Horror stories aren’t all just about blood, gore and monsters. Many stories end with a twist, where something totally unexpected happens right at the end. Twilight Zone was very good at this, as in “Eye of the Beholder,” where the woman’s bandages are removed and her beautiful face turns out to be ugly in her world. Sometimes, the twists show people getting what they deserve as in “The Masks,” where the characters must where ugly masks that reflect their ugly personalities, and when the masks are taken off, their faces are shaped the same as the masks. These kinds of twists are almost a subgenre in horror manga. It showed up so often that blogger John Jakala dubbed them “comeuppance theater”, a term eagerly picked up by other manga bloggers.
Pet Shop of Horrors was among the first of these titles to be translated. The series features the bishonen Count D who knows just what pet you need. Everyone who takes a pet from Count D either dies at the hand of their pet, or is protected from someone horrible by said pet. Most of the stories feature animals getting their revenge on an uncaring humanity, but sometimes the animals themselves are just killers. There isn’t a lot of gore, but there is a lot of death, which leads to Count D coming to the attention of the LA Police and one Detective Orcot, who is convinced D is responsible for all the deaths. It is complete at 10 volumes, but out of print with the demise of Tokyopop. There is also a sequel series, Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo which has D up to his old tricks, this time in Tokyo. Only 8 volumes of this series was released, and suffered the same fate as it’s predecessor.
Presents was from the non-defunct CMX. It features a girl, Kurumi, who was never given any presents when she was young, so she never aged, and now delivers presents to others, the contents of which are usually what they deserve, not what they want. The volumes are a collection of short stories with Kurumi being the connecting factor. Kanako Inuki’s art is cute but creepy, adding to the sense of dread the morality tales have already set up. The title is short at only three volumes long, but is also sadly out of print.
Hellgirl was from Del Rey and is based on the anime of the same name. There is a website that can only be accessed at midnight. If you can get to it, you can put in the name of the person you want revenge on, and if Emna Ai agrees, she will take that person to hell, but you will be cursed to hell as well when you finally die. The anime was created for teens and up, but the manga is written for a tween audience, with lots of melodrama, and not a lot of blood or gore. While it is rather satisfying to see bullies get what’s coming to them, there is also a theme of Emna Ai trying to talk her “clients” out of wishing the revenge, or at least reconsider and find another way. The series is 9 volumes long, and is technically out of print, unless Kodansha decides to bring it back.
When Aurora, a publisher that specialized in shojo and josei manga started, one of their debut titles was Nightmares For Sale. This series featured a pawn shop run by a not-so-human bishonen Shadow and his opinionated female assistant Maria. They sell items that have the ability to grant the buyer’s wishes, but usually at a very high price. These stories are darker and have a little more gore, as is it written for an older audience. The series was only two volumes and are out of print, as is its publisher.
Only One Wish is another Del Rey title, that is in the same vein as Hellgirl, only this time, instead of a website, it’s a cellphone, and one must text a dark angel. Got to keep up with the times, it seems. This title doesn’t have the same gravitas of some of the other titles. The chapters are self-contained stories and aren’t really all that dark, Most of them have a fairly happy ending. It’s not a bad title, but only the first chapter has the “comeuppance theater” feel, and even then it doesn’t do it very well. I think it was meant to be in that vein, but it just didn’t carry it through, which may be why it only when on volume.
“Comeuppance Theater” can be filled with tropes that can make it seem boring or cliché. But with the right characters or set up, it can still be an enjoyable romp through the things we know we shouldn’t want, but may secretly wish we could do. Enjoy these titles at your own risk.
If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, you can call on these ghost-busting manga titles to help you through the night.
Yokai, the ghosts and monsters of Japanese folklore, appear alot in manga, but how often do they get to be one of the main characters? This list features titles where they yokai is the protagonist of the manga, and not just a monster to be beat up before the hero moves on.
Another weekend sick meant missing a week of news. Whatever is going around really sucks. My whole department at work was coughing and sneezing all week. Hopefully this post will make up for my absence. We’ve got new licenses, movie plans, the return of aggregators, “big” changes, more NYCC/NYAF, and some trick or treating from around the mangasphere.
Forget Godzilla. Forget the giant beasties karate-chopped into oblivion by endless incarnations of Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and the Power Rangers. Forget the Pocket Monsters. Forget Sadako from The Ring and that creepy all-white kid from The Grudge. Forget everything you know about Japanese tales of terror. The yokai are the spookiest Japanese creatures you’ve never heard of, and it’s high time they got their due.
