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.

Basement (Tomie part 3) by Junji Ito

What is Basement about?

Basement follows on directly from the events of Morita Hospital. We saw how the kidney that Yukiko received had mutated and formed a complete head – the head of its donor, Tomie. Well, the doctors managed to separate the head and remove it and the donor kidney out of Yukiko. The Doctors have now stored those pieces in a secret basement area for studying. They wish to understand how these body parts are able to regenerate. And regenerate they do – and at an alarming rate.

The main character in Basement is a young, inquisitive boy named Sato who is currently admitted to the hospital. He follows his nurse into that basement for clues to the rumours he’s been hearing of a mystery in the basement. However, he will discover more than simply a mystery as he bumps into the lady on everyone’s mind – Tomie. He also befriends Yukiko and starts to fall for her own unique charms. That is until Yukiko’s charms become threatened by an unstoppable force from within. (Sato is apparently one of those rare people not to fall for Tomie’s power – strong of heart and mind, it would seem.)

As the story continues we see how the flesh spirit of Tomie fights to return – back into the beautiful woman she was before. But now her DNA has multiple pathways within the Hospital from which to emerge. But what will happen when multiple Tomies emerge together?

Changes

Basement is a story all about change and rebirth – like much of Tomie’s stories to be fair. We follow her as she fights to come back to the world of the living, becoming reborn and yet still maintaining the same consciousness as her previous incarnations. This is what I meant by the term “flesh spirit” above. She seems to be able to inherit memories from the past versions of herself, even carrying grudges along with them.

And remember Yukiko from the previous story? Her continuation in this is pretty interesting too. It seems that the use of Tomie’s kidney in her previous operation, although removed soon after, may have left some of its cells behind. And if Tomie gets her grip on you, no matter how slight, she takes a firm grasp and doesn’t let go.

What I found perhaps most interesting in this part of the Tomie series, was yet another aspect of her character that was revealed. Although all of the replicas originate from the same flesh, there seems to be some animosity between each of them. Like rival sisters each wanting to be the favourite. Except each will stop at nothing to physically rid the others from existence. Each and every Tomie wants to be the centre of attention, and will share that limelight with no-one – not even with herself.

In Summary

This third entry in the Tomie series delves a little deeper still into her character. Although not nearly my favourite of the stories, it does give a good conclusion to the events of Morita Hospital. As such, you will want to at least read that previous chapter before this one. Many of the Tomie stories are quite self-contained. However, there are a few, like Basement, which will need the previous entries in order to give some context to the events.

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.

Morita Hospital (Tomie part 2) by Junji Ito

What is Morita Hospital about?

Yuki is a school girl who is being kept at Morita Hospital awaiting a kidney transplant. She waits patiently while her condition slowly deteriorates. Often found sitting with her is her friend – a boy named Tadashi. The pair seem close, but the boy seems slightly withdrawn from the room when we join them.

As he leaves Yuki to her hospital room, she spots him out of the window walking with another girl. She knows nothing of the other girl, except for what she can see of her. This new girl is beautiful and has a distinctive mole under her left eye. We as the reader know that this is Tomie, but these people know nothing of her or what she is capable of.

Although it isn’t explicitly stated, I believe that this is the Tomie that Reiko found growing beneath the cave at the end of Part 1. Tadashi reveals how he met Tomie at the beach, which in itself isn’t that strange. But considering the fact that Tomie is referring to herself as Reiko, my theory is that she killed the original Reiko and assumed her identity. I can’t confirm this, but I like to think that this is what would have happened.

Tomie is a spoilt brat

We start to see the spoilt brat side of Tomie in the Morita Hospital story too. When she is walking with Tadashi, she tries to get him to buy her some new earrings on a whim. Unable to afford any more financial offerings of love, Tadashi unwillingly causes her to go storming off in search of a rich man who can cater to her wants.

A common thread of her personality is the wanting to drain the men who dote after her of all of their money. She just wants to be pampered and waiting on; told she is beautiful; and never crossed or betrayed in any way. I agree with not being betrayed, but what she considers betrayal, and what normal people consider betrayal, are two completely different things.

I felt that this story went further in developing her character for us than her first outing did. Of course, that initial story we discussed last week was just the kernel of the idea. Once he had received the praise he did for Tomie part 1, I assume it gave him the conviction to go further into his imagination, leading him to really begin fleshing her story out.

The organ donor

Due to an unfortunate encounter between Tadashi and Tomie, she ends up in hospital and ultimately dying. The doctors then, under advisement of someone claiming to be Tomie’s next of kin, decide not to let her healthy body go to waste. I won’t spoil who this apparent next of kin is, but it is somebody you may know from before.

It turns out that she also happens to be a perfect match for a certain patient awaiting a certain kidney transplant. The operation goes ahead and with great success. However, the spirit of Tomie is strong and she can not be killed – not easily at least. Her darkness will always find a way back to the light, squeezing through the cracks from within any living flesh.

