Chrysalis – Franken Fran part 2 by Kigitsu Katsuhisa

Fran shows us what she will do to help the love of others, especially when she feels responsible for their pain.

What is Franken Fran Chrysalis about?

A young man confesses his love to a beautiful young woman. Despite the gentlemanly way of showing his intentions, she knocks him back telling him its because of his looks. Not one moment after she has destroyed this boy’s feelings, she herself is destroyed as a lorry ploughs headfirst into her at high speed.

If she were anywhere else but a stone’s throw from Franken Fran’s mansion she’d be gone for good.

How lucky for her.

Tajima pleads with Fran for her to help

As it turns out, the lorry was actually delivering supplies to Fran and so she, being of the kindest of nature’s, immediately takes full responsibility. She makes it her mission to bring this girl back from the dead and reunite what she assumes to be a loving couple.

Learning from insects

Fran’s approach to surgery is unorthodox to say the least. This is never more apparent than when the girl wakes up from her surgery in Caterpillar form. Here I was introduced not only to Fran’s knowledge of extreme surgery, but the author’s creativity in crafting unique stories.

Obviously each chapter going forward will be centred around her helping people with some form of surgery. But this chapter showed just how creative these adventures promise to be.

We’re beginning the operation

Out of such harsh circumstances love can blossom too. It was nice to see characters learn of real love through the course of Chrysalis. And not only that, but the last page’s gruesome punchline is to die for!

In Summary

Chrysalis is the second chapter in the Franken Fran series. It brings us back into the familiarity of Fran’s mansion, only this time with an emergency surgery – not the plotted deception of the opening chapter.

It displays Fran’s compassion for others, her skills in the operating theatre and the almost comical side effects of her out-of-the-box thinking that were perhaps not anticipated by her.

I was really happy that the author decided to make Franken Fran into an anthology of sorts. I’m already loving her world and I’m only two stories in. I’m looking forward to her world being fleshed out more and more as I work through the stories.

Dead Tube – Take 1: Action!

I’d heard whispers of this Horror Manga; about its gore and originality. But nothing quite prepared me for what I discovered in this first chapter of Dead Tube.

What is Dead Tube Take 1 about?

In it’s opening chapter, Dead Tube’s two central characters are introduced. These two people are Machiya Tomohiro – a second-year student and cameraman for the school film club, and Mashiro Mai – a second-year student and avid swimmer.

In the opening pages Mashiro asks Machiya to film her none-stop for two days. He accepts her invitation and begins filming her. It starts off innocently enough with him filming her during her normal swimming session. However, the extent of the filming starts to become apparent when she has him follow her to the bathroom and continue to record as nature takes its course.

Machiya films Mashiro as she sleeps

After filming her sleep at her request, they both step out into their second day of filming. Here she has him record every moment of her date with her apparent boyfriend. The big payoff then comes at the end of the day.

This is where Machiya discovers his film subject’s true intentions.

The date’s final climax.

Voyeurism and well-placed humour

This chapter is such a big tease throughout. It teased and teased, building up excellently to it’s big climax. I will not spoil the details of which here.

We are shown the story from the perspective of Machiya as he films constantly at Mashiro’s request. Many of the panels are very provocative too – very suggestive as to the high degree of sexuality coursing through this manga and its characters.

Mashiro is very provocative

There were times when I felt I shouldn’t be looking, like when she is being filmed whilst sat on the toilet. There are many things in this life that we keep private, or at least try to, and this is definitely one of them. But the playful tone of the story, along with the interesting contrast of the extroverted Mashiro and the heavily-introverted cameraman Machiya, kept pushing me through to the next pages.

And my gosh am I glad that I kept turning!

Not knowing this story at all, I was not ready for what would come in their second day of filming. But I have to say that the chapter’s ending completely blew me away. I could now tell that this was going to be a stunning Horror Manga series.

The humour was nice and subtle too. I remember Machiya seeing her undress in the locker room, revealing her body slowly to him, only to show that she’s already wearing her swimming costume beneath. Even this humour is tied to the story’s over-arching theme of voyeurism. Whilst not laugh-out-loud funny, the story did raise smiles in the right places.