As high sciety’s social calendar opens up and the Season draws to a close, London is gripped by fear. Someone has taken to stalking women of the night and painting the town red…in their blood. But while the name on everyone’s lips is “Jack the Ripper,” the name on Queen Vitoria’s lips is Phantomhive. Summoned to London to clean up the mess created by this madman, young earl Ciel Phantomhive arrives with his extraordinary butler Sebastian, at his side to pour him tea, polish his silver, and …investigate a serial killer!
By Yana Tosobo
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
The second volume of Black Butler starts off as light-hearted as the first. It opens by showing us a day in the life of Sebastian, as he deals with idiotic servants and a caprious master who off-handedly mentions that several orphans will be visiting…the next day. Sebastian’s internal dialog throughout this chapter is just hilarious as he tries to keep his cool with each new catastrophe interrupting his attempts to prepare for the visit. And his stress-reliever at like this is just awesome. Cats. He loves them, and where he comes from, they don’t have pets like cats. I love the image of the pets they do have. Even though I enjoyed the first volume, this chapter cemented Black Butler as a must have title.
Things start to get more serious after this chapter, as Ciel is called by “her” to look into the murders that have been happening in the East End of London, Jack the Ripper. It’s a slow build up as the search for him starts. Ciel’s aunt, known as Madame Red is introduced as is her friend, Lau, the British Branch Manager of the Chinese trading company Kong Rong. We also meet one of Ciel’s underworld contacts, a very odd man known as the Undertaker, a rather appropriate contact considering the case. Sebastian gets some payback here, as he engages in some misdirection that leads to Ciel being forced to attend a ball dressed as a girl as part of the investigation. He is a devil after all. The volume ends with Jack’s identity being revealed, and it’s quite a twist. There is more to the killings that just being random murders.
I’m still really enjoying Black Butler. There is still a good amount of humor, even without the comedy relief servants. The wicked humor between Sebastian and Ciel balances well with the darker drama that is growing in the series. And Sebastian’s moments with cats really make me smile. But when it get serious, it doesn’t hold anything back. Even though we don’t get to see the scene of the last murder, we can tell from Ciel’s reaction that it is truely horrifying.
There are some nice extras that round out the volume, including a bonus scene that shows Ciel’s “training” to act like a proper lady, a look behind the scene of making the manga with Toboso, and a picture of the cast as in a medical drama. And doctor just might be needed with the promise of a serious fight coming up in the next volume. I look forward to seeing Sebastian in action after the small glimpses we’ve gotten so far.
Ordinary high school student Mai Taniyama is drawn into the world of ghosts and spirits when her school hires Kazuya Shibuya of Shibuya Psychic Research to investigate alleged haunting of an old school building. After accidentally breaking a very expensive camera and injuring Shibuya’s assistant Linn, Mai becomes his assistant. They are soon joined by a Shinto Miko, a Buddhist monk, a psychic medium and a Catholic priest. The school wants to be very sure there are no spirits to interrupt the buildings demolition.
Ghost Hunt is based on a series of light novels originally published in the late 80s to mid 90’s. It follows the cases of Shibuya Psychic Research as they investigate alleged hauntings and find the cause, whether it is natural or otherwise. Of course, more often than not, the hauntings will be real.
The first volume introduces all the characters that will become the ensemble cast for the rest of the series. The case of the supposedly haunted school building is really secondary to the characters introductions. We first meet Mai, a seemingly normal high school girl who is blackmailed into being Shibuya’s assistant. She gets pushed around by him, but she doesn’t take it meekly. She happily pushes back. She fairly smart and makes a good, strong female lead. She does find Shibuya handsome, as do all the females in the series, but his less than friendly personality and narcissistic behavior mostly cancels that out. She even gives him the nickname of Naru-chan, which is quickly picked up by the rest of the cast. Despite that, she does seem to develop feelings for him.
Shibuya, the aforementioned Naru-chan, is the president of SPR, Shibuya Psychic Research. He is only 16 years-old, yet is very learned about the supernatural and can read and writing several languages, including English. His personality is rather cold and indifferent, and he seems more concerned about getting the job done than other people’s feelings. Though, he does show to be surprisingly compassionate at the resolution of both these first two cases. He tends to look down at people, and has a very high opinion of himself, though he does seem to like Mai, as he asks her to work for him part-time. He is a ghost hunter, using technology to find and confirm spirit activity, though again, he surprises everyone again with another skill.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by four exorcists. Ayako Matsuzaki is a self-proclaimed miko with a bit of an attitude. Takigawa Houshou is a monk from Koya Mountain with long hair and pieced ears who is “taking a break”. John Brown is a Catholic priest from Australia with a Kansai accent who is also an exorcist, a Masako Hara is a psychic medium who also has her own TV show. They all start out competing with each other, and especially with Shibuya, and egos are checked as they go through the first case. By the second case though, they are working together more as a team. The second case is much more serious, and everyone’s skills are needed to keep the ghosts at bay and protect a little girl and her aunt from harm.
