LYCHEE LIGHT CLUB
By Usamaru Furuya (New York: Vertical Inc., 2011, 328 pp., $16.95, paperback)
Growing up is hard. Young boys face adolescence and their oncoming adult lives with eyes like those of a deer caught in headlights. In that sense, “Lychee Light Club” is a “Lord of the Flies” for the new century, as described by its critics. The comparison, alone however, hardly does the story justice as a whole.
“Lychee Light Club” is a work by cult classic artist Usamaru Furuya, a man who doesn’t mince words like the bodies he draws on the page. He is the go-to artist for creepy beautiful youths in psychotic blood lust.
Furuya draws up a world by the Tokyo Grand Guignol, a macabre horror puppet show of the French tradition. The boys Furuya depicts are young and beautiful, especially Zera, the ringleader of the group of nine. They live in a dank industrial town in Japan during a vague point in the early 20th century. Zera leads the boys in his disturbing plan to preserve his youth and stave off growing old and wrinkly.
The story follows Zera’s spiral into the depths of paranoia, as he drags the seven other boys down with him. The story is more akin to the “Reservoir Dogs” than Lord of the Flies. Doubt crosses the minds of all six boys who vie to be Zera’s number one, who meanwhile obsesses over a prophesized traitor among his crew.
Added to the mix is a Frankenstein-like robot the boys construct. The boys name him Lychee, after the fruit that powers it. Zera bestows upon Lychee a mission: to abduct a pretty girl their age.
Lychee abducts a beautiful young girl named Kanon, who becomes a catalyst to further damning the group of boys and introduces Lychee to the concept of being human.
Furuya is a master at his craft. He draws his scenes as a director would set up a scene of a play and makes heavy use of spotlights. The darkness that shrouds the cast outside of their stage is an abyss and, at times, claustrophobic. Added to that is the violent inspiration of Grand Guignol. The story is never short of the black ink that soaks into the pages in the form of blood and the oppressive use of negative space.
Despite the grotesque murders the boys commit, the story is put together well. No act of violence is without purpose. Each blow and each frame in the story moves the story along without a moment of rest. Like a play meant to be acted out in a couple of hours, there is no room for luxury. No scar or blow is devoid of meaning; thus, each panel and each word, plays into the next.
Seething with grim and dark scenes, “Lychee Light Club” is tragic and gruesome. The title is for the connoisseur of intense drama and poetically grotesque murder.