In summary

The second part in the Tomie series continues pretty much from where we left off. However, it does take the story into a new direction with new players. This seems to be a running theme throughout the series. Tomie will show up in new people’s lives and pretty much just put them through hell.

Although not my favourite in the series, Morita Hospital is another layer across the character of Tomie. I think Junji Ito was really starting to find his feet with his artistic style in this chapter. Especially with the final panels and seeing just how Tomie manages to keep her spirit alive.

Hanging Blimp by Junji Ito

What is Hanging Blimp about?

Hanging blimp felt like a waking nightmare to me. The other stories in the Shiver Selected Stories collection had at least some kind of explanation to them. However, with Hanging Blimp, there isn’t any explanation offered as to why strange, head-shaped balloons are coming to town. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

The strange occurrences of this Horror Manga begin when a well-known girl is found hanging from the telephone line outside of her bedroom window. What follows soon after is very strange indeed – her head, floating in the wind, is spotted by one of her school friends. And this isn’t even the strangest part about this story.

What is initially thought to be her actual head, is in fact a giant balloon that bares her exact image. As the story progresses we of course see more of these blimps and even find out what their true, horrific, intentions are.

From out of a dream

Perhaps the reason that Hanging Blimp lacks any solid basis for its events, is because it came from a dream of the young Junji Ito. In the commentary contained in the Shiver collection, he explains how a dream came to him before he became a mangaka, which led him to the images that you will find in this story.

I actually love how he hasn’t tried to force any kind of back story into this. Instead, he seems to have stayed true to his dream. Half of what I love about Ito’s work is the artwork itself and the unforgettable images he conjures up. And this story contains, what I would say are, some very memorable images indeed.

In Summary

This isn’t the scariest story in the Shiver Collection by a long shot. But it is one of the stories that made me think the most about it after reading. The appearance of these head-shaped balloons felt to me to represent the inevitability of death. I felt as if it was showing, very vividly, those people running from their own self-imposed doom. Without ruining the end of the story, I can’t really elaborate on these thoughts though.

Why not give it a read yourself, then we can have a chat and swap ideas? Either below in the comments, or in the Horror Manga Collective group on Facebook.

Tomie (Tomie part 1) by Junji Ito

Tomie kicked off what was to become one of the most engrossing and enjoyable horror manga series I have ever read. Not only that but this, its first chapter, kicked off the career of perhaps the most well known and celebrated mangaka, Junji Ito.

My friend Tomie is dead. Pieces of her body were found scattered everywhere.

From Tomie (Tomie part 1)

This first entry in the Tomie series is fascinating to me for two reasons. Firstly, it is the starting point for all of the stories that follow. Perhaps not all of them are linked to this specific incarnation of her, but it is our first meeting with the young lady. And since she has gone on to have such a huge legacy within the world of Horror Manga, is worthy of discussion.

Secondly, it is the first manga story that Junji Ito completed – while he was still a dental technician. He submitted it to the Umezu Awards where he went on to earn an honourable mention for it.

The beginning of a legacy

In this first entry of the series, we are introduced to Tomie and how she has seamingly managed to rise back from the dead. Of course, we only know this at the start from the account of Tomie’s friend, Reiko. However, we come to learn that not only did she in fact die, but that the witnesses went to some very extreme lengths to hide her body.

We learn how she has most likely been sleeping with her Teacher, who himself is also married. This in itself is a light introduction to a large facet of her character – that she really has no moral boundaries. If she wants something she goes after it. And most of the time she gets what she wants.

There isn’t too much in the way of Ito’s signature “body horror” in this story, save for the very last panel. But gosh how I loved how he decided to close this first chapter. We get to glimpse the genesis of Ito’s flourishing talent in that very last scene.

The start of a great artist

Junji Ito is now regarded as a titan within the horror manga community – in all manga in general, in fact. When you look back at this chapter after seeing his more recent stories, you will notice the difference in quality immediately. The detail isn’t anywhere near where we now know his work to be. But that does not detract from the story’s impact.

What you have to remember is that this is his first published story. It feels akin to the debut albums of great bands – like Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’, or The White Stripes’ eponymous debut. Yes, it’s rough around the edges and not indicative of the quality that comes later, but it is the honest, unfiltered core from which his talent would come to grow.

In Summary

The opening chapter in the Tomie series is a staple in the chronology of the Horror Manga genre. It not only begins the life of the beloved Tomie, but also marks the beginning of one of the most exciting artist careers within this world.

While this won’t show you the wildest imaginings of Ito, or his better artistic work, it will enrich your knowledge of the genre. I’m eternally grateful to Junji Ito for keeping Tomie’s story open like he did in this one. And also for continuing this lasting saga for the years that have followed.