In Summary

This opening chapter had me hooked on Dead Tube straight away. Its voyeuristic and playful tone touched parts of myself that feel shame, intrigue and excitement. The authors seem to have an expert handle on their story and know exactly the kind of story that they want to tell. I feel they will have an excellent grip on their readers’ emotions too.

This is going to be a story that wont let a single page or panel go to waste. I can tell.

I can’t wait to experience this journey in full over the coming weeks. And I really can’t wait to see how these characters develop further – especially cameraman Machiya.

1st Tragedy (Sacrifice) – Freak Island by Masaya Hokazono

From its very first page I could tell that Freak Island, also known as Kichikujima, was going to be a tough story. And from what I’ve read of it so far at the time of writing, I wasn’t wrong.

What is Freak Island – Sacrifice about?

We begin with a young woman lying in pain on a jungle floor — her bare foot caught in a bear trap. Screaming for pain and crying, nobody comes to help. In fact, only one person hears her: the towering beast of a man looking from behind her with a large blade in his hand. The woman pleads one last time but, as she raises her hands in defence, the figure — wearing a pig’s head as a mask — swings and removes all of her fingers at the knuckles.

Oh geez.

After the relaxing face of Franken Fran I just wasn’t ready for this level of brutality. But I’ve started so I’ll continue.

The Students notice something on the Island’s shoreline

Just off the coast of the island where these monstrous events are happening, a small pleasure boat sails by carrying six young students. These students are out in search of ruins on the island as part of a University expedition. Little do they know that the thought-to-be-deserted island they are approaching is in fact home to the violent destruction of a helpless young woman.

And probably many more people before her.

We get some time in the chapter to get to know these characters a little bit too. I found each had enough unique characteristics to help me remember them all long after I’d finished reading. Nothing too cartoonish, but they were individual enough. I have a tendency to get manga characters mixed up if there is a group of them.

Let’s hope these innocent students don’t find themselves stranded on this island…

No holds barred

I just loved the fact that this story pulled zero punches right from the start. There was no pretence of safety or the possibility of escape for the young woman. She was just brutally hacked to death by the pig-faced man with absolutely no remorse. Then when it came to our protagonists, the students, even they seemed disposable as one of them meets the sharp end of a hammer.

The Pig Man attacks someone with a hammer

This feels like it’s going to be a story where absolutely nobody is safe — even at this early stage. A story that will punish poor decisions by the characters, and punish them badly. Although it is sad to see beloved characters killed, sometimes it is refreshing to find a story that isn’t afraid to hold back.

No plot armour here, I fear.

I wanted to mention the level of detail in here too – especially when we see the wider panels of the island and its shoreline. There is a high level of detail put into the scenes that really drew me in. This really helped to set the scene for me and seemed to make the violence feel all the more visceral.

In Summary

Horror Manga in its very nature has the expectation of being violent, or at the very least mildly disturbing, but Freak Island pulls you straight into the heart of its violence from the start. And if you don’t like what you see in this opening chapter, then it’s probably wise for you to stop reading there.

I fear it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse for our heroes before there’s any hope of it getting better.

Brains – Franken Fran part 1 by Kigitsu Katsuhisa

Franken Fran is one of the most kind-hearted people in all of the Horror Manga stories I have read so far. Despite her appearance and the acts that she performs, she remains friendly and always driven to help those in need of it.

I have only read the first ten chapters or so, but thought I’d go back to the very start and write my thoughts on each.

What is Brains about?

In Brains, we get our first glimpse into the world of Franken Fran; into the strange mansion in the woods and the creatures that live within. We are brought here on our maiden voyage by two men. These men appear at the door of the mansion in search of Professor Madaraki. However, they are greeted by a strangely attractive young woman who looks to have been patched together in a Frankenstein fashion.

But despite her bolts and stitches she is still quite an attractive woman.

Her name is Fran.

