Greetings, dear reader! It’s William from the Anime Trending news team. Welcome to the first edition of our newest column, “You’ve Got Manga.” We’ll be providing you with some quick roundups and reviews of the latest manga you should check out. The series will be published on an irregular basis and will highlight titles from one publisher per entry.
In the debut entry of this column, we’re taking a look at four new Fall 2022 manga releases from Viz Media in October. Although Halloween has passed, it’s always a good time to read something scary with the lights on. While these manga are not all necessarily horror-based, each one has some spooky elements that will leave you unsettled.
Romantic Killer, Vol 1 — Wataru Momose
Release: October 4, 2022
Translator: Adrienne Beck
Letterer: Inori Fukuda Trant
Editor: Nancy Thistlethwaithe
Recommended for fans of: Skip Beat!, Ao Haru Ride, and Anonymous Noise
Viz describes the synopsis as:
Chocolate, cats, and video games! What more could anyone possibly want in this life? That’s certainly all high schooler Anzu Hoshino has ever wanted or needed. But when a mysterious, magical creature converts her life into a real life shoujo manga with hot guys showing up left and right, Hoshino’s favorite comforts are held hostage unless she finally falls in love. Thankfully, Hoshino has plenty tricks up her sleeve to avoid the shoujo life!
Thoughts On The Manga
Although it has a seemingly threatening title and suspicious cover, Romantic Killer is less of a horror and more like a real-life bishoujo visual novel simulation. On the surface, it’s a funny slice-of-life romance manga, but the manga also has the makings of a sinister horror game (minus the gore and death).
Main protagonist Anzu has to suddenly deal with a magical fairy named Riri, who has unwillingly upended her life. She took away her favorite things, like her chocolates, video games, adorable pet cat — and even her parents by sending them to work abroad. This raises a lot of red flags, especially considering the fact that Riri wants to transform Anzu’s life into a harem of hot guys all vying for her love. Riri already brainwashes a complete stranger named Junta into believing he’s Anzu’s childhood friend, much to her chagrin.
Despite the concerning setup, I think Anzu’s dorky, nerdy personality and attitude throughout the story balances out all the tension. She’s a great character to root for because she prioritizes video games and chocolates over her responsibilities and personal life. Her obsession with her hobbies helps the series excel at its romantic comedic aspects. She’s an unwilling Cinderella-like figure in a love story she desperately wants out of, making it pretty funny and enjoyable as we see her try to foil Riri’s plans throughout the first volume.
The full color pages of this manga also greatly stand out. Since it was digitally published in the Shonen Jump+ online magazine, Momose has more freedom to experiment with different art styles and brighter colors, leading to more expressive art in the process. Anzu definitely gets the most expressions, as she’d often appear as a dopey chibi character in one panel and a chad Jojo-looking hero in another. There’s also a neat little nod to Kaiji when Anzu’s playing a card game.
If you’re looking for a slightly off-beat romantic comedy about a relatable nerdy dork, Romantic Killer is worth a casual read — especially if you love romantic comedies that try to be as unromantic as it can.
The anime adaptation of Romantic Killer is also streaming on Netflix now and you can watch the trailer before binging every episode.
Dandadan, Vol 1 — Yukinobu Tatsu
Release: October 11, 2022
Translator: Kumar Sivasubramanian
Letterer: Sara Linsley
Editor: Jennifer Leblanc
Recommended for fans of: Noragami, Blue Exorcist, and Blood Lad
Viz describes the manga as:
Aliens and ghosts?! There’s no such thing. Momo Ayase would never believe in aliens, but ghosts are a different matter. And Okarun, well, he’s the opposite and would never believe in ghosts, but aliens are definitely real. Ayase and Okarun set out to prove one another wrong, and both come face-to-face with real aliens and ghosts! Now the two of them must work together to overcome a ghost’s curse and aliens set out on attacking the innocent.
