In the distant past, the origins of fairy tales were steeped in the intention to strike fear into the hearts of children. These tales were eventually subjected to significant revisions and sanitization over numerous generations. However, in the 1970s, the renowned artist Gojin Ishihara decidedly did not shy away from depicting chilling and graphic scenes within the pages of children’s books.
One notable work by Ishihara that exemplifies this is “The Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters,” published in 1972. In this extraordinary collection, Ishihara brought to life the mystical creatures from Japanese folklore, unapologetically embracing their eerie and terrifying aspects. Remarkably, some of these illustrations, by contemporary standards, would unquestionably warrant an 18+ rating due to their intense and frightening content.
This bold artistic choice by Gojin Ishihara allowed readers, including children, to delve into the rich tapestry of Japanese monster lore in its most unfiltered form. The vivid and often gruesome depictions served as a vivid reminder of the tales’ original purpose—to both captivate and terrify young minds. Today, as our standards for what is suitable for children have evolved, these illustrations stand as a testament to a bygone era when the line between child and adult content was often more blurred.