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Worlds Without End Blog

Horror Manga 101: The Ring Posted at 3:26 PM by Glenn Hough


ring01If you’re a horror fan, just the title alone should bring to mind the Verbinski film of 2002 or the original Japanese movie Ringu (Ring) from 1998. The original books by Koji Suzuki have circled the globe, capturing the attention of horror fans everywhere. And since this franchise came from Japan, a manga was almost unavoidable. I think the manga can stand alone, so it deserves our attention.

This is what Dark Horse has to say about Volume One:

Journalist Kazayuki Asakawa’s investigation into the sudden deaths of four teenagers leads to an isolated cabin containing a videotape warning of death in seven days unless certain, now missing, instructions are followed.

I’m not a horror movie person, but even I’d heard of the cursed videotape that causes death. Since that’s all I knew, I had no preconceived notions about the plot of the manga.

We start with gossip, rumor, people talking about a weird tape, that kills. This was the kind of rumor that seems to come from nowhere and is everywhere almost instantly. Watch the tape and you’ll die, in seven days. As a reporter, Asakawa, gets curious about this rumor since she knew a teen who died. A bit of digging and it turns out that four teens, all friends, all together seven days ago, all died on the same day, within minutes of each other.

ring03The first step into the horror is a rumor. The second step is the very strange coincidental deaths. It could have easily ended there if not for a reporters curiosity. The power of the Ring to draw it’s victims into the curse was not yet completed. The next step: where were those teens seven days ago? The next is a cabin. The next step is a video tape that doesn’t seem to belong. The last step Asakawa takes before the Ring has her in the power of the curse, is to push play on the VCR.

Asakawa watches the video. She’s convinced she will be next. I like that aspect, the seven day delay. Just enough time to either laugh the whole thing off completely, and suffer the consequences, or enough time to figure out the riddle of the tape and it’s curse. As the clock ticks, Asakawa has to move quickly. First it’s for her own sake, then for the sake of others who’ve watched the tape after she did. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

ring11The pattern of this horror story is much like a singularity. It draws one in, step by step. The characters could’ve turned away as they started to approach, but after a point, the gravity well of the story has captured them within the power of what’s being unleashed. They have no options now but to forge ahead and solve the riddle of the tape: who made it? and why?

It’s really not a wonder that The Ring was a sensation in Japan, which spilled over to the rest of the world. Japan loves the supernatural. It’s part of the fundamental motif of the Japanese mindset, which is rooted in their ancient religious structures. (This notion, of course, would be politely denied by the average salaryman of the nation.) This supernatural aspect intersects with their love of the detective story. The intellectual interplay between people hiding secrets, and other people – detectives, private investigators, reporters – using logic, research and hard work to uncover those secrets, is a huge alluring genre for the anime, manga, print, and film industries of that country.


Clues are what Asakawa needs. They’re on the tape. The first is a Japanese dialect, rare and comprehensible only to a specialist. Then comes the footage of an active volcano. Those two hints gives us an area and a timeframe. But they need a name. More research. It’s off to the files of a deceased university professor who collated huge files on every person in Japan with special abilities. That’s the answer. A person with special ability is the root of this. It’s a curse after all, a spouting of vitriol aimed at a world that wronged her. The name we get, which echoes in the annals of Japanese horror, is Sadako.

If I say the name Linda Blair, horror fans in the states and around the world know the name. In Japan, say the name Sadako, and it’s the same smile of acknowledgment. Now, at last, comes the piecing together of the why. And from there, the means to extricate themselves from the curse.

ring13The Ring has almost a clockwork feel to it. Everything fits together: from the initial setup, to the clues, to the research, to the final conclusions and surprise ending. It all forms a ghastly ring; a perfect ring of murder, psychic powers, and heart breaking tragedy ending with a lethal curse.

Thank goodness this is fiction.

Thank goodness VCRs are a thing of the past.

And that’s just volume one of the translation. With four more horrific volumes, Sadako isn’t finished yet. Remember, I said extricate, not end the curse.

The Ring is brought to us as a joint project between our friends at Dark Horse and DMP – Digital Manga Publishing. It’s in print and widely available. For those who need a free copy, check out or

1 Comment

Glenn   |   23 Feb 2015 @ 01:19

Just to illustrate the point about Sadako and how much of a meme she is in Japanese society, I’ll mention Kimi Ni Todoke (From Me to You), which uses Sadako as a central starting point.

The manga Kimi Ni Todoke follows Sawako and Shota as they enter High School and begin a friendship which slowly develops into something else.

The thing is, everyone in school calls Sawako, Sadoko. The girls think she’s standoffish, haughty, creepy, in fact, since she sure resembles Sadako from the movie. The Japanese rumor mill goes to work and in no time she can curse people and is very bad luck to cross.

The thing is, Sawako is painfully shy, unusually reserved, hyper polite, and very considerate of others. She doesn’t exactly fit in. She just wants some friends. And then Shota, one of the most popular boys at school takes an interest.

I’m sure you can imagine how that relationship goes over: “Sadako” and the most popular boy in school. Obviously she used magic on him!

Boy meets girl and an unjust perception, based on a movie, gets in the way.
As if boy meeting girl wasn’t hard enough already.

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