Born in Tokyo in 1973, Junko Mizuno is a distinctive illustrator and manga artist who appropriates chibi, EGL and superflat styles into her own "grotesque-cute" creations, where superdeformed, lingerie-clad shojo wield giant razor blades in skull-strewn fairy tale landscapes.
Following her early work (both self-published and serialized), Mizuno's first real success came in 1998 with the manga Pure Trance, originally published in several parts as CD inserts for the Avex Trax label. Pure Trance establishes the "Powerpuff Girls on acid" visual style that the artist has refined in subsequent works.
2000 saw two important manga releases from Mizuno: Cinderalla (the spelling is correct) and Hansel and Gretel. Both are based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm, relocated to part-archaic, part-modern Japanese towns and mutated in accordance with Mizuno's common themes of pop culture, sex and horror. The fishnet-clad Cinderalla wins her zombie prince not through the fitting of a slipper, but an eyeball, while Hansel and Gretel inhabit a psychedelic world where villagers harvest and devour each other.
Indeed, food is a recurring theme in Mizuno's work, from the live-bird-eating zombies of Cinderalla, through the gigantic Mr. Pig of Hansel and Gretel, who willingly carves off 30 kilos of his flesh to sell to villagers, to the stripper Caroline, who is doomed to a life of endless gluttony due to the fairy trapped in her stomach. In Hansel and Gretel, the entire village is tricked into eating dirt, hallucinating that they are dining on a variety of cakes and treats in "Foodland". They are under the spell of a ravenous monster, who has stolen their real food store and plans to eat the villagers after 'fattening them up' with dirt. The plan makes no sense, of course; it is founded on mindless consumption; everyone eats all the time, to the point of eating each other. Gretel is pulled from her trance and able to save the day after eating what appears to be fairy shit; eating is the disease and the cure.
Several collections of Mizuko's illustration work are available, from the tiny Junko Mizuno's Illustration Book (2002) to the lavish pop artefact Hell Babies (2001), perhaps her definitive work at the time of writing. Hell Babies also formed the basis for Mizuno's first art exhibition in Shibuya. She also produces limited edition figurines of her characters and undertakes assorted works in other media - in 2000 she was commissioned to produce several large murals for Ebisu's Milk Club.
Mizuko's clean lines and bright, flat colour work lend themselves well to glossy reproduction, but she insists that Western editons of her manga works are printed on specially selected 'pulp' paper to capture the nostalgic colour and tones of American comic books. They also ship with inserted sticker sets and assorted bonus strips, and panels are often redrawn and recoloured for translated versions - a rare level of presentation and artist involvement.
BBC viewers may be familiar with Mizuno's title and ident sequences for the 2002 series Japanorama, presented by Jonathan Ross. Mizuno was interviewed in one segment.
Mizuno's manga are published in the US and UK by Viz.
- Pure Trance (1998)
- Hansel and Gretel (2000)
- Cinderalla (2000)
- Hell Babies (2001)
- Princess Mermaid (2001)