Hold on a moment, friend.
If you get really mad about racism, gross things, comic gore, and general offense,
this series really might not be your cup of tea.
The weak of heart won’t do well here.
“But these tears were different.
It’s as if a screaming pain inside me that had been locked up a long time ago had finally busted out by using my tear ducts as its escape route.
And when it finally got out, it shouted…
‘You don’t deserve this.'”
As is clear, this is another series that is not a Japanese. It is again, a Western comic by an American author, and it is again a webcomic. It is not, however, very good. In fact, I daresay it’s rather poor, at least from some objective qualitative assessments. IT HURTS!! (くるしい！！, KURUSHII!!) is a…”slice of life”/”adventure” series created by author Gobolatula (ゴボラチュラ), and it isn’t his first comic, but it’s certainly the one he’s best known for (having started his first in junior high). It’s not drawn well (mostly, it has its moments), it’s very blunt with its writing (particularly the dialogue, though overall it’s definitely familiar with subtlety), jokes are hit or miss, and it’s incredibly disgusting rather often. IT HURTS!! is, to put it lightly, rough around the edges. But, as ever always, I only write about manga I like on this site. I do like IT HURTS!!, but you must know that not everyone is going to. On top of these negatives it’s just kinda…generally offensive, which I’m okay with (can’t handle being offended? You probably won’t like IT HURTS!!). It drips with self-awareness and it knows you know it’s self-aware and has no problem regularly pointing out its own dubious qualities. Most importantly, however, IT HURTS!! is brilliantly emotional. It is a work produced 100% from the heart.IT HURTS!! follows the life of Pasqualo Trianglini, a middle school aged boy with depression who is very, very silly. His best friend is a girl named Allison (Ally) Schwartz who is lovable and fighty, but foul-mouthed in both senses of the word and honestly so gross. So, so gross. It’s easy to forget. The comic starts off seeming to be any other comic you could find on the Internet, just with noticeably harsher language.
It also immediately lets you know that it’s self-aware.
But this isn’t the series’ premise. The series’ actual premise clues you in to the fact that this is a story-based comic, so it’s not like a common webcomic (it just feels similar, especially due to the standardized square panels). The actual premise of IT HURTS!! is although it seems impossible, Pasqualo meets the perfect girl who is chill, enamored with him, and shares all his interests. They become a couple, and the series follows the results of sadsack Pasqualo managing to actually get a girlfriend.
For the most part, the series reads like an immature romp through some kids’ lives (and the shitty people they know) as they proceed to be horrible or knowingly irritating. Pasqualo is an annoying person. He knows it, his friends know it, the author knows it. He’s annoying because he’s got problems and is a little manic, but this is all the point and it’s all leading somewhere. Behind the many silly, absurd, or grotesque distractions, the comic is altogether a personal kind of thing. However, it’s not a down to earth slice of life sort of deal. While we have some very rare moments of the characters being uncharacteristically mature, the entire first 100 pages of this series, a large portion of its first chapter, are kind of a huge fake-out.
We have a few very significant hints that something is terribly wrong. One thing to note is that Pasqualo’s girlfriend, Aurora, always smiles. She will never not smile, even if people are burning in agony before her eyes. Even if a character who overtly makes suggestions that he’d really like to rape girls directly in front of her and bluntly harasses her she just finds it funny. Even…well, she always smiles.
Little but really horrible things happen as Pasqualo’s life seems to be improving. There’s the fire at the school, a murder, an arrest, a very serious case of suicidal thoughts, and a child’s disappearance. It gets to the point where Ally, who doesn’t really show emotion, genuinely becomes perturbed and shaken and admits that shit’s gotten a little traumatizing up in here. Mostly we just get comedy though. The tragedy is spread very thin. If you were to read it without reading my thoughts on the series here, you’d probably not think much of anything bad happening (especially since Pasqualo and Ally usually deal with bad things almost disturbingly well).
There’s honestly some really funny stuff in these comic pages, though a lot of it working will really depend on you. Well, that’s part of why I described it as hit or miss, the other part is I simply don’t find all the gags humorous. But I digress! Pasqualo and Aurora enter a talent show together to do a rap performance and the series builds to this, resulting in an oddly heartfelt moment as Pasqualo describes his life’s improvements, and how if even someone hopeless like him can find happiness in this world, then everyone should have hope.
Then everyone dies because Aurora heralded the apocalypse with a song. In a lengthy depiction of characters major and non being slaughtered, eaten, blown up, impaled, torn apart, engulfed in flame, and so on, everyone dies except Pasqualo. The series then starts for real.
