What is it with writers in general and Horror writers in particular and their obsessiveness concerning small towns? They make them seem like places where every other house is full of mystery, monsters, the deranged, or weirdness run amok. Whether it’s King in Maine, Lynch in the Northwest, or Ono in Japan, on either side of the Pacific, writers love to make stuff happen in small towns. Shiki (Shi Ki), which can be translated as “Corpse Demon”, is no exception.
Shiki can be described like this:
The story takes place during a particularly hot summer in the nineties, in a small quiet village called Sotoba. A series of mysterious deaths begin to spread in the village. At the same time, a strange family has moved into the long abandoned Kanemasa mansion. Dr. Toshio Ozaki, head of the only rural hospital in Sotoba, initially suspects an epidemic. But as the investigations continue with the help of his old friend Muroi Seishin, who is the village priest, the deaths begin to pile up; they becomes convinced that the undead are plaguing the village. A young man named Natsuno Yuuki, who hates living in the village and only wants to leave, begins to suspect he is still being pursued by a girl who has already died.
I give you the case of one Light Yagami. He lives in the Kanto region of Tokyo. His academic talent puts him in the top 1%, in his age group, for all of Japan. He has great prospects for University and careers. The problem is that he’s a young man; he’s bored; he feels contempt for his society and how it functions. Since his father is in the police, the underbelly of Japanese society is very obvious to him. He feels a great yearning to help his society, punish wrongdoers, but he feels helpless. He’s rebellious; his smarts make him arrogant; he’s searching for a cause and his place in the world, as all young men do.
Watch out, he’s going to get his wish.
This is what Viz says about Death Note, Volume 1:
Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects – and he’s bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective “L” to track down the killer. With “L” hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal… or his life?
Light tests the boundaries of the Death Note’s powers as “L” and the police begin to close in. Luckily Light’s father is the head of the Japanese National Police Agency and leaves vital information about the case lying around the house. With access to his father’s files, Light can keep one step ahead of the authorities. But who is the strange man following him, and how can Light guard against enemies whose names he doesn’t know?
Not that it matters. Umineko, also informally known as the Saga of the Golden Witch, is just plain good. Which is the important part.
Yen Press has this to say about Volume One:
Each year, the Ushiromiya family gathers at the secluded mansion of its patriarch, the elderly Kinzo. It has been six years since Battler joined his cousins at the annual event, but their happy reunion is overshadowed by worsening weather and an eerie premonition from his youngest cousin-not to mention their parents’ feud over the inheritance. Battler doesn’t hold much stock in dark omens, nor does he believe the tales of the witch rumored to have given his grandfather a fortune in gold…and who walks the halls of the mansion to this day… But when the eighteen family members and servants are trapped on the island by the raging typhoon, the grisly events that follow leave Battler shaken to his core. Is one of his relatives desperate enough to kill for the family fortune? Or is this the work of the Golden Witch?
18 people trapped on an island due to a typhoon. They’ve come to discuss the inheritance, since the elder Kinzo is dying. (He’s had three months to live for over a year.) Some members of the family really don’t get along with each other and some of the members of the family certainly could use their share (or a larger one) of the family fortune right about now.
It sounds just like the setup for an old joke. A high school gang leader, the information broker, and a Dullahan all meet up at the Russian sushi place… which is considered neutral territory because nobody messed with Simon. You know, Simon, he’s a 6’4” black Russian who brooks no arguments. Russian mafia connections? Probably, but at least he thinks conflict is not good for the digestion.
It’s got to be a joke, right? Nope. This could actually happen in the wonderfully self-contained world that is Ikebukuro, our stage for Durarara!!
This is what Yen Press says about volume one:
At the invitation of an old school friend, introverted high school student Mikado Ryuugamine, yearning for a life less ordinary, makes his way to Tokyo. His destination: Ikebukuro, a hotbed of madmen living most unusual lives. On his first day there, Mikado encounters a cast of characters so colorful, the rich hues of his rural hometown pale in comparison! And as if the naive stalker chick, the high school senior obsessed with the rather creepy object of his affections, the hikikomori genius doctor, the hedonistic information dealer, the strongest man in all of Ikebukuro weren’t enough…Mikado also chances upon a sight that leaves him rubbing his eyes and scratching his head — the Black Biker, who is black as night from bodysuit to license plate, soundlessly weaving through the streets like a figure out of an urban legend. Who is this “Headless Rider” on the jet-black metal steed!? And why does it seem like Mikado’s already gotten himself neck-deep in the insanity that is the norm in his new home!?
And what a first day it was.
If 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.
There must be nothing quite like having a red hot manga. Not since Kubo’s Bleach in 2001 has the manga world been this excited. Hajime Isayama, the mangaka, is rock’en the manga world right now. You can tell from the manga best seller lists here and in Japan. Attack on Titan routinely has multiple issues in the top 20. You know something is hot when an English translation house starts pumping out volumes on a monthly basis to feed the ravenous hunger of the American Otaku and to bring us up to speed on the Japanese release schedule.
