Kachou Hashimoto's Got It Covered: 'Cagaster'
Aug 24, 2020
by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
“I got the idea of ‘a man inexplicably turning into an insect’ from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis,” begins creator Kachou Hashimoto. It turns out that her man-eating insects manga, Cagaster, wasn’t inspired by science fiction like David Cronenberg’s The Fly or Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. It was Kafka’s existential body horror novella that was Hashimoto’s creative larva. "[Metamorphosis’ main character] Gregor Samsa - in the novel - doesn’t attack other people,” Hashimoto describes. “[He] turns into a giant insect as a symbol of discomfort and foreign-ness.” She is quick to point out, however, that “in Cagaster, the bugs eat people.”
Originally released in Japan as Mushikago no Cagaster, the multi-volume series is about a disease called “cagaster.” This affliction plagues the 22nd century – turning humans into people-eating insects that can – and do – breed. This puts humanity at a continuous disadvantage (I’ll let you draw your own parallels to current events). There is, however, opposition in the form of Exterminators. Kidou, one of the characters featured on the first volume's cover, is an Exterminator. His objective gets exponentially difficult when he promises to uphold the wishes of a dying father. To make this post-apocalyptic situation even more hazardous, Kidou has to look after Ilie, the daughter of the man that died in front of him.
Because Cagaster kicks off 30 years after a plague, Hashimoto had to establish the world and cover a lot of narrative ground efficiently. Which is why Kidou and Ilie serve as the reader’s guide through this dystopia, and why they are featured prominently on the cover. “Instead of a sensational cover that screamed ‘This is a gruesome world where humans are eaten by bugs!’,” explains Hashimoto, “I gave it a softer feel to express that this is a story about ‘people doing their best to live a normal life in such a world’.”
That’s not to say that the writer-artist isn’t attached to other characters. “Quite honestly, they are all my favorite since I empathize with all of them,” Kachou Hashimoto says of her cast. “But the ones I like drawing the most are Ilie and the head merchant from the commerce district. Ilie is the ideal cute girl. I enjoyed drawing the expressive face of the head merchant.”
On the heels of the February debut of the Netflix anime, Cagaster is finally finding its way to America courtesy of ABLAZE. The publisher is known for their "uncensored” Robert E. Howard comics and Charlie Adlard's Vampire State Building. Cagaster falls into the same category of action-adventure as other ABLAZE drops, but there is a hint of something Kafka-esque - something thoughtful - underneath. “The idea of exploring the actions and difficulties presented by exterminating those insects came not just from manga, anime, and movies,” Hashimoto concludes, “but from actual society and history as well.”
Special thanks to Etienne for translating.
Added bonus: Click on the PREVIEWS Prevue link below for five additional preview pages never seen before.
Cagaster Vol. 1 (APR201396) is available in comic shops this summer.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.