Reading Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda’s book Yurei Attack! The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide gave me a lot of ideas as a writer, but one that spurred my imagination was a story I didn’t want to write, just read.
If you’re taking your favorite ghost or ghoul out trick or treating this weekend, be sure to check your local comic shop and see if they are participating in Halloween ComicFest. Viz Media has two samplers you can partake of; Fragments of Horror from the master of horror manga Junji Ito, and Yokai Watch, the new all ages series out next week. It’s the perfect selection so everyone can leave happy and spooky.
Yurei is the Japanese word for “ghost.” They are the souls of the dead unable-or unwilling-to shuffle off this mortal coil. Just as in the West, some yurei haunt a specific place; others tend to foam freely. But the similarities with foreign ghosts end there. The yurei are driven by emotions so uncontrollably powerful that they have taken on a life of their own: Rage. Sadness. Devotion. Revenge. Or even the simple belief that they are still alive.
Yokai are mysterious, troublemaking spirits and demons that have tormented Japan for centuries. Kotoko’s grandfather exorcised them for a living, but Kotoko never thought that her family lineage was an asset. Then she meets Kuro, a yokai doctor. Yokai have doctors? Now Kotoko is learning firsthand that healing the yokai is a lot more challenging than getting rid of them!
When I first ordered Yokai Doctor back in 2009, I was hoping for a more serious look at yokai. So imagine my disappointment when I read it and found out it featured a perverted protagonist and fan service galore. I was ready to pan it back then. With three years to get over my expectations, I find the title isn’t quite so bad, but the pandering is still annoying.
The protagonists of this title are Kotoko, the granddaughter of a powerful and well-known exorcist who inherited some of his powers, and Kuro, a yokai doctor. The introduction to these characters is handled in an unusual way. The first chapter is told twice, once from Kotoko’s perspective and once from Kuro’s perspective. While this novel concept might have seemed like a good idea at the time, it really failed in execution. Kuro comes off as really shallow in the first chapter, and scenes are held back from one chapter to make a bigger impact in the other. Sato would have made a much better impression had he just written the two as one chapter, and allowed the reader to see both characters perspective at once.
Of the two characters Kotoko is the more interesting, or at least the more developed. As would be expected of someone who can see spirits, she was teased and mocked when she was young. But now in high school, she is more popular because of her ability, causing her to feel the need to live up to her classmates expectations. She sees a kindred spirit in Kuro, and reaches out to him as a friend. She has the courage to stand up to yokai despite not having any way of defending herself, but also the compassion to see they aren’t all bad. By the end of the volume, I had warmed up to her.
Kuro, on the other hand, needs more work. He is a yokai, and while it might seem his pervy ways are just his attempts to interpret human culture, such as the bowing incident, his open confession for his love of “boobies” doesn’t make him any points with me. Neither did the wearing of underwear on his head. He is fascinated by humans, despite the fact it was a human that killed his mother. Like Kotoko has started to learn, he knows there are good sides to humans as well as bad, and doesn’t paint them all with a broad brush. He has potential, if the perviness can be toned down. Not that I’m holding my breath though.
I really enjoyed the stories about the yokai. The tsuchikorobi was touching and the baby oni was cute. They showed how easy it was for the yokai to be misunderstood because of their appearance or nature. It just took a little explaining from Kuro, and maybe some action from the yokai, for Kotoko to learn the nature of their heats. Now, I know not all yokai are going to be like that. But I like that the series starts off with some silliness. I loved the scenes where Kotoko would throw some of the smaller yokai at Kuro’s head when he was being dense or pervy. Add to that the touching moments and it starts to become apparent that this title isn’t all about T & A.
I was harsh on Yokai Doctor when I first read it, and didn’t get anymore volumes. Now, I regret that. I would really love to read more about Kotoko and Kuro, and the yokai they will encounter and try to heal. Unfortunately, being a Del Rey title, that won’t be easy, or even a series that will ever be finished, since they are no more. All I can hope for, is that Jmanga.com, who has already picked up several Del Rey titles to publish and complete online, will pick up this one as well. It has a lot more to offer than some fan service, and though I was slow to pick up on it, I’m now glad I did.
This chilling tale of murder, secrets, and revenge centers on a home and the ugly events that transpired there. The place now has new owners, but there is a vile presence that permeates the building and pollutes every surface. What wickedness set off this unstoppable angry spirit? Why has its bloody grudge infected the home and its inhabitants? In the spirit of The Ring, Ju-On –Video Side– delivers a dark warning of a cursed spirit and the corrupting influence it has on the living.
While I don’t care for most horror movies in general, I do like the J-Horror movies that came out in the early 2000s. I have been on a quest to read as many of the manga adaptations that have come out as I can. So far I have read The Ring 0-3, Dark Water and One Missed Call. The manga adaptations have been hit or miss for me, so when I finally got my hands on Ju-On: Video Side, I wasn’t sure which way it would go. It’s actually a pretty good adaptation, just not of the movie as released here in the US.
Ju-On: Video Side tells the story of the Murakami family, the family to live in the house after the Saekis, who were the originators of the curse. Their story was originally told in the 2000 direct-to -video film Ju-On, or Ju-On: The Curse, and is a prequel to the theatrical movie. The story follows Tsuyoshi Murakami and his friend Mizuho, the daughter of Tatsuya Tamura, a friend of Tsyuoshi’s father, and the realtor who sold the Murakami’s their new house. Starting with Tatsuya’s mysterious dismemberment, one person after another is killed at the hands of Kayoko and Toshio’s hands. Some for doing nothing more than walking into the house.