Thoughts On The Manga
Ghosts and aliens have a few things in common: both are supernatural entities that can’t rationally be explained and are equally as scary as the other. Dandadan succeeds in this department through its blend of supernatural horror and dark comedy, stemming from Tatsu’s monsters feeling way too horny for their own good.
The story follows two students named Momo Ayase and Ken “Okarun” Takakura (named after the famous Japanese actor). On the surface, they’re different people who shouldn’t have anything to do with each other but are drawn together through their love and curiosity of the unknown. I really like how their dynamic is built upon them being seen as strange for adhering to their hobbies. Momo was advised by her spirit medium grandmother to conduct a weird ritual to ward off evil spirits but was later mocked by the boy she liked. For Okarun, his obsession to meet aliens stems from being alone and wanting to be acknowledged by people. They find similar values and experiences in one another and form a close connection as the story progresses.
Yukinobu Tatsu’s artwork and design on his aliens and ghosts are striking, freaky, and distinct. There’s a strong emphasis on their monstrous eyes, arms, and mouths that makes them memorable, especially when they go all-out hellish in the manga’s explosive action sequences. Some of the monsters featured in volume one include the main antagonist Turbo Granny, the alien Serpoians, and the Flatwoods Monster. Turbo Granny’s designs are pure nightmare fuel. She can transform from a small, pruny old lady with no pupils to a giant mouth figure with eyes that have two separate mouths on top of them. Don’t even get me started on the Serpoians, who are unsettling shape-shifting aliens with metal penises.
Tatsu previously worked as an assistant for Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man and Yuuji Kaku’s Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku. His art style complements the eldritch body horror and crazy imagery whenever Momo and Okurun battle monsters. The manga knows when to go hard on these freaky supernatural designs and really drive up the tension when it counts.
Unfortunately, the presence of these monsters leads to many sexually compromised positions for Momo. While most of it isn’t terribly explicit, I felt like it could’ve been toned down, so as to not demean the strength of the series’ heroine and distract from the excellent horror. Despite that, I still think Dandadan is worth a read and perfect for those who are into paranormal manga. The story gets more exciting and ends on the right cliffhanger heading into the second volume.
Black Paradox — Junji Ito
Release: October 25, 2022
Translator: Jocelyn Allen
Letterer: Eric Erbes
Editor: Masumi Washington
Recommended for fans of: Drifting Classroom, Deserter: Junji Ito Story Collection, Uzumaki
Viz describes the manga as:
Four people intent on killing themselves meet through the suicide website Black Paradox: Maruso, a nurse who despairs about the future; Taburo, a man who is tortured by his doppelganger; Pii-tan, an engineer with his own robot clone; and Baracchi, a woman who agonizes about the birthmark on her face.
They wander together in search of the perfect death, fatefully opening a door that leads them to a rather bizarre destiny…
Thoughts On The Manga
Black Paradox is a great example of Junji Ito’s foray into the psychological thriller genre. His storytelling in this manga begins with a seemingly normal start before gradually shifting into a tale of suspense, drama, and horror. From there, the plot takes some unexpected twists and turns that makes the initial scope of the horror and mystery much bigger than it seems.
The manga follows four people, who all go by aliases, on a planned suicide pact: Marusou, Taburou, Piitan, and Baracchi. Ito excels at getting into the heads of his characters as each person struggles to deal with their own daily paranoia and fears. As the story progresses, these fears take the grotesque physical forms of a giant exposed stomach for Piitan, a rotting birthmark for Baracchi, an anxiety-induced brain tumor for Marusou, and an ominous shadow tailing Taburou.
Ito’s signature creepy artwork shines best when he dedicates an entire page to these body parts in painstaking detail. You really get a good closeup of all the rotting veins and skins on them, and that’s all I’ll reveal to avoid grossing you out. These stunning illustrations are balanced out with some dark, subtle artwork in between to focus less on the body horror aspects and more on the psychological warfare.
