It’s the perfect time of year to read something scary, and there are plenty of manga that fill the bill. From freakishly weird terrors to suspenseful monster mayhem, the medium has something to scare just about any reader. Here are five different flavors of Japanese horror manga, just in time for Halloween.
Dissolving Classroom, by Junji Ito
Junji Ito is the undisputed master of scary manga, with a repertoire spanning decades and including revered classics like Uzumaki and Gyo. Dissolving Classroom is his latest collection of short stories about a pair of siblings who leave terror and tragedy in their wake. Chizumi, a disturbed young girl, makes a hobby of frightening people on their way home from school or work. Yuuma, a teenager who secretly worships the devil, apologizes profusely to everyone he meets—but by the time they find out what he’s sorry for, it’s too late. Ito turns the everyday into the grotesque and horrific, as no one is safe from strange and evil forces far beyond their control or comprehension.
Tokyo Ghoul, by Sui Ishida
In Sui Ishida’s blockbuster manga, Tokyo is stalked by “ghouls” who appear human but are monsters who prey on humans to survive. When college student Ken Kaneki is involved in an accident that leads ghoul organs to be transplanted into his hitherto human body, he becomes a half-ghoul with a craving for human flesh. Wedding vampire and zombie tropes with a noirish urban setting and stomach-turning body horror, Tokyo Ghoul is gripping, suspenseful, and visceral. Above all, it is the story of a young man dealing with his own newfound inhumanity, continually discovering what lines he is willing to cross to survive in a brutal new world.
Franken Fran, by Katsuhisa Kigitsu
Fran, the masterwork of a mad scientist with a taste for Frankensteinish experiments, has been left to watch the lab while her creator is away. It falls to the enthusiastic and scientifically curious creature to deal with clients who come calling, from a millionaire who demands Fran perform miracles to save his only son, to detectives seeking expert help with a gruesome medical mystery. But Fran’s solutions are not always quite what one would expect—sometimes horrifically so. The risqué covers of these volumes belie the creepy weirdness of the content within, as well as the surprising, perfectly twisted humor. Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack meets Tim Burton in this episodic comedy, where the results of Fran’s experiments are often the grotesque punchline to a dark joke.
Ajin: Demi Human, by Gamon Sakurai
Kei Nagai thought he was a normal high school student—until he walked away unscathed from a traffic accident that should have left him splattered on the pavement. Now he knows he’s an Ajin, a species of immortal being with power over the strange monsters only other demi-humans can see. On the run from government agents who want to capture and dissect him, Kei must decide who he can trust and where his loyalties lie. Like Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte, Ajin leans more toward thriller than pure horror. Amidst a slowly unspooling plot of complex factions and interests, Sakurai punctuates tense, adrenaline-fueled action scenes with moments of terror and violence.
Happiness, by Shuzo Oshimi
Penned by the creator of the unsettling Flowers of Evil, Happiness is a vampire manga that’ll make anyone squirm. Not just from the gore—though the blood-sucking is grisly enough—but from its unflinching dissection of adolescent shame and desire. Timid highschooler Makoto Ozaki’s life is a parade of minor teenage humiliations until he is attacked one night by a pale girl who savages his neck. Makoto is miraculously left alive, but his recovery is plagued by sensitivity to light, an aversion to food, and a terrible, terrible thirst—you see where this is going. Oshimi dabbles in disturbing and surreal imagery as he methodically bares the basest human impulses of a cast that is already hardly sympathetic, making Happiness a profoundly uncomfortable reading experience.
What are your favorite scary manga?