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.

Photo (Tomie part 4) by Junji Ito

What is Tomie Photo about?

Tsukiko is a girl in school, who also happens to be a member of the photography club. However, she is using her skills with the camera to turn a quick profit, whilst preying on the desires of her peers. She will take photos of certain boys in school and then sell those photos to any girls who have a crush on them.

Before I moved here, I lived in spain for a while. I was born in France, though.

Tomie offers a possible explanation as to her origin.

Tomie, meanwhile, is the head of the school’s ethics committee, and immediately sees an issue with Tsukiko’s little business venture. She hatches an elaborate plan to entrap Tsukiko, causing her to take photos of her whilst talking about the profit to be made. Just as she planned the teacher overhears this and Tsukiko is immediately suspended from school: Tomie 1 – Tsukiko 0.

However, when Tsukiko gets those photos developed, they reveal a disturbing side of Tomie that the naked eye can’t detect. Something dark hidden beneath the surface; something evil. But when she tries to use these photos to exact revenge on Tomie, things take a nasty turn for her.

As an aside, it is interesting how Tomie Photo begins. We see her in the opening pages arriving at an unknown mansion of an old man and his daughter. Once she enters, we cut forward in time to Tomie being settled into her apparently-new life. This mansion will feature in future stories too, including the chapter quite aptly titled ‘Tomie Mansion’.

Where is the moral centre?

What I found most interesting in Tomie Photo, was the placing of the moral centre in the story. Things aren’t as simple as Tsukiko good; Tomie bad. In fact, I would argue that Tomie is on the side of right for most of it – all of it perhaps, depending on how you interpret her actions. (See bottom of this post for my reasoning with some spoilers). We saw this theme a little bit in the first chapter where, although she was manipulative, didn’t deserve to be killed and cut up by her teacher. Yes I know that particular death was an accident, but the disposing of the body wasn’t very dignified, was it?

But no matter where you place Tomie, Tsukiko is a bit of a bad girl herself. Essentially using her customers’ weaknesses in order to charge large sums of money for the photos. And at no point does she display regret for this – she’s too busy trying to keep herself alive towards the end from a very pissed-off Tomie.

I mean, really. Taking advantage of those poor girls, not to mention the boys you photograph.

Tomie seems to be on the moral high ground.

This kind of exploration of character is one of the many aspects of Junji Ito’s work, specifically in this series, that make me love his stuff. Nothing is simply good and bad; black and white; light and dark. There is an unsettling shade that weaves it’s way into most things throughout these stories. But don’t get me wrong, there are some purely innocent people who get caught in Tomie’s path along the way. But we’ll come to those in due time.

In Summary

This chapter is a favourite of mine from the Tomie Collection. It has an interesting exploration of character between protagonist and antagonist. Not only that, but even a few surprise left turns that took me off guard on first reading. The world begins to open up even more with this chapter also. Not only with the introduction of new characters, but also with the mansion she arrives at in the opening pages. This mansion will be explored further later on, which helps tie these stories together even more.

Although part of a bigger story, this is actually one of the chapters that can be enjoyed completely on its own too. The last couple have been continuations of the same thread in Morita Hospital, but Tomie Photo shifts gear – opening up the world a little more for my favourite manga lady.

Interpretation of Tomie’s actions (some spoilers)

My reasoning as to why she could be considered “good” in Tomie Photo, is down to the possibility of her being possessed by an evil alternate persona. We see it time and again through this series that she has the outward appearance of a normal woman. It only tends to be once she’s triggered somehow that things turn nasty. There are moments when these triggers don’t necessarily show her to be unveiling her true self, but rather her true self revealing itself against her will.

We can see this in that final harrowing scene in Tsukiko’s home. She calls Tomie a “monster”, which triggers a reaction in her that appears to be against Tomie’s wishes. This causes another head to start growing from her body. Tomie pleads to her bodyguards / lackies to cut it off of her which, in true Ito fashion, they do.

If indeed there is a foreign body within her that causes this, as opposed to her being in control of it all, it gives Tomie an even more multi-faceted personality.

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary – Yon and Mu

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary is unique within the world of horror manga, at least as far as I know. It is the story about the manga’s artist himself, his family and their adorable cats Yon and Mu.

What is Junji Ito’s Cat Diary about?

Put simply, this manga is an autobiographical piece about Ito himself who, alongside his wife, get two pet cats – Yon and Mu. We follow the happy couple through their adventures with these beautiful felines.

A lot of what happens is pretty standard for regular cat owners. They take care and feed the cats on a daily basis; They play with them using cat wand toys; There are even moments when the cats are just playing around with each other, as cats do.

Although this follows a pretty grounded narrative with no source of horror in the traditional sense, Ito manages to filter his experiences through his very unique lense – capturing something both entertaining and, at times, unnerving.

Exaggerating the normal

Nothing in Junji Ito’s Cat Diary is very much out of the ordinary. However, what Junji Ito has managed to create, is an unsettling view that is created from the exaggeration of his own perspective. Allow me to explain what I mean.

When people see pets that they find cute, they tend to give them a cuddle or stroke them and speak in an almost baby-talk manner. What you’ll notice in the panel above, is how he’s managed to create something visually jarring that injects the otherwise-innocent scene with a shot of Itoesque horror.