Franken Fran

On hearing one of the men tell the story of him losing his son in a car accident, she is compelled to help. You see, Professor Madaraki is rumoured to possess the ability to bring the dead back to life. This is what the man desires more than anything. However, due to the Professor being away at this time, Fran jumps forward to offer her own skills – skills that have been passed down to her.

Reluctantly, they accept Fran’s offer just as they are running fearfully from the mansion. However, the grieving father’s story may not be as honest as he presented to Fran, and that deception may just be his undoing as she begins to make good on her promise.

Humour and Gore

Within the first few pages of this first chapter, one thing that jumped out at me was the great sense of humour that the creator has. Just the simple act of having Fran’s eyeball fall out mid conversation and seeing the men’s reaction of horror as she picks it up out of the tea.

I heard rumors of Professor Madaraki

The banter between Fran and the lion boy was great too. They seem to have an interesting push / pull teasing kind of relationship that I look forward to see being expanded upon in the future chapters.

I loved how detailed the gore was too. The surprise panel I turned over too – of her pulling the brain out of the man’s head, his eyes sunken back yet still alive. This was a level that I wasn’t expecting having been through the relatively calm and charming opening pages.

In Summary

I absolutely loved this story and its characters from its very opening pages. Fran is such a unique character with charm and grace, a great sense of humour and wicked skills with a scalpel.

I already feel at this early stage of my journey through Franken Fran’s world, that it’s going to be a layered, funny and often brutal look at a girl who just wants to help people.

Well, It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for

Judge manga by Yoshiki Tonogai

What is Judge about?

In the opening forty or so pages of Judge, we follow Hiro – a young man who seems to be unlucky in love. His older brother is dating a girl he really likes, and so Hiro hatches a small plan to be alone with the girl. However, this puts the older brother in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading to his death in a road accident. Hiro then awakes some time later in a dark room, from where the main story begins.

He, along with seven other people, seem to have been kidnapped and placed in a locked, dis-used courthouse together. Soon enough they are all given the details of their confinement and the possible path to their escape. The rules are simple: after every twelve hours they must all vote on which of them should die next. The only ones granted their freedom will be the four that are remaining at the end. This voting is referred to by the captors as the judging, implying that they are all guilty of some crime or another.

As time moves forwards, we learn more and more about each of the other prisoners. But this doesn’t help us to trust any of them any more than we should. Votes are cast; promises are made; betrayals are carried out. Will Hiro make it out alive and somehow atone for the guilt that he carries over his brother’s untimely death? Or will he, along with his fellow inmates, succumb to distrust and ultimately die amongst strangers?

Mind games

This story is very much a “trust no-one” kind of deal. At no point did I really feel I could trust any of the characters locked up together. Without knowing any of their underlying motives, it was impossible to know what any of their end games were. All of these people were capable of some pretty shady moves too. Even the seemingly-trustworthy ones.

Although Judge is a story of mind games and trickery, it was never too much as to overwhelm my brain. I have read some stories in this genre where the level of intricacy in the betrayal was so detailed as to confuse me. This was never the case with Judge. It felt like an easy enough read without compromising on its ongoing mystery.

A lot of the trickery in here revolves around who should vote for whom. Hiro is certain he has a foolproof plan to ensure everybody’s safety – even attempting to take lead in the group. But of course, this isn’t as straight forward as first thought, due to other people’s trust issues – or lack thereof.

Keeping it’s cards close

Judge is a manga that kept me guessing right up to it’s closing pages. I enjoyed the mystery around these eight prisoners, and the possibility that not all of them may be quite who they say they are. It’s definitely a story that keeps it’s cards close to it’s chest. Because of this, it kept me entertained from the beginning, right up until its final panel.

The fact that we know nothing going into this, other than the back story of the person we are following, puts us as firmly in his shoes as possible. If my memory serves me correctly, we never deviate too much from Hiro’s side – he is our anchor throughout this mystery.

As I think back on it, I feel like the momentum in Judge built up steadily throughout. As it moved past the midway point, and further towards its ending, the reveals seemed to come faster and faster. Not only that, but as the pressure of confinement set in, things between them all seemed to get more and more physical – in more ways than one.

