Ero guro nansensu, frequently shortened to ero guro or just guro, (エログロ ero-guro?) is a literary and artistic movement originating circa 1930 in Japan. Ero guro puts its focus on eroticism, sexual corruption and decadence. While ero guro is a specific movement, many of its components can be found throughout Japanese history and culture.
The term itself is an example of wasei-eigo, a Japanese combination of English words or abbreviated words: ero from "ero(tic)", guro from "gro(tesque)", and nansensu from "nonsense". In actuality the "grotesqueness" implied in the term refers to things that are malformed, unnatural, or horrific. Items that are pornographic and bloody are not necessarily ero guro, and ero guro is not necessarily pornographic or bloody. The term is often used incorrectly by western audiences to mean "gore"—depictions of horror, blood, and guts.
Ero guro nansensu, characterized as a "prewar, bourgeois cultural phenomenon that devoted itself to explorations of the deviant, the bizarre, and the ridiculous," manifested in the popular culture of Taishō Tokyo during the 1920s. Writer Ian Buruma describes the social atmosphere of the time as "a skittish, sometimes nihilistic hedonism that brings Weimar Berlin to mind." Its roots go back to artists like Yoshitoshi, who, besides erotic shunga, also produced in the mid-1860s woodblock printings showing decapitations and acts of violence from Japanese history. Ukiyo-e artists such as Utagawa Kuniyoshi presented similar themes with bondage, rape and erotic crucifixion.
Ero guro's first distinct appearance began in 1920's and 1930's Japanese literature. The Sada Abe Incident of 1936, where a woman strangled her lover to death and castrated his corpse, struck a chord with the ero guro movement and came to represent that genre for years to come. Other like activities and movements were generally suppressed in Japan during World War II, but re-emerged in the postwar period, especially in manga and music.
Ero guro is also an element of many Japanese horror films and pinku eiga, particularly of the 1960s and 1970s. Examples include Teruo Ishii's Shogun's Joys of Torture (1968) and Horrors of Malformed Men (1969) and Yasuzo Masumura's Blind Beast (1969), the latter two based on the works of Edogawa Rampo. A more recent example of ero guro in cinema is Sion Sono's Strange Circus (2005).
There are modern guro artists, some of whom cite Erotic Grotesque Nonsense as an influence on their work. These artists explore the macabre intermingled with sexual overtones. Often the erotic element, even when not explicit, is merged with grotesque themes and features similar to the works of H. R. Giger. Others produce ero guro as a genre of Japanese pornography and hentai involving blood, gore, disfiguration, violence, mutilation, urine, enemas, or feces.
The modern genre of tentacle rape began within the category of ero guro (although it has much older roots in Japanese art; see The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife), but was so popular that it is now usually considered separately.
Some visual kei bands have a concept or theme relating to ero guro, most notably Cali Gari. Western visual kei fans assumed their theme was a subgenre of visual kei and linked it with other similar bands.
Although not always from Japanese culture, many death metal album covers, including from the Japanese death metal scene can be compared to ero guro due to the nature of often having violent, gory sexual themes depicted on them. An example of a gory album that can be compared to ero guro would be the Cannibal Corpse album Tomb of the Mutilated.
- Silverberg, Miriam Rom. “By Way of a Preface: Defining Erotic Grotesque Nonsense”. Galley copy of the preface for Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times. December 12, 2005.
- Tyler, William J. (27 Apr 2009). "Introduction: making sense of nansensu". Japan Forum 21 (1 (Special Issue: URBAN NONSENSE)): 1–10. doi:10.1080/09555800902856932. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- Reichert, Jim; Reichert, Jim (2001). "Deviance and Social Darwinism in Edogawa Ranpo's Erotic-Grotesque Thriller Koto no Ōni". Journal of Japanese Studies (Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1) 27 (1): pp. 113–114. doi:10.2307/3591938. JSTOR 3591938.
- Buruma, Ian (2003). Inventing Japan, 1853–1964. New York: The Modern Library. pp. 67–68. ISBN 0-679-64085-1.
- Johnston, William (2005). Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 11, 114, 160. ISBN 0-231-13052-X.
- McLelland, Mark. "A Short History of 'Hentai'".
- Bounce Di(s)ctionary Number 13—Visual Kei. Retrieved November 19, 2008.
- Aguilar, Carlos (editor). Bizarre Sinema! Japanese Ero Gro & Pinku Eiga 1956–1979. Firenze, Italy: Glittering Images, 2005. ISBN 88-8275-065-5.
- McLelland, Mark. "A Short History of 'Hentai'" (PDF version). Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, issue 12 (January 2006). ISSN 1440-9151.
- Silverberg, Miriam Rom. Galley copy of the table of contents and preface for Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times. December 12, 2005.
- Silverberg, Miriam Rom. Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times. Asia Pacific modern, 1. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. ISBN 0-520-22273-3.