Writer | Artist: Hideshi Hino
Publisher: DH Books/Cocoro Publishing
Humanity’s worst fears and traits take physical form, living inside those they afflict as giant, hideous bugs. Into the lives of the people suffering from the bugs comes a small, strange boy named Oninbo whose magical powers let him remove and eat the bugs.
These volumes, both titled Oninbo and the Bugs From Hell, feature stories of Oninbo traveling from life to life, finding people infected by the bugs, learning what dark secrets and traumatic experiences gave the bugs a nesting place, and then defeating and eating the bug and setting the infected person free.
Oninbo is a disappointment after the quality of the first two books in the Hino Horror series. Those were unusual, compelling, deeply strange stories. The two Oninbo books are like bloodier versions of Murder, She Wrote or Quantum Leap.
And like those shows, the stories are interesting enough as they’re happening, but once they’re over, you’ll forget them quickly.
The problem here is that the characters are weak and the stories lack tension. The character given the most page time is Oninbo, but we never learn more than a few basic things about him: he’s a small boy, he has magic powers, he eats bugs from hell. That’s it. Given that he stars in two book, totaling nearly 400 pages, I need more than that to care about him. Why does he do what he does? How did he come to this?
The short stories that make up each volume are even more sketchily drawn. Each story features someone, usually a child or teenager, with a bug from hell lodged in them. Oninbo is able to infiltrate the people’s bodies and “see? their souls in a helpful expository power. He, of course, can see things that the people themselves can’t see.
The problem with these stories is that they lack any tension. It’s clear from the very beginning of each story that Oninbo is going to triumph by the end, that the bug from hell will be eaten and that the infected person will be healed.
And if every story lacks suspense and tension, is a fait d’accompli, why bother reading?
The most tension that any of the stories sees comes from other people like Oninbo who also eat bugs from hell and compete with him for their meals. But, since we learn even less about them, it’s next to impossible to care about that competition either.
The series is graced with Hino’s characteristically strange, strong, gory artwork, but, unlike the first two books in the Hino Horror series, or a number of the later ones, Oninbo and the Bugs from Hell just falls limp.