REVIEWS (shorts): Some Halloween Manga Suggestions
Here are some suggestions for slightly spooky romantic manga for Halloween.
Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino: I enjoy this one even though in many ways it’s a very typical shoujo (girls) romance series. The very polished artwork raises it a notch above many series, and there’s something about the main characters’ love triangle that won’t let me stop reading: The pureblood vampire prince manipulating everyone within reach to bring a peace between vampires and humans for the sake of the young woman he loves; the vampire hunter, bitten and in the process of turning into a mad vampire, who can only control it by drinking the blood of his rival or his love; the young girl with the missing past, family killed by one vampire even while she was saved by another, loving both the one who saved her, and the one she has to save. There are many typical things about it, but because of the characters I cannot stop reading it. B, 15+
Beyond My Touch by Tomo Maeda: OK, this one isn’t spooky at all, but it’s the sweetest ghost romance between two boys, one who is very cold and the other who is very much in love with him. Unfortunately the one in love dies before being able to get the one thing he wanted in life, a kiss from the other, and he won’t let go of this world until he does. I can’t describe in words how sweet this story is except to say it kept making me go “Awwww.” It is, by the way, a single volume story and the only complete one on this list. B+, 13+
Blood Alone by Masayuki Takano: This is a story about love but not really a romance. Kurou is a writer whose eyes were injured when he attacked the vampire killing his sister, so that now he can see things hidden from humans. Misaki is a girl whose father was killed by that same vampire, and she was turned into a vampire at the same time, though that side of her is mostly dormant for now. Kurou and Misaki now live together, occasionally getting involved in supernatural cases, which gradually reveal that Kurou is more than meets the eye. This is an unusual English language manga for several reasons: The artwork is very subdued but beautiful (a look at the cover shows the lovely style), and appears quite Western with its block panels. It is seinen, aimed at young men, yet about love at heart. It has horror episodes, but also “slice of life” chapters, in which the only thing that develops is character. These types of manga are common in Japan, but rarely do we get to see them licensed in the US and translated to English.
Some people will be disturbed by the fact that Misaki is a young teenage girl living with an older unrelated man. She seems to have been a vampire for several years though, and Kurou obviously sees her as a substitute for his sister. Their relationship is not sexual, but Misaki does have a crush on him, and they sleep in the same bed (because she has terrifying nightmares of the vampire that only he can stop). The story is very much about her love for him, and her coming to terms with being a vampire while preserving as much of her humanity as possible through her relationship with him. And it’s a love that is allowing him to regain his humanity as well. It’s a lovely story. Also, this book from Infinity Studios is a quality presentation, and a joy to hold. A, unless the ages would bother you. 15+
Ghost Hunt by Fuyumi Ono, art by Shiho Inada: This is a strange series that can be surface read for those looking for light to medium scares, or it can be read for what is eventually found to be an intricate plot. Everything that looks like a plot hole or loose thread or gaffe, or even just catches your eye as seeming odd, is later found to be a clue as to what is really happening in this story. The story on the surface is a basic form, a group of ghost hunters with various talents go from case to case solving supernatural problems, some pretty scary, some sad, some silly, and can be read simply for that too if the reader wishes. But it’s fairly average if read that way. Note: This series is not so romantic, though there is an odd sort of romance in it; I’m just not sure if they’re going to handle it the way they did in the novels. I’ve really enjoyed this one though. It’s a personal A, though to be honest most people would find it to be a B/B+ or so (as can be seen on Amazon); it all depends on how you read it, and if you like the puzzle it presents (or are even aware of them… ). 13+
And finally, a spooky (OK downright frightening) mangaka (manga creator) to look for if you really want the pants scared off you:
Junji Ito: Ito-sensei writes in the tradition of psychological horror masters like Shirley Jackson and HP Lovecraft. His books use the fantastic and terrible to show that the real horror is within mankind. He is responsible for stories like: Tomie (within the Museum of Terror collection), in which a young woman causes every man she encounters to become obsessed with her and dismember her, but because she’s not human she keeps coming back to life; and Uzumaki, in which a town slowly goes mad in the presence of strange spirals which start appearing everywhere. I have to be honest and say I couldn’t finish either of these two because they disturbed me so much, I mean they seriously creeped me out. He’s a master (and these books are not for kids, except maybe teens 16 and up).
There are many other series out there you might enjoy, from the really disturbing Parasyte, to the ultraviolent vampires in Hellsing and Blood+, to the supernatural thriller Death Note, to the Gothic Victorian horror of the Cain Saga/Godchild, to the incredibly eerie yet beautiful Mushishi, to the snarky horror of a pissed off Chinese nature god, Petshop of Horrors, to the downright silly romantic comedy about a guy who’s a werewoman, Full Moon Ni Sasayaite. I could go on about each one of those, but then this would take up the entire page and the Ja(y)nes might throw me down a well, and the next thing you know I’d be crawling out of your televisions, and none of us really wants that especially since I can barely fit my jeans much less a 13 inch screen (and if that double dose of horror doesn’t sound familiar, you may want to try The Ring).
Have a spooky Halloween!