October 24, 2011

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Digging into Digital/10 Days of Halloween Horror Day 3: Digital Horror Manga

 Welcome to day three of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror 2011!  We'll be featuring horror-related reviews right up until the big day!  You can find the Halloween Horror posts for Panel Patter here, and don't forget to check out the Book Stew for book-book horror, too!

This is a very special edition of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror, because not only does it involve investigating the world of digital comics, it also crosses over with the Horror Manga edition of the Manga Movable Feast, hosted by my friend Lori Henderson.  The Manga Movable Feast is a chance for bloggers of all kinds to get together and discuss a particular manga, a manga-ka, or even a manga genre, in this case horror.  We've talked about everything from Barefoot Gen to Yotsuba&!, and opinions can range from the raving to the ranting, depending on the comic series being covered.  I'm really looking forward to see what kinds of hauntings are in store for the manga world this time!

For my primary contribution to the Feast, I thought I would take a moment to look at what was out there for the digital consumer who is interested in horror manga.  I talked a bit in last year's 10 Days of Halloween Horror about my favorite horror manga, and I was hoping that I could plug them again in this column, but staggeringly, only one of them has digital availability, and it's limited, at that.  (Note that, as always, I am referring to items available legally, not through the darknet.)

Still, there are some digital horror manga titles if you know where to look.  Here's a guide to some of the things I found.  This is by no means a complete list, but it's a start.  Try not to get too scared as you browse!

InuYasha is #$%# because he's iPad only!

Dark Horse


Unfortunately, the best Dark Horse horror manga isn't digitized yet because it's unflipped.  However, those looking for a story where there are elements of monsters but the theme is on romance should be well served by Bride of the Water God, which is a manhwa and therefore easily converted to the Dark Horse reader.  So far three volumes of the series are available, at a reasonable $5.99 each.  I really hope others are added once they can make the technology work.

Viz


Like Dark Horse, Viz has a lot of cool horror manga, but only just a bit of it is online right now.  Here are some that I am familiar with, and a bit of commentary:
OEL Horror can be good, too.


  • InuYasha might be the best known of Rumiko Takahashi's creations.  Despite Rin-Ne being available online to anyone with internet capabilities, this story of a girl linked by her past to a demon who acts quite a bit like Ranma is only available for the iPad.  If you have an iPad and haven't read this yet, I definitely recommend it.  PC only users, I'm afraid you're out of luck.  These are the VIZBIG editions, so they're $8.99 but give you three volumes at a time, which is definitely a great deal.
  • Bleach is the ongoing story of Ichigo, a teen with attitude issues who has a link to the supernatural world that allows him to see hollows, spirits of people who did bad things in life and now want to make matters worse. They're opposed by the Soul Society, with whom Ichigo becomes linked in ways that threaten to destroy his life and those he cares about.  It's popcorn manga, but I enjoy it.  Digital copies are $4.99 a piece, but honestly, there's a good chance your library has this.
  • Death Note is a manga I haven't read yet, but the premise sounds interesting.  A student gains the ability to kill people at will and uses it on the worst kind of people.  Kinda puts me in mind of Dexter. This is also a $4.99 title.

A story about the nature of friendship.
And of course, ghosts.
And a cat demon.

  •  Natsume's Book of Friends is, like Bride of the Water God, a horror title more in theme than in execution.  There are demons and ghosts and things, but the tone is nothing like, say, Uzumaki.  Natsume can see ghosts, and it ruins his life.  He finds the cause is an old relative who stole the names of many supernatural creatures.  With the help of a spirit in the form of a cat, Natsume wants to give them their names back.  If you liked Mushishi, I think you'll like this one a lot.  It's $4.99 a volume.
  • I know there are people who like Rosario+Vampire, but I am not one of them.  When fanservice involves students who aren't in college, I get turned off.  I did like the use of horror monsters, but in the end, I just felt too much of a skeevy vibe.  If that bothers you less than me, $4.99 will give you each volume, for both the original and its sequel.
  • Vampire Knight is certainly a horror manga as well, but I know absolutely nothing about it, sorry.  $4.99 will let you try it, though, if vampires in school is your thing.  I'm likely to pass, after my Rosario+Vampire experience.
JManga

