Flesh Colored Horror Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, April 10, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 01, 2001
What They Say
Is Tomie finally gone? Or does her wretched spirit live on in this macabre collection of spine-tingling tales. Enjoy Ito's mix of girls, gore, and social satire.
False advertising! This has nothing to do with Tomie!
One of only three Comics One titles I collected while DrMaster was still under that moniker, and the last of the volumes they released from the unfortunately truncated Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection.
When I say that these have some of the ugliest covers I've ever seen, I think that may be an unfair comparison, as I seem to have not taken into consideration the Hino Horror manga when I say that. In both cases, you don't want to judge a book by its cover though, as both Hino Horror and the Junji Ito titles are quite good. Flesh-Colored Horror features a dust jacket, same as the other Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection titles, and underneath the dust jacket is just a black and white copy of the dust jacket image on the front and a plain black title on the back. The front of the dust jacket features an image dominated by a screaming woman which has some sort of emboss filter applied to it, and around her are several images taken from the interior artwork, including a skinless body and two naked women. Since all these images were taken from the inside, they are all tinted in different colors, and some are also embossed the same way the main image is. The result is sort of a multicolored disaster, but remains true to the original Japanese cover. This is one of the rare instances where I think the Japanese cover should have been replaced, as it probably was very likely to hurt sales. The title treatment is fairly plain, with "Flesh-Colored Horror" written in a wavy, creepy font with a white drop shadow behind it, and "The Junji Ito Horror Comic Collection" appearing below it in a large white sanserif font. The back cover is fairly plain, with an actual color illustration from "Headless Sculptures" that's put rather small amidst a field of gray and white, with the brief description to the right and the phrase "The Horror World of Junji" to the left. The strange way that phrase is cut off is something common to all the books in the series, and I was also disappointed by the small color image and the extremely brief, misleading description. The inside flaps of the dust jacket have the three books advertised in the front and an extremely brief biography of Junji Ito in the back.
There aren't too many extras here, really. We get a title page that has the same image from the back cover reproduced in black and white with some rather simple type treatment around it on a blank white page, a table of contents with a minimal texture behind it, and an illustration for each chapter title page. The copyright information appears on a page after the last story. The dust jacket's pretty cool and unexpected as far as extras go, as well as surprisingly durable (I'd never seen a torn or mutilated Comics One dust jacket), but I wish the cover was better or that they utilized it more for color artwork from Ito.
This is my first and only Comics One title to date, and I was pretty impressed with it. The translation was quite good, I absolutely never had trouble figuring out what was going on dialogue-wise, the slight colloquialisms were good and not too obvious, and there were no grammar or spelling errors that I saw. Comics One also gets more credit for being the first volume I've read in awhile where they didn't run the artwork into the gutter even a little bit. Another point in their favor is that they number all their pages. Aesthetically, I like the lower quality of the paper simply because I prefer the coarseness, and I also always have a soft spot for dust jackets. It's older, and flipped, for those who stay conscious of that (if you want unflipped, I believe these same stories will appear in the Museum of Terror from Dark Horse). There are not too many SFX, but what is there is translated and pretty low-profile. Not so much a part of the artwork as it would be in other series, and I actually prefer this treatment to leaving the tiny effects in Japanese with the translation elsewhere.
If there was one place this volume fell flat, it would definitely be the artwork. I've seen Ito's artwork in Uzumaki, where I really liked his knack for illustrating the grotesque and making my stomach turn with really twisted, bizarre imagery, but these stories are probably about ten years older than that one, and the fact that Ito's style has evolved since then was immediately apparent. The style overall is pretty simplistic and unexciting, as if it's serving the sole utilitarian purpose of telling the stories and is not there for you to look at, so to speak. To me, this is forgivable since the stories are so good. What isn't forgivable is the fact that in the first stories, a lot of the proportions are off on the characters, certain characters looks change subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) from frame to frame, faces look strange when they shouldn't, many of the character designs aren't different enough from one another, and it's just... a little badly drawn. The artwork does get better as the stories progress and get newer and newer... it's the worst in the first story, then works its way up to okay for the last two stories. Again, the artwork is definitely secondary to the story here, which isn't a problem for me, but might be for some people. Keep it in mind, I suppose.
