwork by Shintaro Kago and additional works of art have been used in the accompanying live show. His style stands out on its own, for its limitless exploration. In his stories, he deals with extreme themes pursuing the development of his own voice beyond the boundaries but with his rules and principles, he adds small pieces of strangeness, self-reflection, experimentation with shapes, and colors in trippy visual journeys. His art with horror and satirical shades, with bright colors and very dark tones, places a strong focus on the themes of the society of anxiety, but always with a touch of humor. In addition to experimental and bizarre short manga stories, he also wrote some science fiction stories “Super-Conductive Brains Parataxis” for Weekly Young Jump magazine. In his wide-ranging activities, he also deals with independent cinema, production of toys and drawings.

Official site | Instagram | Interview with Shintaro Kago in Japanese

What were the biggest challenges you faced at the beginning of your career?

I made my debut in 1988. But for about a decade, my comics weren’t read by many people. My first book, which was published around 1999, finally gained a large number of readers.

What do you like most about your job? What are the greatest satisfactions?

My greatest satisfaction is a 16-page manga called “The Creation of the People.” Abroad, the manga is called “Abstraction”.

I would always find myself laughing at things that were taboo to laugh at” – Shintaro Kago

How do you keep your creativity and inspiration alive?

Mainly watching movies, reading comics and books, listening to music, conversations with people, news, and more.

What is the most difficult part when you start a new graphic composition? How do you deal with it and how do you overcome possible creative blockages?

For example, the most difficult part is when I have to work on the music album artwork. It is very difficult to answer these kinds of requests exactly.

Eroticism and decadence, grotesque, dark, and absurd surrealism coexist simultaneously with originality.

Besides passion and determination, what are the main and most important qualities that helped you to move forward in your career? What kept you inspire and motivate all this time?

The content of my manga is particular and is not acceptable in the mainstream. At first, I struggled with how to spread my material to readers. However, once my manga became acceptable to some extent, I wanted to evolve it in another way. For example, developing independent movies, organizing exhibitions, etc.

Images train us to think: to see many different points of reality, to break it down and reassemble it. What life difficulties and teachings has your job taught you so far? What do you hope your audience understands from your works?

I often draw erotic and grotesque themes, which are often not accepted by the public. Many people think that grotesque or violent things can be affected by the person who saw them causing real incidents (e.g. murders, etc.). For this reason, the expression of comics sometimes may be restricted. It happened also to my manga projects, which were stopped.

Monty Python’s films and series have had a strong influence and have been a point of inspiration in bringing about the coexistence of humor, quirky horror, and bizarre eroticism.

You are considered an “ero-guro” and “kisou mangaka” artist. Do you think these definitions fit your creative figure or does it limit your creative idea and potential?

I think that the most important thing is the concept. “Experimenting with the cartoon expression” is one of them. Erotism is also an important expression. I like it, but it is only one of the “strange thoughts” or fantasies.

Do you think that the new generations overcome prejudices and taboos more easily than those of the past? What do you think has changed since you started? What advantages or limitations?

Compared to decades ago, the taboos and prejudices that once used to be common seem to be disappearing. Of course, there will be taboos and prejudices that won’t go away easily. And even if old taboos and prejudices are gone, new taboos and prejudices will eventually emerge.

Shintaro Kago manipulates his narrative to show and tell his story the way he wants the reader to see it. He controls what he wants to be seen and what is left to the public’s imagination.

In the age of social media, do you think that world cultural differences have leveled off?

In the age of social media, I think it is necessary to find new ways to express ourselves.
But on the other hand, analog media (eg. paper publications, not digital ones) will remain unchanged.

He has also written Sci-Fi non-guro manga, most notably Super-Conductive Brains Parataxis (超伝脳パラタクシスChoutennou Paratakushisu) for Weekly Young Jump.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given to the young yourself?

I don’t have any advice.

Illustration & Artwork courtesy of Shintaro Kago

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