Welcome to the story of Tomie.

Final thoughts with slight spoilers

I can only imagine what it must have been like to read this when it came out. Without the knowledge of Ito and his now-heavy back catalogue. That moment two thirds in when the teacher stands over Tomie’s dead body with his students. All stripped down to their underwear and ready to cut her up into twenty pieces with knives and saws.

As mentioned above, the only real body horror in this story is on the closing page. And that whole regrowth from one of the parcels of Tomie’s dismembered body parts was cool as hell. This was the demonic glue that brought the whole chapter together for me. Not only did she arise from the dead in some ethereal way, but that she is physically capable of regenerating from separated pieces of her body.

Tomie Collection by Junji Ito

Tomie is one of the most iconic characters in all of Horror Manga. I’m surprised it has taken me twenty odd posts to actually write about her here.

Who is Tomie?

Tomie is an attractive young girl, who makes those around her become completely infatuated with her – men for the most part. These people become obsessed past the point of love, and develop the strong urge to kill her and cut her up. When she does get cut up, each of those parts has the power to regenerate. What this results in is many different versions of Tomie being created – all identical to the last. I will keep referring to her as a single person, but remember that we don’t know how many of them actually exist.

She is a girl who is easy to hate most of the time too. She is very spoilt and is highly demanding on the men who fall for her charms. Tomie will demand the finest foods; expensive jewellery; fancy clothes. Then no sooner has she drawn them in, she discards them. This then tends to be what tips those unfortunate people over the edge of sanity.

Tomie’s origin is never revealed in any of the stories. I assumed the Tomie in the first story to be the original – but that can’t be confirmed. Also, the fact that she becomes duplicated in a number of the stories, means that her future is a wide array of ongoing tales. These are separate lives that themselves may split apart into fresh ones any day.

A deadly legacy

Tomie is a girl whose reputation tends to precede her in the world of Horror Manga. Many people who enjoy the genre have at least heard of her name. Although there was this already-familiar feeling before I read about her, some things still caught me off guard. This girl really has no moral boundaries and really will do anything to anyone in order to amuse herself.

The stories that we follow her through really do an exceptional job at fleshing out the world in which she lives too. Although we are seeing different copies of her throughout the various stories, I always felt like I was following one person – one unified dark force that is slowly staining the world as she grows larger and larger in numbers.

She is Legion: for she is many.

Exploring the stories of Tomie

With each of the stories I read, I was constantly surprised at how inventive the artist and writer, Junji Ito, was with her various “adventures”. He pulls no punches with where he takes the character. It’s also interesting to see him develop as an artist throughout the course of Tomie’s many lives.

There are twenty stories about Tomie at the time of writing. I didn’t want to have one overarching article about the whole collection, as I believe there are many interesting places of discussion throughout the stories. So for the first time on this website, I thought I’d tackle each separate chapter on its own.

I invite you to follow me as I explore my own thoughts on each of the stories of Tomie along with a brief synopsis of the storyline. This will begin next Friday (Friday 11th May) with the very first chapter in the saga that is Tomie.

Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito

In Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito, I was introduced to Yuumi and Chizumi. This brother and sister pair are probably the most dysfunctional siblings I have ever come across.

This book is split into five stories that follow these two in different stages of their life. Not only that but we also see the devastating effects that they have on those they meet.

Yuumi is a boy who has the strange habit of being always in a state of apology to those around. “So sorry! So very, very sorry!”. These are words he is heard shouting at people through most of his time in these stories. These apologies have devastating effects on those around him, however. His apologies could be the last thing you hear.

Yuumi’s younger sister, Chizumi, is even stranger than he. She has an even more weird and messed-up habit of her own, which feeds off her brother’s strange gift / curse

Yuumi’s Secret

At first meeting, Yuumi seems innocent enough. But his obsession for apologising to everyone attracts some ridicule early on. However, we soon learn the true nature of his ‘apologies’ and the shocking effect it has on people. It turns out that Yuumi’s apologies are in fact directed towards the Devil himself, who is always listening to him.

At an early age he managed to summon the Devil, which had some adverse effects on him. He has since spent his life apologising to Satan, who just can’t seem to leave Yuumi alone. Often times the Devil is drawn behind those talking to Yummi in the manga panels – his shadow always hiding right there with them. The fact that the innocent people inadvertently end up between the Devil and Yuumi, means a very strange and grotesque thing happens to them. They melt. Right there in front of him.

Yuumi’s sister surmises that it must be the “evil electromagnetic waves”, generated from the conversation with the Devil, that causes it. The melting is always drawn by Ito in his recognisably-detailed way. He leaves nothing to the imagination with how these innocent people dissolve from the inside out.

Chizumi’s Secret

If you thought that melting people with the mind was strange, which it is, wait until you learn of Chizumi’s little habit. Once those unfortunate people are cruelly dissolved, Yuumi’s sister collects that melted flesh and blood for bottling and storing. It seems that she has developed a taste for the stuff and so is always happy when her brother is busy apologizing.

