Editorials · Stray Thoughts

Blood and Guts and Strawberry Jam

Strawberry jam. This is how we get ants.
Keep a lid on the strawberry jam. This is how we get ants.

I like blood and guts. I think they’re attractive.

And no, when I say “attractive” I don’t mean I like them as a sexual stimulus (although nude form and violence make for an interesting combination), but oftentimes I find a showcase of blood and guts to be just a bit beautiful for its horrific imagery. In an odd sense, gore is a delicacy: it’s colorful, vibrant, affecting and delightfully grotesque, but, at the same time, is rare and limiting. Similar to nudity or lingerie, gore cannot be used nonchalantly as few scenes outside of the surgery room can support the presence of severed limbs or messy organs. Their presence has restrictions and unwise overuse of blood and guts can lead to fatal (sorry) repercussions. Simply put, gore is tricky.

A manga I recently picked up, Akame ga Kill specializes in displaying heavy amounts of carnage page-to-page. Eyeballs are gouged out, soldiers are diced into pieces and there’s plenty of marinara to go around. The ridiculously gratuitous violence is the selling point of the series, the hardcore action accentuated with hardcore characters in a hardcore setting. Yet even with all people being faces being cut off for fun and colorful blood spatters, the result feels a bit bland. The immediate gratification taken at face value over and over again doesn’t last. The manga feeds the reader the same image with little thought towards the presentation, but it is never horrific, unsettling or even shocking, especially when the same card has been played over and over. It’s just blood.

So there’s a level of tact and consciousness that should be considered when it comes to busting out the strawberry jam. The effect felt from blood and gore is always strong and immediate; just about any appearance will immediately bring to mind vulnerability. The associations attached to the two are just about universal: it is near impossible to dissociate blood from a wound and more difficult to do this with visible organs as there can be no leakage of red ink without even the slightest puncture to the human body. And if blood brings to mind a wound, a wound brings to mind an injurious action. The association between the gore, the wound and the action takes no time. The suggestive power which comes with bloodshed is powerful and reckless use can ruin the taste.

What interests me most is when the gore comes separate from the sight of injury. No wounds, no stabbing or ripping motions, just the outline of something grotesque lying in the corner. Maybe it looks like a lone severed limb, a good ol’ pool of ketchup or even the silhouette of an opened skull. Or maybe, something looks so scarred and disfigured that one doesn’t know what the hell it is. Showing something being ripped apart on-screen is plenty effective, but giving just enough information for the imagination to run wild with an image is more my cup of tea. The unnerving horror left when the mind wanders is just about better than any feeling that most pictures can conjure up.

Still, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy more explicit scenes such as both the eroticization of the grotesque and pulsating transformations found in Franken Fran or the volcanic eruptions of blood exploding from the heads of animals in Silver Fang. The imagination and talent required to capture scenes as wonderfully horrific as those found in the former series with just a pen is quite immense and the latter requires stylistic flair. Creativity, carefulness and tact bring these scenes to life. But rolling around in a muck of chopped up body parts in every frame like Deadman Wonderland? Naaaaah. That’s a stylistic touch that comes off as a bit too desperate.

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2 thoughts on “Blood and Guts and Strawberry Jam

    1. Sure can. But I’m really not into guro. It’s not something I can really stomach – although, uh, power to the guys out there who like it!

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