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Sean William Scott

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Spooky Stuff: Hideshi Hino 

I recently, well "caved" is probably the best word to describe it, and bought three of Hideshi Hino's horror anthology manga from Cocoro Books. I'd encountered his work before. Hell Baby was the first "unflipped" manga I ever bought, years and years ago. At the time, my reaction was "this is too cute to be scary." It took some years and a more nuanced approach to horror for me to appreciate work like Hino's. His art is very cartoony, but it also has a very organic feel to it which accentuates the grotesque elements very well.

Black Cat is probably my favorite of the three books. Chiefly, I've got a fondness for stories told from the perspective of animals. It's an interesting narrative approach to horror stories, probably best used in Wayne Smith's novel Thor, a were-wolf story told from the perspective of the menaced family's pet German Shepard. The narrator of Black Cat is an orphaned kitten left behind in the town dump after all his brothers are adopted by local children. He is left behind because, as a black cat, he is "bad luck." The cat sets out to explore the world, and learn more about the strange creatures called humans. Through his eyes we see three stories of human cruelty and madness. The cat doesn't judge, he simply observes, and attempts to place what he has seen in some kind of context of what human beings are. It's a morbidly depressing and cynical book (as Mike said to me when I bought it "this book was aimed at you") which says nothing positive about humanity. That it relies entirely on the horror of human nature, rather than the supernatural or unknown, simply drives that home even more, and makes it even more effective as a horror story. It's hard to get worried about zombies laying waste to your city, but easy to get concerned about how the kid down the street who's bullied all the time might someday take revenge.

Ghost School and Death's Reflection are both supernatural horror anthologies told in a shojo style. Here "shojo" apparently means "their eyes are bigger than normal," as apart from the fact that all the characters are school-girls, nothing else about it really screams "shojo" to me. The stories here are interesting because they are almost childish, tapping into fears and concerns of childhood, particularly those centered around school. So we have stories of bullying teachers, bullying class-mates, boys who won't leave you alone, punishments for breaking the rules, a fantastic story about the fear of aging and losing youth and beauty, and one particular story that relies on a very adolescent fear of gender confusion for its effect. Overall the stories are good, but I was put in mind a little bit of Goosebumps-type books for the pre-teen set, only with actual gore and violence. Which makes the publishers "A" for "Adult" ratings on the books a little frustrating, as I could probably easily sell these to the teen and pre-teen set, and nothing in it would be inappropriate, but I don't want to have to explain to angry parents why I sold their kid a book labeled as being for adults.


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