In "Long Hair in the Attic," a girl gets dumped by her longtime boyfriend, and decides to get her hair cut since it was for him that she grew it out. However, her sister finds a surprise when she comes up to cut it for her, and her boyfriend finds much more of a surprise later on. In "Approval," a man spends his entire life seeking the approval of his fiancé's father for her hand in marriage, but he doesn't receive it until the bitter end of the father's life. In "Beehive," a man with a hobby of collecting beehives will go to eerie lengths to best a young boy who shows up in his neighborhood with the same hobby. In "Dying Young," all the girls at school suddenly turn more and more beautiful, and even more suddenly, they die. "Headless Sculptures" is about an art teacher who is preparing his headless sculptures for an art show he is to be in, but he is instead murdered in his studio on the school grounds shortly before his work is to be shown. The last story, "Flesh-Colored Horror," is about a young, overly aggressive boy with transparent skin who raises the suspicion of his Kindergarten teacher... and later his mother and aunt raise her suspicions as well.
After reading Junji Ito's Uzumaki, I was dying for more. This particular title is lesser known, and everything I'd read about it had been lukewarm, but I was still itching to get ahold of it when I saw it in the store. I can sincerely say that I was not disappointed. Ito has an extremely unique sense of story, and his tales always seem to be very unique and different enough that they set themselves apart from others. Genuine horror manga is also difficult to find, as its often mixed with other genres. Flesh-Colored Horror, and Junji Ito in general, pulls off the genre wonderfully, to the point that I wish there were more manga like his licensed in the US. The first three stories were my favorites by far, but the latter three were still superb. The themes in the first three stories of jealousy, persistence, and greed I thought were conveyed quite well, and the endings to them were very twisted and unexpected for the most part (the ending to "Long Hair in the Attic" was a little disappointing to me for whatever reason, but not too much so). The story "Beehive" was my absolute favorite, but that might be a personal preference rather than a technically better story, as I am particularly creeped out by bees. The weakest story in the volume was most likely "Dying Young," as it seemed less original than the others... not only the overall plot, but the twist at the end wasn't very surprising, a point I wouldn't necessarily hold against it if the rest of the stories didn't have surprise or twist endings. The title story "Flesh-Colored Horror" also didn't strike me that much on my first read-through, and the twist ending wasn't that shocking to me, but when I read through the volume again, I rather liked that story. The story development for all the stories felt pretty complete, I wasn't particularly wishing for more depth, and conversely I also didn't feel that there were pieces missing. The pacing was wonderful, many manga volumes I buy have overly fast pacing and sometimes strange gaps of time from one event to the next, but Ito's stories were all set at a really nice, moderate pace that I enjoyed. This might be potentially bad for people who don't enjoy slow-paced manga, particularly since there is usually no action in the stories until the end, but again, I rather liked them. Overall I found the stories themselves to be superb, and I'm anxiously looking for more stories by Ito.
The characters in this volume were in no way memorable, but I thought that worked out okay for the most part. I finished the volume not knowing any of their names and next to nothing about them, but I think it would have been an extremely bad thing to introduce any depth to them, and the fact that I would remember one's name probably would mean that I would have disliked it enough that it stuck in my mind. The main characters can be set apart from the incidental by the fact that the main characters have names, while the incidental characters do not, and I like that system. Also, the fact that each story has a set, usually small, number of characters you're introduced to, and then the characters act out their part is exactly how I want a short story to work, as short stories in general should be more about the story than the characters. Ito's minimalist treatment of characters in this volume was very appropriate, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
I really, really like the stories in this volume a lot, even more than the stories in Tomie. I like Junji Ito stories in general, particularly after reading Gyo and Uzumaki, and I was glad to see that these stories sort of preserve the slightly quirky themes present in those stories moreso than the ones in Tomie. They cover a broad range of topics, are genuinely scary and grotesque, and are all really good stories. Though the art was not on par with what it has become, I was not disappointed in this volume's stories, and it just made me want more like this.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: C-
Packaging Rating: C-
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: ComicsOne
Orientation: Left to Right