An interesting MacGuffin in Black Paradox is the “Paradonite” stones the characters encounter throughout the story. They are powerful white stones that seemingly come from an alternate world and carry as much power as an atom bomb. I love the mystery behind them because the manga doesn’t tell you a thing about them earlier on. Much of the Paradonites’ powers are gradually revealed when the characters confront their fears, which causes them to be taken advantage of by people who want to harness the stones’ potential. The manga leads to a climax that exemplifies the greed and desperate attempts people will resort to in order to gain more power and influence. In the end, the four individuals from the beginning seem to be in a better position than everyone else as they face an uncertain future.
If you’ve read and loved Junji Ito manga, you’ll definitely have a fun time with Black Paradox. This story keeps you on your toes and features not only gross-out body horror but also an unsettling psychological mystery.
Drip Drip — Paru Itagaki
Release: October 18, 2022
Translator: Tomo Kimura
Letterer: Stephen Dutro
Editor: Annette Roman
Recommended for fans of: Prison School, Sand Chronicles, and B Gata H-Kei
Viz describes the manga as:
Growing up, Mako Higari was taught about how dirty the world around her can be. It’s no wonder that when she comes into contact with something dirty, she has massive nosebleeds! Of course, this inconvenience has made her dating life hard, and now as an adult, Mako wants to find that meaningful, intimate relationship, even at the cost of bleeding out. Yet, no one can seem to accept Mako’s germaphobia or her massive nosebleeds. But perhaps Mako’s journey to love will be discovering to love herself.
Thoughts On The Manga
Paru Itagaki’s Drip Drip is a weird, if not slightly terrifying, tale about making connections, overcoming traumas, and finding acceptance of who you are. It’s a unique blend of horror, comedy, and romance that lends itself to a good character study of a person with an unusual disorder.
Mako Higari is a woman approaching her thirties and wants to find someone to have sex with. However, she gets massive nosebleeds whenever she touches anything “dirty,” including people. Her mother, after learning her husband cheated on her, grew obsessed with cleanliness when Mako was young. That obsessive disorder was passed onto Mako in her search for her true soulmate. With the amount of blood she loses throughout the story, I’m surprised she hasn’t been suffering from anemia.
Mako’s perspective on life is shaped by her father’s infidelity and her view that people put on perfect facades to seem innocent, only to reveal their ugly secrets in the end. In her own words, people are like “beasts in human clothing.” This harkens back to Itagaki’s Beastars, which also explores the ugly sides of seemingly stable anthropomorphized animals. Mako’s sentiment is proven true in the end as the story makes a great turn towards a gleeful bloody wedding. Having been duped by her lying philandering fiancée, Mako strengthens her resolve to value herself and live the life she wants in order to find her true love. Rather than trying to gain love and appreciation from others, she learns to live for herself and cut off the toxic love interests that have tricked her.
Another great aspect of Drip Drip is Itagaki’s individual character designs. Her art style lends itself to drawing characters with animal-like expressions. The facial details often feature large circular eyes for some characters or thin angular eyes for others. They also have wide, slightly protruding mouths that curve a certain way to the chin, along with long limbs and small pointed noses. Of course, I expect nothing less from a manga artist who wears a chicken mask in public and in the afterword of her own work.
Itagaki also has a strong penchant for nudity and taboos in this work. These elements demonstrate her openness in exploring outsider characters with free-spirited attitudes that go against the norm. We see this in the manga frequently when Mako nonchalantly bleeds a river of blood from her nose like it’s a normal occurrence, much to the horror of onlookers. She’s also often nude and exposes her nipples frequently in the manga, but it never feels erotic or flashy because the work is more concerned with focusing on Mako as a maturing character.
Drip Drip is a fun manga to read if you can get through its odd premise. You’ll feel sorry for Mako throughout the story, but also happy for her as she develops emotionally along the way. If you’ve just finished a Beastars binge, reading this manga is a good pit stop before checking out her next series.
Stick around for a bonus short story at the end as well called White Beard and Boobs. Despite the story’s title, it’s actually really wholesome and a nice way to prepare for the upcoming holiday season.