Saturday, 31 July 2010

Slices of Japanese horror

I enjoy horror genre in comics and movies, even when I am not that easily scared of them. Still, I do like building of the ambience and interesting visual styles many of the better ones go for, and in any case I do have a soft spot for lurid melodramas.
Making sense or being believable is optional and more often than not can work against the story.
After reading some Junji Ito (Uzumaki and Tomie stories, which I might discuss some later time) and coming across some other comments I did get more curious about Japanese horror manga, and after looking what more knowing people mentioned and what was available in the local store, I tried out first books of two titles.
Of course with horror relying on other people's criticism and recommendations is even more tricky than with other genres, since that ambience thing is very personal and what suits one is likely to bore another...

Reiko the Zombie Shop by Rei Mikamoto seems to me one of those "perfect first page" books, the concept graps attention but the actual book...ehh...Reiko is a schoolgirl necromancer-for-hire who by chanting some magic words can raise the dead. Lots of graphic violence ensues.
This first book is a bunch of short stories, though there's also a longer story about a schoolgirl serial killer who kills little children. In most of the stories I pretty much figured out after first couple of pages how it would play out though there were couple of surprise twists in the end, the main focus is gore (injury-in-the-eye seems particularly popular). There is very little information given about the characters for me to care about them, and the art doesn't appeal to me either, so even without the horror thrills there isn't much to read here.
Had I thought this through beforehand I might have guessed anyway that this is not a book for me, I tend to prefer my horror more creepy and eerie than straightforward gore or monster books. The serial killer girl might have had some potential in different hands, but here she was nothing special.
Oh well, there is probably market for this kind of thing (apparently not that big though, of 11 volumes Dark Horse published only six before dropping the series) but this is not for me.
The creepies bit came in the end of the book, in the fan art section, where I noticed couple of 14-15-year olds but also a 8-year old artist. I'm sorry, there's an 8-year old who is familiar enough with this series to do fan art about it? WTF?

That creepy and eerie type of horror I said I liked? School Zone by Kanako Inuki got it. There's a school which might or might not be haunted by 13 ghost stories, it is sometimes hard to tell which parts are real and which are just bunch of people driving themselves into mass hysteria and the whole thing runs on dream or children's logic.
I was especially fond of of the way it does get the feel of children's folklore and oral tradition, this book is about ghost stories after all, and how on one hand some of the stories border on ridiculous and on the other kids can take things very calmly (there's a story of one girl who started to see ghosts in school, and "because of that no one wanted to be her friend anymore", other possible consequences were not mentioned).
I also liked the fact that adults play only a small role in the book, school zone is literally a world of its own. There are teachers and some parents, but they stay for the most part off-panel or panel shows only their hands or feet or have their faces obscured. Reminds me a bit of Peanuts (the "This Shit Is Weird, Charlie Brown" episode), or the more suspenseful moments of Harry Potter.

I enjoyed this a lot but no doubt anyone who wants a sensible plot in their stories will be sorely disappointed...

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