In Summary

This is a hard story to talk about with regards to its narrative. The story in judge is so closely linked to the choices – and betrayals – of certain people, that to talk about specifics could ruin the surprises for you. What I can say is that the journey it takes us on is an intriguing one. And the fact that the main character – Hiro – has his own demons to cope with, makes him a more relatable – and suitable flawed – leading character.

I would advise you read this manga in as quiet a setting as you can. It will require some level of concentration to keep those eight interweaving characters in mind. If you give this story the time and the quietness it deserves, you will be rewarded with a roller coaster of a ride with a sharp left turn at its closing gates.

Heads by Keigo Higashino and Motoro Mase

What is Heads about?

Jun has a pretty decent life. After having finally plucked up the courage to ask his dream girl on a date, they become a happy couple.  He is hard working, friendly and pretty skilled as an artist. However, this all comes crashing down when he is shot in the head protecting a little girl during a robbery.

The bullet would have left Jun in a vegetative state, if it wasn’t for an experimental operation performed on him. The Doctors take lead in this and only need his girlfriend’s direct consent to advance with it. Due to her desperation to see her love again, she gives them that consent. The surgery is a complete success and results in Jun having the damaged section of his brain replaced with a brain slice from an unknown donor.

At first Jun seems to be back from the brink of death and back to his loving woman. But things are different somehow – there are changes happening slowly inside him that begin showing themselves more and more often. As time marches forward, parts of Jun’s character begin to alter into a person that he doesn’t recognise. As expected, this scares Jun and even those around him, as he starts becoming violent and short tempered.

The story takes us with Jun on his journey to try and discover the mystery that is his altered brain. He attempts to track down the donor of his new section of brain, in order to shed some light on this new behaviour. And to work out where this change of personality could possibly be leading him.

Fearing the loss of identity

I think this may be the first horror manga story I have read, where the horror is presented primarily through its psychology. The main antagonist in this story is the unwanted change within Jun’s brain. The brain slice that seems to be slowly causing him to lose himself. The fact that it could be trying to take him over from inside his mind, makes for a terrifying premise.

The fear over losing ones own identity is something that we all have the potential to face in life. Because of this fact, I feel that Heads is one of the most relatable horror manga stories I’ve read up until now. How it handles its complex relationships, along with the themes of trust and betrayal, is done so with great skill.

It treats those directly affected by Jun’s condition with a lot of respect too. Megu is the woman by his side and probably the best woman in this world he could ever hope to be with. We would all be better off with someone like her by our sides.

note: I feel I’m just as lucky as Jun with my own lady. 🙂

The crisis of identity is the thing that Jun is fighting against and, although the surgery is firmly within the realms of science fiction – for now, it’s no less scary to imagine it happening to ourselves.

A slow burn that consumes all

This story felt like a slow burn to me, and I mean that wholeheartedly in a good way. It demanded the building up of a likeable and believable central character in Jun. And not only him, but his hardy – yet sensitive – girlfriend Megu too. She was one of the strongest characters in this story and probably the one I was most rooting for. I know it’s Jun who is having all this happen to him, but what she has to deal with from him – along with the guilt of letting the surgery happen – makes her the strongest character for me.

I am grateful to Keigo Higashino, the writer, for taking the time to tell this tale with a good amount of space to breath. The story never felt rushed or shoehorned to fit a pre-determined endpoint at any time. I found it to be a natural path that weaved it’s way through Motoro Mase’s beautiful artwork with great finesse, to its satisfying conclusion.

Despite the tough journey we join Jun on, and the horrors he both witnesses and performs, Heads left me feeling positive when I had finished its 36 chapters. I loved that out of all the devestation that occurs, something beautiful can come of it in the end. There are many elements too that came full circle for me, both thematically and within the story’s locations. A lot of care has been written and drawn into this, and it’s a story that will stay with me.

