Digital Review: Dark Metro Volume 1

Dark Metro Volume 1
Story by Tokyo Calen; Art by Yoshiken
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $9.99

Rating: ★★½☆☆

What lies below Tokyo’s subway system is more frightening than you could have ever imagined…in its subways there exists a boundary between this world and the next–the land of the dead, and the mysterious young man Seiya is its guide. In this collection of bone-chilling shorts, follow the twisted tales of death and hauntings that inhabit this horrifying underworld, where innocent youth fall victim to the ghosts who inhabit Tokyo’s underground.

Dark Metro is a title in a category all it’s own.  It’s not a come-uppance theater title, as the main characters in the stories aren’t bad.  They are just ordinary people experiencing the supernatural in Tokyo’s subways.  But it’s not like the Twilight Zone, as Seiya, the guide to the underworld, doesn’t narrate the stories either.  He possesses the power to decide who lives and who dies in the subway, just appearing somewhere in the story to save the protagonist from whatever horror is after them.  This title falls through the cracks of horror genre and should probably stay there.

The title starts off with the story of a dancer/actor, who, while lamenting the disappearance of a friend, gets trapped in a subway station after the last train leaves.  She is then attacked by her friend who apparantly committed suicide by throwing herself in front of a train.  She starts receiving texts from somebody telling her to go the exit with the light.  The texts turn out to be from Seiya, who saves her and tells her to escape through a photo booth’s flash.  She just barely escapes, and wakes up in her room, thinking it was all a dream.  But, walking by the the photo booth in the station that morning, she finds the photos from the night before, proving her dream was real.

The next four stories in this title follow this same pattern, with varying degrees of success, mostly going downhill from here.  There is too much disconnect between each story.  Nothing connects them but the subway and Seiya, and that just isn’t enough for a satisfying tale.  There’s not context or sense of time, making the stories seem random.  And Seiya, the only recurring character, has only bit parts, so there’s nothing for the reader to really hold on to.  This title should have been either an anthology of horror stories with only the subway as it’s reccurring theme, or given Seiya a more prominent role, most likely as a sort of narrator.

The last story in the volume seems to try to inject some sort of overarching plot, as it introduces a website for the subway horror stories, and tells the origin of how Seiya became the guide to the underworld.  But this feels half-hearted at best, as if they got to the end of the volume and realized they needed some sort of plot, and decided to toss it in last minute.  It confused me at first, forcing me to figure out what was going on.  It didn’t make me care about Seiya or interest me in the questions it brought up about him.

The art is pretty average as well.  Seiya is nothing to right home about.  A bishi he is not.  The horrors are fairly average too, with body parts being broken off and tossed around, and flesh rotting off to reveal the bone and tissue underneath.  But, this kind of art has become so common place, (especially in comics) is it really that horrifying anymore?  Tokyopop’s manga viewer has definitely improved over the years.  Now, it loads well, and page turning is easy and fluid.  On the 17″ led monitor I use as work, the art and text was very legible.  At least this is one thing Tokyopop has gotten right.

On the whole, Dark Metro, is a very average horror manga that just isn’t that scary.  Seiya, the only reccuring character, isn’t interesting enough to care about.  Average looks, and no personality best describe both him and this manga.

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