Manga Village

Cat Eyed Boy Volume 2

April 2, 2009

Hated by humans and demons alike, Cat Eyed Boy dwells in the shadows of the human world.  Cat Eyed Boy continues his battle with the Band of One Hundred Monsters, a group seeking revenge upon the corrupt humans who have made them outcasts.

By: Kazuo Umezu
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen+ (16+)
Genre: Horror
Price: $24.99

Take Twilight Zone like stories about the human condition and combine them with a Tales From the Crypt horror factor and Crypt Keeper narrator, and you have Cat Eyed Boy in a nutshell.  Even though Cat Eyed Boy is often a character in the stories, his outsider point of view allows him the luxury of commenting on the action as well as participating.

I was skeptical of Cat Eyed Boy when I received it.  I’m not a big horror fan, leaning more towards the supernatural (except in very rare cases, such as Hellsing).  But, I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading that the horror element wasn’t repulsively horrific.  Like most Japanese horror, the monsters were creepy and scary, but there wasn’t a lot of hack ‘n slash.  I found reading it was easy for my weak-stomach to take.  The only truly disturbing scene for me being a bunch of dead cats.  I’m a cat lover.

The stories themselves have that Twilight Zone feel to them, some with the “twist” ending, but not always.  Some are straight morality tales, such as “The Friend”, where a boy who kills because he doesn’t want to share his “best friend” with anyone else.  Another story, “The Hand”, has a boy dreaming of an outstretched hand and is afraid of it, but when faced with one in real life, he finds little to fear.  In these stories, Cat Eyed Boy is ancillary.  He is either just a narrator, or only has a short scene at the end.

The more traditional horror tales have Cat Eyed Boy as the protagonist.  He is usually fighting demons to protect humans who fear and/or hate him.  Whether it is the One Hundred Monsters, Meatball Monster, or the 1000 Handed Demon, Cat Eyed Boy does everything he can to save the humans being preyed on.  His reward is usually none at all.  His only real allies are cats, who bring him information and help him when he’s in trouble.  Most of these stories are about revenge and retribution.  One story though, Meatball, has an interesting take on cancer being like a monster that can’t be easily defeated.  This was one of the best stories in the volume.

Cat Eyed Boy as a character is very interesting.  Like many heroes we see today, he is persecuted by the very people he’s trying to protect.  But he never gives up.  No matter how much he’s beaten or accused of causing misfortune, he always comes back to help those same people.  His motivation for doing this isn’t given in this volume, though it does seem he hates monsters more than humans.  His determination and strength of will are impressive none the less.

The art in this volume definitely has an old school feel to it, and may keep people from picking it up.  Umezu uses a lot of thick line work, and there isn’t a lot of the styling as seen in today’s manga, such as screen tone or speed lines.  But it’s the basic, stark line work that really makes the horror work.  You aren’t distracted by the art, so you can be swept into the story.

Cat Eyed Boy isn’t a series that is going to appeal to everyone.  Horror fans will definitely find a lot to love in it.  If you enjoy stories with twist endings, you’ll like it too.  The strong writing will definitely entertain, even if the older art might be a little hard on eyes used to prettier art.  But it’s definitely worth the look.

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