The stories are more psychological horror than gore. No one is killed, though characters do get hurt, especially Mai. In both stories, Mai is knocked out and has a dream about the current case and that features a kinder, gentler Naru-chan. This Dream-Naru-chan helps her with these dreams which end up contributing to the case, suggesting there might be more to Mai than we, or even she, knows.
While the stories are fun ghost tales, the real heart of this title is the characters. It’s a really good ensemble cast that works well together. There isn’t a shirking violet among them, and they are all ready to take up the challenge, whether it’s Naru-chan’s sharp tongue, or facing a vengeful spirit. Even Mai, without any power or knowledge, is ready to jump into the fray, usually without thinking of the consequences. There is also a sort-of love triangle being set up between her, Naru-chan and Masako. There are hints of feelings between them, but it’s keep to the background. It never becomes the focus of the story, which is as it should be.
Ghost Hunt has started out as a good title with strong, entertaining characters, and some eerie ghost stories. While ghosts or spirits aren’t always the culprits, there is usually some sort of paranormal explanation for the phenomena they encounter. I definitely recommend this title if you like some mystery, ghost tales, and lots of good character interaction.
We’ve all heard urban legends–stories that we tell one another late at night., Just to make us cringe and freak ourselves out. WE dismiss these stories as just plain old creepy. But what happens when they become real…? Enter Detective Aso Daisuke. When he isn’t dealing with cheating spouses, con artists or his ero-manga collection, he dives deep into the intense fear of these horrors. With his first case–the man under the bed–can he stop a disturbed killer with a blood axe?
I’ve always loved stories about myths and legends, and urban legends are the mythology of modern-day. We don’t believe in witches, vampires or werewolves. Instead we have axe murders, men with hook-hands, and ladies with slit-mouths. So, I was intrigued by the premise of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory which looks at what happens when these legends become real, and fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.
In Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, urban legends are just that, legends that get passed around by word of mouth. But every once in a while, a person can hear a story and start to believe it. As they believe it more, it becomes more real. The person is then possessed by the allegory. To be honest, the stories aren’t really spine tinglers, but I still found them to be entertaining. The first chapter with the man under the bed was pretty cliché, but the second with slit-mouthed woman had a nice twist at the end, as did the final story with the human-faced fish. I liked seeing each legend in action. The stories written for them were competently done. While it was fun to see the monsters in action, it’s the humanity in the stories that really make them work. As Hanako says, the allegories can’t exist without humans, and it’s the human elements of the stories, and their resolutions that I found to be the most interesting.
The same goes for most of the characters. I didn’t really care for Kanae. Just as the cover shows, her only purpose seems to be someone for Aso to rescue. She is useless for most of the volume, and even though she acknowledges her uselessness, I still didn’t really like her. Hopefully things will improve for her in the next volume. Aso on the other hand, really drew my attention, especially in the last story, where we learned more about him. He became more than just a porn-reading loser. And Hanako’s thoughts at the end of the Human-faced fish really stirred my curiosity. Hanako herself had her moments. Her talk with Kanae about the nature of allegories made her fascination with technology all the more interesting. Though, the use of that same technology against the allegories somehow lessen the effect of the endings of the stories. I don’t know, but it felt like a crutch to use computers to stop the allegories.
The art is serviceable. It’s fairly average in the portrayal of the humans, but the monsters are the show of this title. Every one of them is creepy and sometimes downright disturbing, particularly the human-faced fish. I also really liked the man under the bed. He was really creepy with the one eye staring out of the darkness. There is also some mild fanservice, porn magazine covers not withstanding. But it’s kept to a minimum, and I think I missed a panel or two of them the first read through.
I’m going to keep reading Hanako and the Terror of Allegory despite, or perhaps because it isn’t really a horror title like say Hellsing. It’s more of the psychological horror that I prefer, and I just can’t get enough of its folktales, yokai and urban legends. If you’re looking for a light read with just a touch of the shiver factor, then check this title out.