Top 10 Scariest Manga You Haven't Read (Mania.com)
Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2010
With Hellsing concluded, and High School of the Dead's English release a few months off, horror manga fans seem to be out of luck this Halloween. However, while horror manga has never been a major hit in America, the past 20 years has seen the release of many horror classics in English. While your craving for new blood may go unsated, horror fans should check out these often overlooked horror classics we're almost certain you haven't read.
10. Gegege no Kitaro
Much like Doraemon, Kitaro of the Graveyard is almost an institution in Japan, while he's all but unknown in the English speaking world. Mangaka Shigeru Mizuki's hometown of Sakaiminato has a whole street dedicated him, flanked by 100 bronze statues of Gegege no Kitaro's characters: In contrast, the US has just seen its first license of a Mizuki manga in the last few months. It's a terrible shame, too, because Mizuki and Kitaro are responsible for popularizing yokai, the indigenous folk monsters of Japan, in anime and manga. Young Kitaro, whose missing left eye is always covered by his iconic haircut, is the last living member of the Ghost Tribe. Together with the re-animated eye of his deceased father and associate Ratman, Kitaro struggles to maintain peace between humans and yokai, usually by fighting off threats with magical and high-tech gadgets. Kitaro's spooky world is rendered in imaginative detail. It's amazing accomplishment, especially when you learn that southpaw Mizuki lost his left arm in World War II, and retrained himself to draw with his right hand. Kodansha USA could earn a lot of goodwill by putting out the rest of the series.
9. Reiko the Zombie Shop
Reiko Himezono was slaying zombies in a form-fitting schoolgirl uniform before slaying zombies in form-fitting sailor suits was cool. Mangaka Rei Mikamoto has made a career of drawing busty, capable women slaughtering the undead in various gory ways, and Reiko was his first claim to fame. For those who wish to hear the final words of the departed, Reiko will raise the dead, for a price. Of course, those who died during the prime of their life tend to be quite angry, so the zombie versions of the departed tend to prefer dismemberment to discussion. Reiko's sister, the evil Riruka, is even less ethical than Reiko, and has decided to raise a zombie army to take over the world. It's up to Reiko and her motley crew of necromancers, redshirts, and soon to be redshirts to defeat Riruka. Reiko the Zombie Shop is grindhouse horror comedy at its best. Pay special attention to the crayon drawings sent in from Reiko's 10 and 11 year old fans! Dark Horse has stopped release of the series after six volumes, but sources indicate they'd be willing to start releasing the series again if sales pick up.
8. Mermaid Saga
Rumiko Takahashi is mostly known for her romantic comedies Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, and Ranma 1/2, but early in her career, she worked under famed horror mangaka Kazuo Umezu. His influence can be seen in her short story, The Laughing Target, and this four volume series. In Takahashi's world, mermaids aren't beautiful women with pure hearts and wonderful singing voices: They're monstrous cannibals that feed on each other. For humans, it is rumored that consumption of mermaid flesh will grant the eater immortality. Those with a taste for exotic sashimi should be warned, however, that some who eat mermaid flesh will die instantly, or worse, become a monstrous, cursed Lost Soul. Yuta is one of the lucky ones, but he soon finds his immortality to be a curse as well, and wanders Japan looking for a way to reclaim his humanity. This saga, which spans from feudal Japan to the modern day, follows Yuta in his encounters with other immortals, lost souls, and other forms of chaos brought about by the mermaids and the lust for their flesh. All four volumes have been released by Viz in 2004.
Kurumi never received any presents as a child. Now, as an old woman trapped in the body of a young girl, she has her revenge on the world by handing out gifts to the deserving and undeserving alike. The petty, venal, and mean spirited receive ironic gifts that prove to be their undoing, and innocent and misunderstood youths receive ironic gifts that, well, also prove to be their undoing. This three volume series from mangaka Kanako Inuki contains Twilight Zone-like episodic chapters with horrifying twist endings. Inuki's art, with its creepy smiling children with huge eyes, looks like a twisted satire of classic shojo stylings. Released by now defunct CMX, those hoping to read these series will need to snap up the remaining volumes, as a license rescue seems unlikely.
Katsuhiro Otomo's work before the phenomenally popular Akira is also a tale of psychic powers gone awry, although this time on a much smaller scale. One apartment complex in a run-down area of Tokyo has seen a large number of unusual deaths, so police are sent to investigate the cause. Then police detectives themselves start to die under mysterious circumstances. Only after a girl with psychic powers moves into the complex can the cause of the deaths be determined, and the evil forces at work aren't going to do down without a fight. Domu was originally released by Dark Horse in 1996, but sadly, they no longer have the rights. Guillermo del Toro, who wanted to make a movie of the manga, claimed that rights issues surrounding the title were complicated, so it's difficult to know if there's any chance for a re-release.