JManga is new to the digital scene, and unfortunately, have not added a lot of comics to their catalog yet, unless you are charitable and count the many, many titles that are preview only or have nothing but the cover of the first trade.  However, here are a few horror-related titles that you can purchase.  Now is a good time, because they are all on sale,.  I can't speak for the quality of these titles, yet, having bought a few of them myself only recently.  Note that at this time, JManga is web-only, with no iPad ability.  Yet.
  • Urameshiya features one of my favorite horror manga concepts, the wandering supernatural investigator.  I'm told this installment does not require more than one volume to read, so it's safe in case JManga doesn't digitize the rest.  It's on sale for $4.99 right now.
  • Devil King is a four volume series that reminds me a bit of the premise of Frankenstein, in that a man tries to do what is generally left only to God.  I like it enough to get the whole series while its on sale, but you can try a volume or two for $4.99 each right now.
  • Pieces of a Spiral is another title I know nothing about, but with the idea of supernatural souls fighting the good fight, I figure it's worth including here.  It's also $4.99 during the sale.
  • I absolutely disliked Black Sun, Silver Moon but I don't think I was the intended audience.  It's got Dom-Sub themes mixed with priests and they have to fight off zombie hordes.  I was bored with it quickly, but if you're more into vague boy's love and zombies, it might be worth a look at $4.99.
  • CMX title The Young Magician gets a digital license rescue here at JManga, and the reviews were favorable enough that I'm going to give it a try.  You can, too, for $4.99.
  • I found nothing good about Kagome Kagome, which appears to have a supernatural club set in a high school.  Wanna test your luck?  It's $4.99, too.
  • Vampire Portrait's cover says all you need to know.  It's about gay vampires!  We've never seen that before!  $4.99 gets you what I bet is more of the same.  Go for it if you wanna.

eManga

I don't read a lot of things from eManga, because they tend to run towards more yaoi, and it's just not something I'm all that interested in.  I did a search for Supernatural, and they have 20 titles listed in the catalog, most of which fall under the boy's love/yaoi category (including Vampire Portrait for $3.50 instead of $4.99).  Vampire Hunter D is probably the most well-known of the titles listed, but I can't say I was a big fan when I sampled it a few years back.  They're worth a look for your digital horror needs, but I do not think I'm the best person to guide you there.  Note that at this time, eManga is web only, no iPad.

Kodansha Comics

Kodansha is iPad only at this time.  Sorry, PC users.  You're not missing much right now, because they only have four titles at this time.  Until the Full Moon looks like it's more about relationships than horror, but it does feature a supernatural theme, so I'll include it here.  I have no personal interest, but at least Kodansha has the good sense to make their volumes $4.99 a piece if you are so inclined.

A gorgeous manhwa that's light
on horror but easy on the eyes.
Yen Press

Like Kodansha, Yen Press is iPad only.  I'm not a fan of that approach, but that's okay, because Yen's prices are way too high for my taste, anyway.  I shouldn't be paying paper prices for digital manga that is still in print.  So while I personally would not get these comics digitally, if you're less hung up on price than I am, here are some ideas:

  • Highschool of the Dead is probably out for me for the same reason as Rosario+Vampire, but I hear that if you can stand the fan service, the story is actually pretty enjoyable.  This is $8.99 digitally for a sexy zombie fight.
  • Jack Frost looks interesting to me.  A high school where supernatural things are occurring, and the only hope may be a seemingly irredeemable student.  But not at $8.99.
  • Nightschool  was on my list of best comics in 2010.  It's set in a school but doesn't have issues with inappropriate sexiness.  We get a lot of creatures both familiar and new, a mystery that keeps you guessing, and good OEL art.  The ending is a bit weak, but that's forgivable.  Definitely recommended, so if you're going to pay $8.99, this is the one to do it for.
  • I guess I'll list Witch & Wizard here, but what I read of it was terrible, emo, and cliched.  Not worth the industry standard $4.99, let alone $8.99
I realize that may look like a lot of comics, but it's really not.  There are so many other, good horror manga titles.  This list features a lot of dubious entries, making it look better than it is.  Come on, publishers--start digitizing more horror manga!  I'd love to revisit this list next year, with more (and better) comics!

Enjoy your Manga Movable Feast, and be sure to stop back for more of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror!