Graphic Lit: Horror manga
Looking for a good scary comic to read this Halloween?
You could go pick up something American made, but these days, Western horror comics are passe.
For those who really want some solid horror, manga scratches that itch like few others can, as the following titles indicate:
“Uzumaki Vol. 1” and “GYO Vol. 1” by Junji Ito, Viz, 208 and 200 pages respectively, $9.95 each.
Ito is one of the greats in the horror manga genre. His “Tomie” stories, for example, about a young woman who drives men to murder, have a sense of dread and terror to them that few cartoonists — Western or Eastern — can pull off.
“Uzumaki” or “Spiral” is one of his finest works to date, a collection of interrelated short stories about a quiet seaside town whose denizens slowly become obsessed with spirals.
Ordinary people suddenly start twisting their bodies into impossible, grotesque shapes. Hair takes on a life of its own, twisting into endless circular patterns. And then things get really weird.
“GYO” on the other hand is a more traditional, though no less enjoyable, monster story. I say “traditional,” but considering it’s about fish that somehow obtain mechanical legs and start ravaging the countryside, that might not be the proper term.
The book starts with a young bickering couple taking a seaside vacation. A foul, deathly odor in the air, however, casts a pall, and heralds the arrival of the aforementioned crawling sea creatures. What’s worse, they’re carrying some sort of disease that seems to be contagious.
Ito’s humor is pitch-black perfect in both of these books. Even during some of the most horrific sequences, you can sense the smile hiding behind the panels.
Although he doesn’t shy away from the gore, Ito is more concerned with creeping you out than grossing you out. “Uzumaki” and “GYO” thus have a flat, matter-of-fact tone that underscores the tension, as well as the black humor. Either book will have you leaving the lights on at bedtime.
“Presents” by Kanako Inuki, CMX, 200 pages, $12.99.
The perils of poor gift-giving is the theme of this ongoing collection of short horror tales, with a creepy, seemingly immortal little girl taking the Crypt-Keeper (i.e. narrator) role. The tone here is familiar to the sort of tales heard around campfires, with thoroughly rotten kids introduced to the concept of poetic justice in rather gruesome ways. (A girl who’s mean to a painter ... turns into a painting and melts! A girl obsessed with her vanity ... is stricken with disgusting acne).
What we’re left with then is a sort of Japanese “Stuwwelpeter” with the need to be generous and appreciative underscored ad nauseam. Inuki, however, utilizes a big-eyed, round-faced, cartoonish style that helps make the ham-fisted moralizing go down a bit easier. This is essentially the manga equivalent of the popular Goosebumps series, though the gore puts it out of the reach of most American kids.
“Alive: The Final Evolution” by Tadashi Kawashima and Adachitoka, Del Rey, 208 pages, $10.95.
Throughout the world, people are suddenly, inexplicably committing suicide. The survivors, meanwhile, find themselves acting in rather sociopathic ways or displaying disturbing new powers, sometimes both. There’s no way evil aliens could be responsible for these occurrences, right?
The first volume in this ongoing series builds slowly, focusing on a pair of picked-on high school students and offering only vague hints as to what’s going on in order to keep the mystery alive for as long as possible.
The art and story are competent, but not necessarily distinctive. I liked, however, the way the authors took their time teasing the reader. It was enough to make me want to read the next volume.
Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007