Hello dear readers, and welcome to a special edition of Otaku Reader’s Corner as we delve into works that are atypical for us—those involving horror or at the least, some ghoulish elements. So even if you’re stuck at home this Halloween, even if a certain Peanuts holiday special has joined the others off broadcast TV, you can still scare up some fun by reading some of the selections we’ve reviewed below!
Chainsaw Man, Chp. 90
Is it weird to say that the recent bloody chapter of Chainsaw Man is super, super sweet? (Warning: SPOILERS ahead). It seems as if it’s been forever now that I’ve waited for the return of a favorite character. The world of Chainsaw Man is so brutal, that the audience would be justified in believing that she wouldn’t revive from that quick and painful (for us at least) death, but it was all a ruse: Power is back. Able to survive because Denji drank her blood, and made strong by eating Pochita, Power spews forth from the Chainsaw demon physically and with the awesome dialogue that makes this series so special (“Makima is trash! Makima is a nobody! I’m the first president!”). I’ve needed this chapter, because the past dozen have been so confusing—the mythology of the series has come into play and mixed with so much action and quick movement of plot that I’m continually left wondering if the story has become hard to follow or I’m just not clever. So although the chapter ends on a cliffhanger, it’s only temporarily mystifying—we’ve finally achieved some clarity in this arc since we know what Power is really about, and thus there’s a win-win here: The return both of a beloved character and clearer writing. ~ Twwk
Chainsaw Man is available through Shonen Jump.
Cowa! is a not-too-spooky family-friendly manga from the mind of Akira Toriyama. This relatively short series (11 chapters) follows the half-vampire, half were-koala Paifu and his best friend, Jose the ghost. These two monster kids live in a small, isolated monster village and the early chapters follow the two of them just goofing around in town. The two boys eventually investigate a human in town who is supposedly a murderer! It turns out he’s not, just a retired sumo wrestler. Later chapters follow the duo finding that a strain of influenza that specifically targets monsters begins to spread through town. The rest of the story follows as they try to save the village. While it’s Toriyama and occasionally he will go over the top with some jokes aimed at adults, on the whole this is a relatively safe, cute manga series about monster kids that is perfectly fine for younger audiences. It serves as a nice, not-too-spooky palet cleanser among the other series we discuss here. ~ MDMRN
I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years And Maxed Out My Level, Vols. 1-4
So maybe you’re like me and don’t like scary stuff, and want a light and fluffy light novel to read for Halloween while still having a witchy flavor to it. In this light novel series, the protagonist Azusa succumbs to the true terror of this world: chronic overwork. Her reincarnation grants her an unaging body, so she decides to live a nice, long, and chill life by doing the simple work of killing a couple of slimes every day. As it turns out, though, doing that every day for 300 years straight will max out your level and turn you into the most overpowered person in the area… Azusa decides to become a friendly “witch” who helps out the nearby village, while meeting various other unusual beings and gaining a “family” of sorts. If you don’t mind that there’s no real overarching plot, this is a really nice slice-of-life story. Also, it has some good messages about not overworking yourself and finding meaning in your life’s work. It also has some heartwarming moments between the characters and some other fun moments to make for a relaxing light novel series. ~ stardf29
I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level is available through Yen Press.
Dissolving Classroom is gross. This Junji Ito work really pushes the envelope when it comes to body horror. Dissolving Classroom is an anthology of sorts following mostly disconnected stories about Yuuma and his little sister Chizumi. Everywhere they go, tragedy strikes in the form of disappearing people. While some of the individual tales are definitely allegorical about the evils we face in modern society (vanity, bullying, etc), the tales are presented in a horrifying manner as you watch page after page of characters literally melting as shown on the cover. It is hard to really catch the moral lesson as the people doing the “lesson teaching” are a Satan worshiper and his sister who cause people to dissolve. Still, Ito’s work is aesthetically hard to put down. It just grips you page after page—even when giving you nightmares of dissolving students. ~ MDMRN
Dissolving Classroom is available through Kodansha.
Happiness is a teenage vampire story-yet, that is not really a great explanation of what happens in Happiness. This series comes from the mind of Shuzo Oshimi, the creator of The Flowers Of Evil and Inside Mari. With that in mind, you know going into it you are going to see graphic depictions that may include violent and sexually explicit scenes. Happiness includes both, though definitely fewer sexually explicit moments than Inside Mari. The story follows Makoto Ozaki, a first year high school student with unrequited lust, constant bullying, and terrible friends. One night Ozaki is going home and jumped by a thin young woman who gives him a choice—become like her or die. Ozaki chooses life and in so doing his life and that of those around him completely change. The story is so well crafted that it becomes incredibly hard to put down. Page after page, while graphic, keep you guessing as to what is going to happen next and who will survive this unique take on vampire mythology. ~ MDMRN
Happiness is available through Kodansha.
Venus in the Blind Spot
Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated with horror anthologies—they provide readers an opportunity to dip their toes into the macabre and then pull them out if the horror or gore becomes too overwhelming. There’s no danger of that here in this collection of short works that are among Junji Ito’s most well-know and celebrated. And not all the stories are scary—some are even humorous, and others autobiographical, either directly or by Ito’s representation of stories by authors who inspired him. These more unexpected parts of Venus in the Blind Spot may not bring chills, but they read as classics. The original stories, however, do contain scary elements and masterful story elements by Ito. The first tale, “Billions Alone,” and the final one, “Keepsake” are standouts, as “The Licking Woman” with its memorable imagery, but the classic short, “The Enigma of Amigara Fault,” will be most likely to remain with you with its claustrophobic and subtly nightmarish elements. ~ Twwk
Venus in the Blind Spot is available through Viz