Mostly, IT HURTS!! follows the deranged and villainous “hero” Pasqualo journeying and fighting through the shattered and hell-ridden remains of post-apocalyptic Earth. This is how the series was sold to me, at least, so I don’t think it hurts (ha) to know that. It’s…really something else to behold, whether you like it or not. It’s atypical. Allison comes back to life as a zombie and the two of them walk the wasteland with some vague purpose (like finding their conspiracy theorist friend). They’re kind of barely heroic, though, to put it lightly. Really, they’re…well, they’re evil. Or at least amoral.
This is after Pasqualo slowly lost his mind talking to Ally’s corpse and reading whatever he could find just to make time go by. He’s also learned his horrible father crafted him into an immortal and invincible super-powered cyborg. Ally, on the other hand, seriously cries for the first time in the series, and takes obvious emotional damage as she learns of her family’s demise. They seem to have broken, and they no longer really care. The world is fucked and there is no desire to save it. Rather, over time they begin to rule what remains of the land.
The general plot is “Pasqualo and Ally increase their influence and power despite most people realizing that they are being horrible, awful people; especially Pasqualo who becomes increasingly apathetic, or realizes he’s happy for all the wrong reasons”. A lot of interesting stuff happens, with a lot of surprising scenes and moments where everything is very somber and very serious and it works perfectly.
Because really, all IT HURTS!! is is a struggle. I hesitate to call the comic a metaphor for something, it’s more like an exploration of the depressed and anxiety-ridden psyche. It’s messy and miserable and grotesque, and thoroughly selfish — the one aspect of this self-aware comic that Pasqualo strains to acknowledge. He experiences a power fantasy. A weeaboo through and through and still self-aware, he understands that he eventually built a harem, that his powers make him maybe the anime savior of mankind, that he’s living a fantasy. But not that he’s selfish. Not that he’s truly wrong. It’s…complicated. I feel like the title is incredibly fitting, because the whole thing is very painful.
The conclusion is quite amazing as well, which reminds me, this series is BURSTING with foreshadowing. It’s not likely you’ll recognize most of it, but even the ending (and epilogue?) are telegraphed. The journey has about four major arcs. Don’t think much about the chapters. There’s an introduction, two arcs that take up the majority of the series, and a final arc that reaches…A PLACE, that’s for certain. The comic is nearly 500 pages long, though some pages are larger than others, and you can read the whole thing in a day or perhaps two if you’re slow like me.
I hesitated on writing something about this comic because as my introduction states, I don’t think it’s “objectively” good. Furthermore unlike citrus, I didn’t instantly and forever love it through sheer bias either. I liked a lot of things about IT HURTS!!, but recognized a large amount of flaws. Should I recommend something that I myself am not sure I should have read? That was the question. But, putting my thoughts down did make it clear to me: the shining moments blot out the darker ones in my memory of this series. Metaphor or no IT HURTS!! certainly has a message to those who suffer, from a person who has suffered himself, and hated himself. Pasqualo is apparently heavily based on the personality and actions of the author, particularly in his youth. Frankly, I didn’t have to know that to tell that, because as fucking absurd as IT HURTS!! is the characters clearly came from a place of knowing.
I would give this comic my high recommendation. It’s a favorite that wormed its way into my heart against all odds. However, I’ve said it numerous times because it’s true: this pretty much has a specific audience and to anyone outside of that audience… I’m not among you, so I don’t know how you’d feel about it. I think this is worth reading, though. There are several just pure amazing lines of dialogue or narration that strike you to the core. And when it’s funny? It’s pretty damn fucking funny (lame puns, non-sequiturs, and sudden denials of expectations abound). The characters are lovable (especially Aurora in my opinion), and it wields “surprise” effectively and cheekily. While definitely an amateurish effort, that doesn’t stop IT HURTS!! from being strong as fuck.
Life does not wait for me, that’s why this review that very few people on this manga-review site will read has come out a full day late. It’s past 2 AM, and I have to go to work in some hours. I consider this to be a very important hobby of mine. Sincerest thanks for reading, support IT HURTS!! by visiting the links below, and TTFN. I’ll see you tomorrow, hopefully, with regularly scheduled Japanese manga.
Gobolatula on twitter: @gobolatula
LASTLY! IT HURTS!! has a sequel arriving in 2018 that you absolutely shouldn’t look into if you haven’t finished the series. It will be called PLEASE Forgive Me!!!, which is hilarious.