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!
I know it’s not right to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and a lot of those words can be “Ewwww.” While it’s great that manga combines the visual with words, sometimes those pictures are enough to make one put down a book, or even never try to pick it up!
Like zombies rising up from their graves, the links are resurrected, and fiendishly multiplying for Day 4!
Horror is not the pervue of only men. While women might be seem squeamish and reluctant to the more gory types of horror, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy reading, or writing it. Even at the beginning of the horror genre, women was reading and writing stories to thrill. Manga has lots of works written by women for women. Here are three of the most well-known in English.
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.