Not only are there plenty of scary moments like this, but there are also some almost-disturbing moments littered throughout too. Again from seemingly-innocent interactions between an owner and their cats. Take this next example where Ito’s wife, A-ko, discovers that the cat enjoys suckling on her little finger. Pretty innocent right? Well look at what he managed to turn it into, when he tries to get Yon to suckle on his finger too.

One of the most peculiar aspects in this manga, is how he decided to depict his wife. Ito has drawn her otherwise-normally, if not for her eyes. He has given her empty, white, dead-like eyes. I’m not sure why he chose to draw her in this way, but I think it must stem from his dark sense of humour. Interestingly, he mentioned his Wife’s reaction to this in one of the book’s interview questions to him. He simply said “She got mad at me.”.

In Summary

For all of it’s added horror and creepiness, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary has a lot of heart to it. It is obvious from this story that he and his wife have a great affection for them both. In the U.K. release of the book at least, there is an added chapter at the very end, along with an accompanying letter written by his wife. This put the heart behind the whole story into focus for me. I’m not ashamed to admit that I almost teared up in the closing remarks of the book.

This is a special story, not only for fans of Junji Ito, but also for anyone who knows what it means to be a loving pet-owner.

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.

Statik on Playstation VR

Statik is one hell of a fun game to play. Lasting only a couple of hours, depending on whether you solve the puzzles of course, this game never got boring. Despite the fact that you spend the entire time with your hands locked in a box.

Locked in a box

Your hands are locked in a box within its VR world for the whole game, whilst in reality you take a hold of the standard PS4 controller. That controller is used in very inventive ways throughout the game to try and solve each puzzle.

Each level gives you a new puzzle to solve, which become increasingly tricky and mind-bending as they go on. Each button, whether it be the directional buttons; the shape buttons; triggers; or analogue sticks, will control individual parts of each box.

There are some puzzles that require you to hold the control bindings of a box in your mind all at once, with one particular box being on a timer. This gave me just the right level of stress to warrant fighting back against being put back a step or two.

It’s not just a box

A lot of the game must actually be solved by using the environment around you. Parts of the room and certain objects around will very subtle guide you through the cryptic puzzles. I found myself at times just dumb-founded without a clue on how to solve something. Until I would make a really clever connection between my box and something around me and I’d end up with a great big grin on my face.

My personal favourite was taking control of a small remote control camera buggy. As you move around to otherwise-inaccessible areas to solve its particular puzzle, you get live feedback to your box. It felt so trippy to be inside a VR game controlling a remote control car that can show you a live feedback of yourself in that chair.

So frickin cool.

A quick game that feels just right

Even though each game involves you solving a different box that has your hands locked within, the game never felt repetitive. Each puzzle was so different from one another that I ended up feeling like I’d been on a real test of the mind to get to the very end.

I completed the game in about two to three hours and that felt just right to me. I’d had my fill of that particular world, but could probably have played just one more level.

I guess that’s one of the marks of a really good game – leaving the player wanting just that little bit more.

In Summary

If you want a challenging mind-bender of a game with truly ingenious uses of what the PlayStation VR can do, please do check out Statik. This game was a random recommend on a list of “best PlayStation VR titles” I stumbled across, and I’m so glad I picked it up on the PlayStation store.

 

One of the most exciting pictures I’ve seen in a long while

This picture is one of the most exciting pictures I’ve seen in a while. On the surface it is just three people looking at something on a computer monitor. However, for those who know and enjoy two of these people’s work, it is something to shout home about.

Junji Ito

The guy on the left is Junji Ito – horror manga legend and instrumental in bringing the genre to modern mainstream attention. I enjoy horror manga very much and Junji Ito is one of those authors whose work I actively search for. His art style is instantly recognisable and has created some of the most memorable and terror-inducing images and stories.

His most well known stories are probably Uzumaki, Tomie, and Gyo. Each masterpieces in their own right and serve to solidify Ito’s position at the very top of his game. His stories, especially those mentioned, work within the horror sub-genre of ‘Body Horror’.

Hideo Kojima

The guy on the right is Hideo Kojima. Kojima is a name well-known and highly respected within the gaming community, and indeed the wider community of action and story telling. He is the man responsible for the Metal Gear Solid series whose reputations really do precede them.

Each of the games of Kojima’s that I have played I have fallen in love with. The first two Metal Gear Solid games, the first on the Playstation and the second on the Playstation 2, were such important games to me growing up, with me being about fifteen years old and eighteen years old respectively when they were released.

These games were some of the most memorable gaming experiences that I have ever had and have definitely stayed with me to the present day.

Why this picture is exciting

To have both of these people present in the same photo, apparently reviewing something together in an office, s exciting. The had previously been working together on what was going to be a new Silent Hill game. The very thought of that even being a possibility is cause enough to lose your shit over. Junji Ito’s twisted and macabre creations within a world created and directed by Kojima…

…But it was never to be. Silent Hills, as it was called, was cancelled and they both went their separate ways. And that was that…

…Or was it?

Death Stranding is the game that Kojima and his team are currently working on, which is exciting in itself. However, when you take the recent image above and consider the very real possibility that the two masters themselves could in fact still be working together, whole new levels of awesome enter into the mix.

Original source of image: https://twitter.com/Kaizerkunkun/status/894538086356467712

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) Review

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.