In Summary

This is slightly longer than the past few mangas I’ve been writing about. But it is one that drew me in well enough to only put it down to sleep at night. The characters throughout this story were very believable in my mind. The way that Jun was built up in the opening chapters made his transformations all the more scarier to witness.

Heads has next to no graphical horror presented within its pages. Despite this, it still manages to have a very brutal side to it – especially when Jun’s alter-ego gets pushed too far. I think the reduction in physical violence throughout, made those moments when it did come all the more shocking.

If you’re looking for a deeper narrative to read in your next horror manga adventure, you should check out Heads. And I’d like to add that it has one of my favourite closing panels I’ve seen so far. It is absolutely beautiful in how it closes the story for our lead characters. Just stunning.

Bug Boy by Hideshi Hino

What is Bug Boy about?

Sanpei is a young boy whose life is pretty much hell for him. Teachers and students pick on him on a daily basis; his parents treat him with contempt over his bad grades. His only respite comes in the form of stray animals and creepy crawlies that he befriends.

Outside of school he has a secret hideout in a local rubbish tip where he keeps a few of these friends of his as pets. He feels a kinship with them, so keeps them safe in his hideout. He loves them and they love him in return. For Sanpei, this is his own heaven on earth.

However, things take a drastic left turn when, after being sent to his room by his angry father, he vomits a large red bug that quickly stings him on his finger. This very odd happening starts off a series of changes in Sanpei that lead to his transformation into this horror manga’s namesake – The Bug Boy.

But just what will his life be like now that he is forever changed? We follow his new life; his new journey; and ultimately his new taste for human flesh…

Rooting for Sanpei from beginning to end

Despite where Sanpei’s change takes him, both physically and mentally, I couldn’t stop myself from rooting for him from beginning to end. We love the underdog as a main character – watching someone with the world seemingly against them rise up to meet it head on. This is pretty much what Sanpei does, but in that special way that only Hideshi Hino could depict.

Despite the horrors he brings down on those who meet the pointy end of his tail, I found myself always drawn towards Sanpei’s innocent centre, no matter how deep and hidden it became.

Because of this, and the journey he goes through, I found this story to be quite melancholic at times. Sanpei’s loneliness, and those things that would look to do him harm, made me want to bring him home to safety. He always felt like a lost little boy, alone in the world, no matter how strong he became.

Putting the ‘Gory’ in allegory

Sanpei’s story also works as an excellent allegory for the raising and nurturing of children. We are shown early on that his upbringing has caused him to essentially retreat into himself and his critter friends. Instead of his parents or teachers trying to address this or offer any help, they instead belittle and bully him.

We even see his father making out that he his essentially his least favourite child – something no child should have to feel. I strongly believe that Sanpei is a direct product of his environment. The idea of a bug ultimately saving him and turning him into a stronger being by stinging him, is a direct result of those bugs being his only friends in his life.

But what also interested me later on in this story was how Sanpei began looking back to his former self after a particularly traumatic event. He seemed to remember his human self as being overall happy – his father taking him to the zoo; his siblings playing with him.

So whilst this could be a lesson to guardians to pay closer attention to their children, it could also be a lesson to children to not focus in on the negativity in life. Yes, people in this story were nasty towards our hero, but they were the only things we were shown in his life. So of course, we assume him to have an abusive upbringing. But it could just simply be that from Sanpei’s young perspective, the world was against him – when perhaps it wasn’t so black and white when looking at the situation objectively.

Maybe it could just be that simple channels of communication needed to be opened between Sanpei and his guardians.

In Summary

This is as great an introduction to Hideshi Hino’s work as any I have read so far. It’s not quite as intense as his Panorama of Hell, but still packs a good punch in its short sitting. I read it through in about twenty minutes, which made it a great companion for my commute to work.

Emerging by Masaya Hokazono

Emerging by Masaya Hokazono is the story about a relentless new virus that is working its way through Japan. The virus works quickly on its victims, essentially liquefying them from within. We join two main Doctors in the fight against this: Doctor Onotera and Doctor Sekiguchi. Onotera is the man we follow through the story for the most part. He is quite unsure of himself and his abilities at times, with Sekiguchi being a place of solid support for him.

