The hentai-inspired pillow in Supreme's latest drop was undoubtedly the accessory item of the season. The man behind the artwork is manga artist Toshio Maeda, but who exactly is this so-called "Tentacle Master"?
A lover of classic literature, a professional prostitute reviewer and the creator of the tentacle porn genre; artist Toshio Maeda has changed the face of erotic manga as we know it. His groundbreaking 1986 series Urotsuki dōji firmly placed him as the global pioneer of the genre known as Hentai, which roughly translates to a "perverse sexual desire," so it came as no surprise when streetwear giant Supreme introduced Toshio Maeda as their new collaborator. With previous collaborations which include Terry Richardson, Larry Clark and Playboy, perversion is a visual trope that the brand obviously doesn’t shy away from. In an era where sex sells, a collaboration that combines erotic imagery with a candid streetwear edge, the result will undoubtedly hit the ground running. We actually don’t know why the two didn't meet sooner.
Maeda's Early Inspiration
As a child the self-taught manga artist was influenced by darker illustrations through Kashi-hon or rental manga, as well as works from the West, with inspiration taken from the works of American illustrators Neil Adams, Joe Kubert and Gil Kane, and animation houses Marvel, DC and Disney. At the age of 16 Maeda moved from his hometown of Osaka to Tokyo to start an apprenticeship with a manga artist and to develop his own style.
Fixated on violence and evil, Maeda’s work would feature shapely young women being probed, felt and fondled by the tentacles, tongues and extensions of creatures and demons alike. While the traditional elements of violence, supernatural beings and sex are pretty standard in today's adult manga and anime, Maeda’s Urotsuki dōji secured its notoriety with a now iconic concept – tentacle rape. The Erotic Anime Movie Guide once claimed "no other title apart from Akira has been so influential in the English-language market." The series is one of many created by Maeda that helped bring Japan its first experiences of tentacle sex in modern manga. Not since Hokusai's infamous Edo era print The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife had women and tentacles been so graphically entwined in images of such grotesque elation. Tentacle sex is a device that certainly grabs one's attention, but Maeda’s manga was no mere gimmick at the time as the new form of erotica stemmed to sidestep Japan's stringent censorship laws. Human-to-human contact was forbidden, so the tentacle came to replace male genitalia.
Maeda's Dark Desires
Maeda is credited with the proliferation of the tentacle rape genre and indeed has stated on numerous occasions that he would like "Tentacle Master" inscribed on his tombstone. However Maeda has done just as much sex comedy and BDSM-themed manga stories as erotic horror and even illustrated a few books perfectly suited for younger readers. In one interview Maeda commented on his decision to enter into the industry of adult manga, explaining "Before I became an independent cartoonist, I was wondering which way to go: manga for kids or manga for grown-ups. I chose manga for grown-ups because there are so many taboos in kid's manga...not only sensual scenes, but also religion and political themes."
Surreal and sensational, his work is an unflinching portrayal of the darker desires and impulses of human beings. His erotic style was most prolific in the '80s and '90s, with several of Maeda’s works having been used as a basis for original video animation including the well known Urotsuki dōji, La Blue Girl, Adventure Kid, Demon Beast Invasion, and Demon Warrior Koji. The hentai manga genre, as a whole, is consumed with young protagonists; when asked about this trend by the Anime News Network Maeda commented that:
From the Edo era we were admiring innocent boys and girls, so we like something fragile and innocent. It's the same feeling that we have observing, how can I say it, the cherry blossoms. They're kind of fragile, and when they bloom, they're gone soon. Adolescence is like that. You know, the girls and boys their youth is gone soon. So that's why we Japanese people have a tendency to admire such beauty.
A New Perspective
In 2001 Maeda was a Guest of Honor at the Big Apple Anime Fest (BAAF) in New York. He was praised as “the most influential erotic manga artist in Japan” and Urotsuki dōji described as “the foundation for the entire ‘erotic-grotesque’ genre of Japanese anime.” However a motorbike accident in the same year left Maeda with limited ability in his drawing hand. He continued to use his computer to create characters and write scripts, but as a manga artist his life changed instantly. Having divorced his ex-wife and lost everything, Maeda rose to the new challenges that faced him and started again. In 2003, he began contributing to a Japanese women's hentai magazine and learned to look at eroticism from a woman's point of view. He spent time looking over scripts from various American female shows such as Ally McBeal to gain insight into female sexual desires.
So many requests I got from women - real ladies - and they are so greedy in the details, they are really fussy on the details - they want crotchless panties and double dildos and things like that. But men on the other hand, they are more ambiguous.
Maeda is an outspoken, charismatic and fascinating figure in the history of modern manga. His work is certainly explicit, controversial and at times offensive. Now retired, Maeda distributes other artist’s work, and is a regular at Comic-Con events. Here he often meets with fans from across the world and invites them to his apartment to revisit the phenomenon of tentacle sex and to candidly discuss his work and philosophies.
His Collaboration with Supreme
To cop Supreme's latest clothing collaboration showcasing Maeda graphic, check in-store NY, LA, London and online Friday, November 27. Those in Japan can look forward to the release on November 28.