Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Let's talk manga

I realize my title is misleading even as I type it. However, the little part of my brain most often busying itself with throwing bisected bits of scripts around at some point shieked that calling this entry "Let's talk japanese cartoons and animated TV series that are somehow related to the horror aspect" would be more disasterous than painting myself flamboyantly pink and pub crawl through Manchester on the night of the championship final. So, strictly speaking unnecesary explanations aside, let's get to it.

You can say what you want about the Japanese, but they do have their way with horror. Maybe it's because it's different from our own, and thus manages to scare the bejeezus out of people who allready have become cynical and chronically unscared by machete-wielding, chainsaw-juggling, ichor-drooling and generally hypen-overusing unstoppable murderers. It could also be that JHorror has an overload of creepy ghost girls that us western people found scary way before the latest japophile craze, and you could say that our friends in the east really have perfected the creepy ghost girl formula. Of course, horror from Japan isn't exclusively about symbols of innocence lost wanting to murder you because you preformed some seemingly innocent tasks like watching a videotape or moving in somewhere. Jhorror also excells in an isolated atmosphere, pushing and keeping you down while plucking an eery sonata on your nerves. For those wondering, I was thinking about Silent Hill when writing that sentance.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, because I intend to talk, or write if you nitpick, to write about my favorite horror manga/anime. I used to be big on manga and anime in general, but my interest faded a little after a while. Still, I do appriciate the comics that can scare me shitless, so why not cover the eastern chills today, and the other ones tomorrow, or later as it might well turn out.

First out, we have a couple that is not exactly the scariest horror, but has some horror elements after all. Hellsing is a vampire manga, easily one of the most enjoyable modern vampire stories I've read. It's so ridiculously over the top one can't but enjoy, I mean, we have the main character, who is Count Dracula himself but goes by the name of Alucard. This prime prince of darkness fights for the forces of good, in this case represented by a super-secret secret service in the UK, against a revived third reich of mad-with-power nazi officers, werewolves and a a crapload of zombies, or ghouls as it might be, also, he occasionally clashes with a catholic super-priest wielding supersized knives. Funnily enough, while doing so,the longcoat-wearing uber-badass bloodsucker does occasionally invoke methods that makes one wonder exactly who we are to be rooting for. Unless you have some sort of phobia for glasses, seeing as most major characters wear a pair of round spectacles for some reason. Might be a fetish, but considering the second main character is a rather... uh... well shaped sorta-vampire in a very minimal police uniform at some point wielding two massive anti-air cannons, against nazi zeppelins no less, I'm not making this up, one could speculate his quote is spent. One could also argue that said police officer calling earlier mentioned dark prince "master" is also adding to the quota, but I won't go there, except I just did.

Next up, we have a series I'm starting to rediscover. Death Note is even less directly horror-y than Hellsing, but there's enough Terrorium in it to warrant a mention here. Super-student Light Yagami finds a notebook that allows him to kill people by writing their name in it. With this supernatural implement in hand, he proceeds to murder criminals in the name of justice. The final goal of this is to "become the god of the new (crime free) world." Of course, murdering people, even if they may deserve it, is bound to attract massive negative attention, and not too long passes before the infamous master detective recluse L decides to put an end to this. Much of the series revolves around the massive battle of brains between the two, up to a certain point where it changes pace somewhat. You couldn't accuse Death Note of being too scary, although Light's arrogant zeal does jump at me as being... somewhat unnerving. Also, the idea of someone out there with the power to kill you without leaving a trace, is somewhat eerie.

Now, moving on to the few genuine horror series I've read or are still reading. When I write "horror manga" two examples instantly jump into my mind, both written by Junji Ito. First one is Uzumaki, a story about malevolent spirals infecting a middle-sized town. This wouldn't strike me as particularly eerie, hadn't it been for that the spirals pop up all over the place with maddening effect, Lovecraft-style. The first case is about a man who kills himself by throwing himself into a mega-tumbledryer, wrapping his body into a spiral. It pretty much gets freakier from there, except the scary takes a dive about midway, and it ended up motivating me to continue reading by pure curiousity alone. Still, it's pretty good to be able to bewitch a picky reader such as myself.

Next one, I could almost give a whole blog post in itself, despite it being the shortest of the series. The one-shot comic in question is Ito's The Enigma of the Amigara Fault Line. The story this time is about a series of perfectly human-shaped holes in a mountain, revealed by an earthquake. People flock to this odd landmark, feeling oddly drawn towards one hole they identify as "theirs," as it fits them perfectly, like a claustrophobic glove, if you will. Problem is, as they enter their holes, they dissapear into the mountains, and no-one is able to detect where they are going or what's happening with them. True to it's name, the short manga is an enigma. We are treated with a short dream sequence claiming that an ancient civilization made the holes for punishing particularly wicked criminals. The best mind-fuck is that this adds up somewhat, but it's still possible that it is just a dream rather than a conveniently exposition-producing vision. At any rate, claustrophobics need not apply, if enclosed spaces bother you The Enigma of the amigara Fault Line just might send you into an hysterical panick fit.

That should be all for now, trust me to blog at a later date if any other excellent horror manga should jump at me.

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