This is what Kodansha says about Attack on Titan:
In this post-apocalytpic sci-fi story, humanity has been devastated by the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming mankind. Seemingly unintelligent, they have roamed the world for years, killing everyone they see. For the past century, what’s left of man has hidden in a giant, three-walled city. People believe their 100-meter-high walls will protect them from the Titans, but the sudden appearance of an immense Titan is about to change everything.
Let the Carnage begin.
Attack of the Mega Cute Vampires – Double Feature. Start!
Our first feature is Chibi Vampire and here’s what Tokyopop said about it.
Karin is a cute little girl who also happens to be a vampire…with a twist. Once a month, she experiences intense bleeding from her nose–we’re talking gushers! In other words, she’s a vamp with blood to spare, so rather than stealing blood from humans she actually gives her blood to them. If done right, this can be an extremely positive experience that benefits the “victim” as much as the vampire. The problem is that Karin never seems to do things right!
Karin’s family, of course, are “normal” vampires. Karin is their precious little ugly duckling of a vampire. Crosses and mirrors don’t phase her. [Groan.] She works at a Chinese restaurant that uses lots of garlic. [Moan.] Karin gives people her blood when she bits, instead of taking theirs. [Doh!] And she can even go out in the daylight. [Shudder.] Karin is just trying to enjoy a peaceful high school life, with a part time job. Karin needs that job since who else is going to pay the electric bill? Her family sees in the dark far better than she does. But the blood, her blood, gets in the way. Not only does that time of the month (yeah, I know, only a female mangaka can get away with that) intrudes on her life but her blood seems to act up when she’s around the new transfer student, handsome but poor Kenta Usui. What is going on? Gusher!
In an earlier blog, I mentioned that it was my intention to peruse the endless manga bookshelves to find the best SF and bring it to your attention. And by doing this, hopefully some quality SF manga would earn places right next to their top level USA SF counterparts.
To my own chagrin, I’ve discovered I didn’t need to look any further than my own bookshelves for this title. For a variety of reasons, none of which are any good, Eden made it’s way onto my shelf, but not onto my reading pile. That has changed. Eden is a manga we should pay attention to.
This is what Dark Horse has to say about the first volumes of Eden: It’s an Endless World.
Eden Volume One is both a brilliant love song to the post-apocalyptic survival genre and the beginning of a deep exploration on man’s role in the natural order. In the near future, a large portion of humanity is wiped out by a brutal, new virus that hardens the skin while dissolving internal organs. Those who aren’t immune are either severely crippled or allowed to live with cybernetically enhanced bodies. Taking advantage of a world in chaos, a paramilitary force known as the Propater topples the United Nations and seeks world domination. Elia, a young survivor searching for his mother, travels towards the Andes Mountains with an artificially intelligent combat robot. When he encounters a group of anti-Propater freedom fighters, a maelstrom of unique characters unfolds. Graphic, cyberpunk, and philosophical, Eden is a place where endearing heroes face a constant struggle for survival and violent surprises wait around every corner!
I must say up front that delving into the Horror manga genre is very new to me. I’ve simply never paid any attention. But since I’m doing these blogs for WWEnd and the site covers SF, Fantasy, and Horror, I feel that I must expand my own horizons.
And I’m very glad that I’ve done so.
Here is what Yen Press has to say about Another:
In the spring of 1998, Koichi Sakakibara transfers into Class 3-3 at Yomiyama North Middle School. But little does he know…his new class has a horrible secret. When he takes his seat in class for the first day of school, Koichi is unsettled by his fearful classmates. Despite this atmosphere and warnings from fellow students, Koichi is drawn to the beautiful, distant Mei Misaki, another classmate. But the closer he tries to get to her, the more mysterious she and their class become. And when a fellow student dies a disturbing death—the first of a long chain of deaths—Koichi seeks to learn the truth behind the curse of Class 3-3. But can he get answers before the curse kills him?
Right from the start line we have some horror standards: young people and young people dying. These are interacting with manga standards: young people and a school setting. So the plot equation looks like this: young people, plus a school setting, plus a curse, plus secrets, equals lots of people dying.
Can the simple shape of a spiral be cause for alarm? Can it be a sign of a curse? A manifestation of a haunting? Or is it a gateway signature to something else entirely? These are the lingering questions that draw us, hypnotically, like the swirling lines of the spiral itself, every deeper into the mystery that is Uzumaki.
Here is what VIZ says about Uzumaki:
Kurôzu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in everything from seashells and whirlpools in water to the spiral marks on people’s bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi’s father and the voice from the cochlea in our inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurôzu-cho are pulled ever deeper into a whirlpool from which there is no return!
Uzumaki: The Spiral.
I’d heard that this was a manga to pay attention to. How right that advice is.