I imagine Makoto Aida being a kid who wanted to draw manga like Suehiro Maruo, and then the kid grew up to become a gallery artist. I don’t think he’s that well known in American comics circles, maybe because his work is so explicitly about Japan or because comics is a very small part of what he does. Like a lot of contemporary artists, he works across mediums: sculptures, paintings, performances, videos, plans for housing projects, whatever. He painted a quick Fuji watercolor image over his BFA diploma and sold it for the price of the university entrance fee. (After selling it he said: “Though I am not supposed to say, art is so strange.”) And he doesn’t make dividing the works easy; his (beautiful) monograph Monument for Nothing catalogs his works by color, as opposed to chronologically or by medium or theme. All of the mostly blue works are grouped together, the mostly white works, etc. He’ll break up a series of works if the colors of the individual parts are different.
His main comics effort, Mutant Hanako, is actually a continuation of his “War Picture Returns” series of paintings. Here’s how Aida describes the story, from Monument for Nothing: “With the setting of the Pacific War, it is a mixture of elements of extreme nationalism, brutal erotic depiction, and airheaded adventurous action, which as a whole is closer to simply ridiculous absurdity than a crazy constructed air castle.” There’s a good plot summary of the book here: http://everything2.com/title/Mutant+Hanako
In his more cartoony work, he alternates between very immediate drawings (Mutant Hanako is an example of that, and his “Minna to Issho” series) sort of like Takashi Nemoto and heta-uma (he’s described heta-uma as “a style of illustration and graphic design which was hot [in the eighties]”), and more illustrative, detailed images that resemble Suehiro Maruo. I like how it’s common among mangaka to draw in such a similar way to other mangaka. It’s like the drawings are just about functioning to create a story. The story/storytelling is where the individual is. But, in Aida’s case, he’s somewhere between being a regular fan mangaka and a pop artist. He’s using something that he likes, as Takashi Murakami does. But Aida’s much warmer than Murakami. Aida’s more like underground comics. It’s all very hand-done.
A side note:
I have the Japanese printing of Mutant Hanako and there’s an English translation of the work in the back of it. That’s rare among manga and more common among art books, so I don’t know if it’s because they thought of it as an art book more, or it could possibly be in reference to the crazy American/Japanese relationships in the Mutant Hanako story. Anyway, I’d like to see more of these limited-audience manga be translated on separate pamphlets (by an English publisher/distributor) that would then be inserted into the original printing of the book, and then distributed online through the English publisher. Obviously it isn’t as ideal as a fully translated new book, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to manga translations with such a small potential audience.