Mangaka Go Nagai's influence on the direction of anime and manga is immeasurable, and Devilman is one of Nagai's most influential titles. Young, timid Akira Fudo is brought by friend Ryo Asuka to an isolated mansion, where Asuka reveals the hidden history of the earth. The world was once ruled by demons, and these demons are beginning to awaken in an attempt to reclaim their place at the top of the food chain. The only way to fight these demons, Asuka believes, is to fuse with the demons themselves, and only Fudo has a pure enough heart to keep the demonic powers in check. Fudo agrees to take part in Asuka's unholy experiment, and he finds himself merged with demon lord Amon, creating the superpowered being known as Devilman. Devilman starts out as a standard, though admittedly ultraviolent shonen fable, but the story begins to run off the rails when Fudo addresses the audience directly, and tells the reader that soon, she too will be involved. The world soon spirals into madness, with worldwide war, destruction, and conspiracy that mixes raw horror with social commentary. Its influence can be seen in modern horror manga, from Hellsing to Parasyte. Kodansha International released all five volumes in English in 2003, but it would be great to see a higher profile release for such an important, influential title.
4. Drifting Classroom
Kazuo Umezu is a man of many talents, but his most lasting influence is likely inspiring a generation of horror writers with his classic tales of monsters both outside and inside the human heart. The series for which Umezu won the Shogakukan manga award, The Drifting Classroom, was released in its entirety by Viz from 2006 to 2008. At 11 volumes long, that's no mean feat. Classroom follows young Sho, who as the story begins, is having a rather trivial fight with his mother. He shouts at her, "I'm never coming home again," which proves to be eerily prophetic when an earthquake strikes, and Sho's school vanishes off the face of the earth. Sho, his classmates, and his teachers find themselves in a wasteland inhabited only by nightmarish creatures. With no clue where they are, and no hope of rescue, the teachers and children of the elementary begin to turn on each other. It's a bit like Lord of the Flies, except the giant monster bugs are literal, rather than metaphorical. Sho, who's able to keep a relatively cool head, tries to keep all of the children alive, but the body count quickly starts to rise, and success is not assured. A relatively recent series, it should be easy to get your hands on.
Before Gurren Lagann and Naruto, there was Junji Ito's Uzumaki, a horrifying tale of a small seaside town haunted by unusual spiral phenomenon. It's an almost laughable premise, until you see the nightmarish images that end the first chapter. Spiraling shapes, both natural and unnatural, begin to drive the population insane, and before long, human bodies and space itself seems to become corrupted by the influence of the spiral. The less you know about this series going in, the better. Junji Ito, author of Tomie and Gyo, counts among his influences Kazuo Umezo and H.P. Lovecraft. Released in 3 volumes by Viz in 2002, this is a series that should not be missed.
2. Panorama of Hell
Hideshi Hino is another highly influential horror mangaka, and is perhaps most infamous for writing, directing, and starring in the Flower of Flesh and Blood, a film so graphic, it was reported to the MPAA and FBI as a potential snuff film. Japanese police were sent in to investigate, and Hino and the rest of the crew had to demonstrate how the special effects were performed, to prove that a woman was not actually killed in the film. Panorama of Hell is no less gory, as it features an artist, loosely based (hopefully very loosely) on Hino himself, who proceeds to illustrate the manga using his own blood. Like a hellish Mr. Rogers, the unnamed artist shows us around his neighborhood in hell, from the river of blood that flows just outside his window, to the industrial complex that kills people and renders their bodies. It's not all shameless shock value, though, as the family history of the artist is revealed, and we begin to understand how human evil begets further suffering. Released unflipped by Blast Books in 1989, be prepared to pay a lot of money for this title, Hino's personal favorite of all of his works. Still, a must read for horror manga fans.
1. Ultra Gash Inferno
Not strictly horror in the truest sense, Suehiro Maruo's nihilistic Ultra Gash Infero is an ero-guro masterwork. This book of nightmares contains eight short stories and one longer work, but none are for the faint of heart. All contain acts of violence and sexual depravity that makes summarizing them impossible. Above all, what makes the book worth reading is Maruo's superb art, rendered in a classic style that recalls late 1920s and early 1930s Japan, when militarism and violence lurked right beneath the surface. Released by Creation Books in 2001, we might see more of Maruo's works if the upcoming release of The Strange Tale of Panorama Island is a success.