With no clue about how to counteract the growing virus, the two Doctors head to The National Epidemic Research Center. They, with the help of the very enthusiastic Research Center office manager, try to get a hold on the outbreak. As each issue of Emerging progresses, the situation gets more and more out of control. Things become increasingly chaotic as they, along with many hospital staff, struggle to cope with the increase in infected.

Will the doctors find a way out of the mess? Can they discover the root cause of the infection in order to get some kind of answers? Will they even survive?

Patient Zero

In stories of infections and their spreading, there is almost always a patient zero – the single place where it all begins. Emerging is no different. In this engrossing horror manga, the story begins with an already-infected businessman who is sent home early from his job. It is during his journey home that the possibly-airborne virus is shown to be spreading around the train carriage as he coughs uncontrollably.

However, it is in a chance encounter with another of the story’s main characters, schoolgirl Akari, that the virus really gets its foot in the door. As crowds of people are waiting to cross the road, Akari notices the businessman’s face – it looks to be very bloated and blood-shot; fit to burst, even…

…which is exactly what happens! His face explodes, throwing the contents of his liquefied flesh and blood out across the people around him. Akari is one of the many caught in the fountain of liquid flesh that ensues. This is where all the fun begins.

All in the family

One of the two doctors I mentioned earlier, Dr Onotera, also happens to be a close family friend of Akari’s. So much so that she calls him brother when meeting him in hospital. Their paths cross early on and remain tight throughout the story’s course. Her growing infection from Patient Zero is a consistent anchor throughout Emerging, pushing Onotera harder to find a solution to this surprise outbreak. But if you want to find out her fate, and the fate of all others, you will have to read it for yourself.

Although the virus does begin spreading quickly, we remain with the same group of characters for most of the journey. This helps to ground the story amongst all of the chaos that is happening. I grew to like those characters and really rooted for Akari to make it through. Another character of note is Mori, the office manager, and virus fanatic, working at the Epidemic Research Center that I mentioned earlier. She seems to almost root for the virus at times, but always from a twisted kind of professional interest.

Mori was a funny person and even served as a slight comedic respite at times, in an otherwise-serious story.

Bloody Hell!

This story has blood, and lots of it. A lot of the effects of the later stages of the virus are of the weakening of victim’s bodies. To the point when skin easily tears from the bone when held. I was impressed with how the artist managed to make some of these gross scenes almost beautiful in a way. The way in which the blood almost spiralled out of Patient Zero’s face at the start, was the moment when I knew this would be an enjoyable read.

Later on, there is an awesome panel that shows the silhouette of a patient violently convulsing, vomiting blood into the air. That single panel is probably my favourite from the entire story. Just the simplicity of the silhouette drawing that still contains so much energy really peaked my interest. It’s these sorts of stylistic decisions that Masaya Hokazono makes throughout Emerging that helps it stand out as a truly great horror manga classic.

It is through the slow, graphic degradation of Akari’s body that we get to see a close-up affect the virus has. Akari’s continued efforts to help his Sister seem almost lost at times, as the real horror of the virus’ powers take a hold of her. Masaya Hokazono really has no issue with putting one of his main characters through absolute hell. Her pain can be felt through the pages, with the artist leaving nothing to the imagination. But will she come out clean on the other side?

In Summary

Emerging is a gripping horror manga story, similar in vein to Manhole by Tetsuya Tsutsui. If you enjoy the continual spread of infection that seems to always be one step ahead, you’re sure to enjoy Emerging by Masaya Hokazono.

Kiriko by Shingo Honda

Kiriko is a five-chapter, standalone horror manga story based around a small school reunion. Its namesake comes from a person who died seventeen years previous during the classmates’ formative years. This school reunion takes place in a now-closed-down school that is off the beaten track. Each of the small class of six arrive after receiving a mysterious invitation sent by someone calling themselves ‘K’. This reunion, the invitation states, is to commemorate the 17th year anniversary of the death of the seventh member of their class, Okumura Kiriko.