I liked this adaptation. It didn’t follow the theatrical movies, so the story was fresher. It also told the story straightforwardly and in chronological order, so there was no trying to get your head around what was going one. I also liked a lot of the little differences that happen in the manga. Tsuyoshi’s sister Kanna isn’t killed feeding rabbits, but stray cats, which makes some sense since Toshio’s spirit is merged with a cat. The scene is very disturbing though. It’s gives a good shock too, as two police officers investigating the attack stare at something off-screen, taking about what it could be, which is inter-cut with scenes of Kanna dragging herself home. The build up is paid off in the reveal.
I also like what happened between Tsuyoshi and Mizuho. The story builds them up as not just the protagonists, but with a budding romance as well. This makes what Tsuyoshi does disturbing yet touching, even if he was under Kayoko’s influence at the time. The volume ends not on an uplifting note, but with a feeling that there could be hope. Kayoko and Toshio are shown to be just as much victims of the curse as the people who move into the house, and that adds to the overall emotion. Ju-on isn’t a personal vendetta, or mindless serial killer killing for the pleasure. It’s like a force of nature, and sweeps up anyone and everyone in its path.
If you’re interested in picking up the manga of a J-Horror, Ju-On: Video Side is a good choice. It hits different notes than the videos and movies, and hits them well. There is some blood and gore, but nowhere near as much as many western horror movies, and you can turn the page fast if it really bothers you. Just don’t read this in the dark, when you’re alone, and where there are cats. You might not get any sleep for a while.
Zombies, once creatures of voodoo, have evolved into something more sinister and scary ever since George Romero got a hold of them and created Night of the Living Dead. Ever since the introduction of the slow-moving, decaying, brain-eating monsters, they have grown in popularity, until the turn of the 21st century when they started popping up in hordes everywhere; movies, books, comics, and manga!
It’s the night before Halloween, with parents heads filled with all the little monsters that will be coming to their doors and children dreaming of the haul of candy that also fills the dreams of dentists. But here at the Manga Movable Feast, Horror is still at the forefront.
Yokai are traditional monsters of Japanese folklore. The can range from mischievous to down-right terrifying! They are such an integral part of Japanese culture, that it’s no wonder that they populate a lot of manga! In many of the manga that have been translated here, the yokai can either be the leads or they can be helping a human interact with the yokai world.
The feasting continues on day 6 like vampires at a blood drive, which some fresh, new faces joining our regulars.
Ever since the days of the Cold War, people have been worrying about surviving through a nuclear war and all the horrors, real and imagined, that could come in the aftermath. Movies have imagined the world becoming a wasteland, populated by mutated monsters, and a few survivors that struggle to survive. Of course, the most fun to have with this is drop the unsuspecting into the middle of this wasteland and see what they’ll do. Known as Survival Horror, this is a relatively new sub-genre of horror, popularized most recently by video games. But manga seems to really enjoy using it too. So here are a few titles that do just that.
Drifting Classroom is a horror manga by its master Kazuo Umezu, and first started serialization in 1972. It’s about an elementary school that is mysteriously transported to a wasteland during an earthquake. The students must struggle to survive in the face of teachers and students going insane, wandering monsters from the wasteland, disease, lack of food and water, and dissent from within. These kids, the oldest of which are only in 6th grade (11-12-years-old), must not only learn how to survive, but keep some semblance of order amongst the chaos and fear all the kids are feeling. The story went for 11 volumes and won the 20th Shogakukan Manga Award in 1975. It was also adapted into a live-action movie in 1987. Viz Media releases all 11 volumes under their Signature line.
Dragon Head also uses school-aged children to convey its horror. The return from a school trip goes horribly wrong as the train is trapped in a tunnel by an earthquake. The survivors must find a way out, and then try to survive in a world turned wasteland by a volcanic eruption/comet strike/nuclear attack. This series is more of a psychological horror, with the monsters being people who have given up and given in to their fear. What happened is never made clear, but the need to survive and not give in to fear is very much so. This series went 10 volumes and was published by Tokyopop. It won the Kodansha award in 1997, and was adapted into a live action movie in 2003.
King of Thorn is survival horror with a sci-fi twist. A group of people are put into suspended animation to escape a plague that turns people to stone. When they wake up, they find the research facility has been taken over by a jungle that seems to have a mind of its own and monsters roam the landscape. They must fight to survive as well as try to discover what has happened while they were asleep. This series is 6 volumes long, and was released in full by Tokyopop. It well received in the US, as well as getting an anime movie adaptation in Japan. which was released in 2010 and nominated for the 4th Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
Psyren is the newest addition to the survival horror genre. The story takes place in both the world as we know it today, and in another that is a wasteland where monsters roam the landscape. The wasteland world is known as “Psyren”, and people “chosen” by the entity known as Nemesis Q are transported to Psyren to play a “game”. They must find their way through the wasteland to return home. On each “mission,” the “players” are confronted by both insect and humanoid monsters that kill without compassion or restraint. The truth of Psyren is more than a mere game, which is why I include it with this list. Psyren has only had one volume released far in the US, and is being published by Viz. It started serialization in Shonen Jump magazine in January 2011, but will not move over to the digital verison of the magazine in January 2012.
We’re past the half way mark of this month’s Manga Movable Feast, and are now moving into the home stretch. Today’s links are filled with familiar faces, and in this case, that’s a good thing!