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28 november 2019 

Suehiro Maruo: Freaks, Ocular Fixation and the Erotic Grotesque

Suehiro Maruo (1956) is one of the most important representatives of the Ero Guro movement. Ero what? Well, it is a rebellious artistic genre that mixes erotica with components of the macabre and grotesque. Hence, it’s other name ‘Erotico-grotesque’. It spans a variety of art forms including literature, movies and painting, often referring to stories that took place in the early Taisho era (1912-1926).

Sensual Torture

Its origins can be found in the work of Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) and Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), who besides steamy shunga, displayed similar themes with bondage, rape and sensual torture.

Famous Murders

An important early inspiration for Maruo and his contemporaries was ‘Eimei nijuhasshuku (Twenty-eight Famous Murders with Verse)‘, issued in 1866/67 (Fig.1), that showed decapitations and acts of violence during the Meiji era. Yoshitoshi produced the series in collaboration with Yoshiiku (1833-1904), each producing half.

Suehiro maruo: Enjō Kihachiro fallen at the foot of a statue' (1866/67) from the series 'Twenty-eight Famous Murders with Verse' by Yoshitoshi

Fig.1. ‘Enjō Kihachiro fallen at the foot of a statue‘ (1866/67) from the series ‘Twenty-eight Famous Murders with Verse‘ by Yoshitoshi


The nightmarish manga (Japanese comic books) of Suehiro Maruo show his fascination for human oddities, disfigurements, and “freaks”. In addition to the aforementioned Japanese influences, his bizarre universe is inspired by European art such as surrealism and German Expressionism, authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Georges Bataille and the painter Otto Dix. Also striking is his ocular fixation with the male figures licking the eye-balls (oculolinctus*) of innocent schoolgirls (Fig.7 and 8).

Big Cult Following

Despite the shocking nature of his work that was mainly produced and issued in Japan, he has a rather substantial cult following abroad and there are quite a few artists influenced by him, such as the recently discussed artist Pigo Lin.

Suehiro Maruo: Max Schreck in F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922)

Fig.2. ‘Max Schreck in F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922)’


In Suehiro Maruo’s artwork below there are strong references to the German expressionist horror movies Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922), consecutively Fig.4, 5 and 6, and to the bloody woodblock prints (muzan-e) of Yoshitoshi (Fig.11, 12, and 13).


A must-see is Maruo’s ruthless illustration of the suicide of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, with the Grim Reaper examining the rear end of a vomiting Braun (Fig.11).

graveyard spooky schoolboy with mysterious box and cockroach by suehiro maruo


Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari by Suehiro Maruo


suehiro maruo


nosferatu biting with a lady with fat legs in the background by suehiro maruo


eye-ball licking from the book Torture Garden by Suehiro Maruo

Fig.7. Fragment ‘Torture Garden

Skeleton wearing a bowler hat licking the eye-ball of an innocent girl by Suehiro Maruo


Bloodthirsty schoolboy with bloody knife by Suehiro Maruo


Painting with graveyard, an octopus, snake, bat, a kappa monster and a screaming female by Suehiro Maruo


The suicide of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun by Suehiro Maruo

Fig.11. Illustration from the book ‘Bloody Ukiyo-e‘ (1988)

Book Bloody Ukiyo-e with murderous female dwarf by Suehiro Maruo

Fig.12. Illustration from the book ‘Bloody Ukiyo-e‘ (1988)

Suehiro Maruo: Illustration from the book 'Bloody Ukiyo-e of a kappa newborn killed by the mother

Fig.13. Illustration from the book ‘Bloody Ukiyo-e‘ (1988)

suehiro maruo: gothic male ghost standing on a roof holding Anne Frank who has a knife in her chest

Fig.14. Illustration from the book ‘Bloody Ukiyo-e‘ (1988)

Suehiro Maruo: bloody scene with a chicken picking the face of a young girl


Suehiro Maruo: ghost-like figure with bloody face laying on the ground holding a samurai sword in his mouth


Suehiro Maruo: bloody kiss


suehiro maruo: lunatic lovers

Fig.18. Source:

Click HERE to check out other contemporary artists who are inspired by ukiyo-e and shunga…!!

*Until recently I was not familiar with this fetish of licking the eye-balls called oculolinctus (aka. “worming”) but it seems to fascinate a lot of people because I read about this media hoax (including the so-called quality press) in which was reported that there was a brief “worming” revival among Japanese teenagers in 2013. Therefore a lot of them would wear eye-patches at the time due to eye infections.

Do you also like the subversive art of Suehiro Maruo, or do you think it’s too confrontational? Let us know your opinion in the comment box below!

About the author
Brian P


Brian P

on 29 November 2019

I trust others find this interesting or even arousing, but the sub genre of the Erotico-Grotesque is quite distasteful to me personally. Thus far, this has been the only topic you have raised that I find distasteful... I have enjoyed everything else that you have published. Keep up the good work.




on 29 November 2019

Thanks Brian. I see what you mean, It is inherent in the work of artists such as Suehiro Maruo that there is a strong separation between fans and haters. The provocation is an important starting point for them, they are pushing the limits. I belong in the first category but I can understand that others are repelled. Anyway, thanks a lot for your support Brian, and I am pleased you enjoyed our previous articles!

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