After arriving, they each begin catching each other up on their lives since school. Some are more withdrawn than others but nonetheless they each talk amongst themselves. It isn’t long, however, before the facades of each of their lives begins to crack and the truth begins seeping through those cracks.

They will soon discover that they aren’t alone in this reunion; that there is in fact a seventh person attending this private reunion. Is this secret member the titular character Kiriko herself, or something else entirely?

A fast, brutal story

I would estimate that this story takes place over the course of no more than an hour or so. There are no real time lapses – everything feels pretty real-time for the most part. And the swiftness at how those who die get killed becomes faster as the story continues. It really is a story that moves at break-neck pace.

The deaths throughout this manga are quick too. And they are brutal. Each student seems to be getting hunted by something in the shadows – something they fail to identify. The ways in which each doomed person is killed is done so in a – dare I say it – beautiful way too. There is something hauntingly gorgeous in how these bodies are shown when others find them. Each way in which they are killed seemed to me to have underlying comments on that persons character too.

I can’t really go into the specifics of my theories on that here, as I don’t want to spoil the story for you. But please feel free to chat in the comments below, or over in the Facebook group.

There is a sadness there too

The best stories in my opinion, no matter how bizarre or otherworldly, are those that touch on the human condition. Kiriko does this really well. When the full story is revealed towards the end, we are shown the real sadness that anchors this whole story down. It’s hard to discuss specifics without ruining the ending, but believe me when I say that there is a grounded truth with a heart and sadness that gives energy to the horror within.

This truth is revealed in what I consider to be one of the more interesting, unpredictable, twists I have read in a manga.

In Summary

Kiriko is a fast-moving and relatively short horror manga story. Because of its short timeline and single location, I find myself running through the story in my head sometimes. I have found that each of the deaths were memorable even days after reading too. I can still picture each one with vivid detail and they still give me that little smile that only a good horror manga can.

I’d probably recommend this story to anyone who was curious about getting into reading horror manga. Yes, there are staple authors that are always good starting points – Junji Ito or Masaaki Nakayama, for example. However, this one-shot story from Honda Shingo would be as perfect a place to start as any, in my opinion.

Zombie Maria by Atsushi Nakayama

The Zombie Maria is about two characters – Misao and the titular Maria. Misao is introduced at the very start as he is attempting to hang himself in a nearby, off-limits forest. He is about to go through with it, when he is approached by what he assumes is a monster. This “monster” is in fact a zombie, and her name is Maria.

Instead of being a typical mindless flesh-eating zombie, she is instead fully in control of her thoughts and actions, and actually stops the boy Misao from committing suicide. What is interesting to me, is the fact that the Zombie Maria is as scared by the fact that Misao is committing suicide as he is of coming face to face with the undead.

As the story progresses through its fifty five pages, Misao attempts more times to commit suicide. However, Maria wont let him. She instead does her best to instil in him the value of human life. Through their encounters they start to become friends and later discover that their paths just may have crossed before.

A Zombie with a lot of heart

The Zombie Maria was a story I stumbled upon on Facebook. I had never before heard of it, or its artist, but I’m glad that I did. Although Maria is an undead zombie, she is the character who values life the most. When she is trying to frighten Misao, it’s all done out of love and her desire to keep him alive.

This love and protection that Maria holds over Misao is endearing. Not only that, but it meant that this story’s ending caught me off-guard. When I learnt just how these two characters knew each other before this, it made for a weird mixture of feelings of both sad and uplifting. Sad through the unveiling of Maria’s story, but uplifting for the legacy that she ultimately leaves behind.

This story packed quite a bit in the way of morality and messages to the reader in its short span. Lessons of being honest and trustworthy with your friends. Of also valuing the delicate lives of both yourself and those we hold dear.

In Summary

I love The Zombie Maria. It was one of those rare gems that show themselves every once in a while. The story is quick to read through and the artwork has a friendly manga-face feel to it. But every now and again, typically when Maria is scaring Misao, Atsushi Nakayama pulls no punches in depicting her as the scariest of undead.