One of the most shocking points in this series, was actually something that Chizumi herself instigated. She ends up falling for a young boy of her age and so has her brother kidnap him for her. She then proceeds to have him tied up and hidden in their house, while she amuses herself by licking his face and singing to him. The fact that a child is taken by someone so evil is scary in itself. But the fact that it’s one child kidnapping another child, gives the situation a level of darkness much deeper.

Yuumi would have people believe that his sister is the result of his Mother and the Devil’s union. He even blames himself for bringing the Devil into their family. It’s not hard to see why. This girl is pure evil and has been for much – if not all – of her life.

I’d be interested to see what she would be like on a play date with Suichi.

Moving on

Because of the terror that these two bring on those around them, they often find themselves having to move to new places. From the title of the book, I figured that this was all set in a school as a complete single story. But it is in fact told in five parts, each in different locations.

  • The first story is the same title as the book itself and does indeed deliver on its name of being a Dissolving Classroom.
  • Dissolving Beauty focuses on a single relationship of Yuumi’s and what horrors befall the lady who reciprocates his love.
  • Dissolving Apartment brings it to a single location – a current living place of the siblings. We get to see what happens to their unlucky neighbours who mistake their bangs and shouts for domestic abuse.
  • Chizumi in Love is the one I mentioned above about the kidnapping of the young boy. Chizumi’s displays of affection towards this boy are some of the most twisted in the whole collection for me.
  • Finally, Interview with the Devil ties the collection off with some characters from the previous stories having their own conclusions revealed. Along with an explosive ending in a way that this story could only end – in true Junji Ito style.

In Summary

I absolutely loved this book. It’s definitely gone straight into my top five favourite horror manga stories. The uniqueness of Dissolving Classroom is truly astonishing – just the basic premise is something I had never heard of before, let alone the situations that arise because of it.

Junji Ito is known widely for his Tomie series, which follows the varying stories of a girl by that name. But much less is known about Yuumi and Chizumi – two other characters who are just as interesting as Tomie. However, these two need more recognition than they currently get, in my opinion.

Whatever manga you were thinking of reading next, move Dissolving Classroom up to the top of your list. This is one of the most enjoyable, and twisted, books I have read in a long time.

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.

Portus by Jun Abe

What is Portus about?

In Portus by Jun Abe, we step inside a world that feels to me like a cross between the films Ring and Videodrome. It follows a schoolgirl, Asami, and her investigation into the mystery surrounding her friend’s untimely death. Although considered a suicide, Asami finds reasons for this to not be the case.

The mystery stems from a computer game called Portus, and the rumours surrounding it about a hidden level contained within. This hidden level is rumoured to be a place that can kill you in the real world. Like with most urban legends, there are some that believe the legend and some that don’t. However, by the end of this horror manga, all people involved will discover the truth about Portus.

Early in her investigation, Asami is dragged into the game’s grasp and has her own life placed on the line. In order to be free from this curse Asami, along with two of her school teachers, must solve the mystery and put an end to Portus’ terror once and for all.

Urban Legend

Urban legends are always fun to explore, but even more so when it’s brought up to modern times. Here we are treated to a contemporary urban legend, fuelled by the classic trope of a cursed idol – the ancient artefact that is taken and must be returned to break said curse.

This felt like a refreshing change for me from the other Horror Manga stories I have been reading recently. I’m not saying that those other stories are bad – just that Portus felt uniquely different in its approach to horror. It took a medium that I was very familiar with – game consoles – and injected its horror into its very mechanics. Cool stuff.

Moments of shock

What made this story stand out as being particularly creepy, and even sad at times, was the fact that the main protagonists are of school age. The main girl is 17 years old and is investigating the apparent suicide of her friend of the same age. Like with Jisatsu Circle, this story contained a particular darkness that isn’t present with other types of main characters.

I found it particularly shocking when I turned over one page to a full-page panel of one girl cutting her own throat – drawn in all of its gory details. This level of shock is prominent in this story but never outstays it’s welcome. The horror here is always in service of the story and is not always related to gore.

Later on we come face to face with the root of the curse’s horror and the true evil that one person unleashes on others. I find the scariest horror for me is when it is within the realms of possibility – to think that some people in our world are actually capable of what’s on the page is chilling.

Summary

Portus by Jun Abe was a really enjoyable read for me. The subject matter was an interesting left turn from what I have become used to in Horror Manga. I am loving discovering fresh artists such as Jun Abe and will endeavour to find out more of his stories going forwards.

Not for the easily shocked, this is a tale of an urban legend with a modern spin on it. Much like many of the Japanese horror films that have been popularised in the west in recent years. Portus may feel both familiar and completely new to you.