The Picture Of Dorian Gray is a gothic horror novel by Oscar Wilde. In the story, an artist paints a portrait of Dorian Gray in his prime. Dorian wishes that he could stay young and handsome forever–as he’s depicted in the painting. His wish is granted but at a cost. The picture grows old instead of Dorian, but the painting grows ugly whenever Dorian abuses his eternal youth. When Dorian can no longer stand to look at the painting, he destroys it and by doing so, unintentionally ends his own life.
In his manga Mugen Utamaro, Go Nagai recasts the story set in the Edo period of Japan. Characters include many famous historical figures such as Tsutaya Juzaburo, Katsushika Hokusai, Hiraga Gennai and the protagonist Kitagawa Utamaro.
In Nagai’s reinterpretation, Utamaro paints a portrait of the most beautiful geisha in the land. Just a like the painting of Dorian Gray, this painting becomes hideously ugly whenever the geisha commits evil.
Suspecting that she has been cursed, the geisha makes a deal with Japanese secret agents–she will spy on high-ranking customers for them if they eliminate Utamaro for her.
This is Go Nagai at his best. The art has a classic feel that never skimps on detail and can render scenes that are sensual and horrific. The story of Dorian Gray is reinvigorated through Go Nagai’s artistry, offering a historical setting filled with erotica artists, geishas, kabuki actors, and ninjas.