Short Horror Manga Lightning Reviews

Content warnings: Varies; see individual series below. Some are worse/more intense than others so be safe!

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I like dark and unusual content, but a lot of times, it's difficult to find things that actively interest me. I guess 'difficult' isn't necessarily correct, but it does involve a fair amount of digging around random rabbit holes and finding recommendations from people who already liked the same sort of things I did. That being said, I open up my horizons a bit wider for things that won't take me that long to read or watch. I'll sit through a dozen or so chapters of something that might not be exactly my cup of tea in order to parse through it and see if I get anything out of it, and to be honest, that's what I do with a lot of dark media - grab the stuff I think is thought-provoking or cool, file it away for my perusal or use later, and then ditch the rest of it. I kind of enjoy this method of consuming media, because I end up finding some really interesting and disturbing bits and pieces throughout things I might not have otherwise tried if they were longer, and then I literally just forget about whatever parts didn't resonate with me. Win-win.

 I recently started making heavy use of the recommendation features on AniList, and wow, there are a LOT of things on there that catch my attention at first glance. How many of them are good or worth reading? That remains to be seen. What I will say, though, is that anything that catches my eye and clocks in at around 20 chapters or under is fair game. I can spend an hour of my time on a manga that turns out to be mediocre, I don't mind - maybe I'll find something really unique buried in the middle of it! So, this page will be a list of short (around 20 chapters or under) manga that I've read with some quick thoughts about them. Please pay attention to content warnings, and also do more research if necessary before you plan to read them, since I may miss some things!

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12/13/22

Bijo Amanda/Beautiful Amanda (2008) by Rei Mikamoto
Chapters:
5.5
Content warnings: Nudity, gore, attempted sexual assault (chapter 3)
Recommended: I say yes! I really liked it anyway, lol.

Yay, another manga for this page that I genuinely liked! I've been reading Chimamire Sukeban Chainsaw (NSFW) by the same author and honestly having a wildly fun time with it, more than I expected to. Rei Mikamoto's art is super appealing to me; it's all huge eyes, long lashes, violence that's supremely exaggerated but not realistic enough to be off-putting (at least for me). It can also be very squishy, round and cute, too, when he draws chibi style characters. Anyway, I think his art is very fun, and his brand of violence is creative and fun, too. His stuff is definitely not for everyone (read: naked women everywhere and frequent references to assault), but I think this collection is a good, mild introduction to what his work is like, based on what else I've seen/read by him.

Bijo Amanda is a collection of five horror one-shots. In the first chapter, a group of high schoolers visit an old man and his wife to write a newspaper article about them, only to discover that his wife is an obsessive and murderous being. In the second, a lonely boy who spends his time drawing beautiful, imaginary women is approached by a real girl, but his artwork gets in the way. In the third chapter, a young girl takes a job as a maid in a house with a strict punishment system.

The fourth chapter is about two elementary school students who become friends with Amemiya-san, a spirit who takes friendship extremely seriously, in order to get access to her magical belongings. Finally, the last chapter introduces Iida-san, an elementary school lunch lady. She cares deeply for the children and wants to do everything in her power to keep them well-fed and happy. I might be biased because I came into this manga already enjoying his other work, but I think he's got a lot of creative ideas and manages to keep them entertaining from start to finish. He's probably the type of author where you will either really vibe with his work, or check out of it pretty quickly if it's not your thing.

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12/02/22

Fear Infection (2006) by Ochazuke Nori

Chapters: 9
Content warnings: Body horror, gore, child abuse, extreme dental gore
Recommended?: Probably a pass.

None of these shorts were exactly 'excellent,' but I wasn't bored while reading them, that's for sure. Nori's art style is sort of simplistic, and his characters' bodies are quite disproportionate; it felt very unique and enhanced the tone of the stories. I liked the overall look of the collection.

A lot of the shorts had sort of underwhelming or open-ended conclusions, or suddenly changed tone right at the end, which made them feel a little weak to me. There were ones that I liked, though; the building tension in the first one-shot was compelling, and "Paper God" was a fun excercise in exaggerating and creating horror out of something unexpected. That one reminded me of a short story by David Lubar about maple leaves that I read as a kid (it's in one of his Weenie books, but I don't remember which one - maybe Lawnmower Weenies?). "Rat Egg" was kind of a sweet story in a way. "Ghost Club" had a gore scene in it that was really not that explicit in what it showed, but it was so inventive that it makes me cringe hardcore even thinking about it.

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11/26/22

Man Eater (1997) by Takahashi Yousuke
Chapters: 11
Content warnings: Nudity, cannibalism, gore, body horror, fatphobia, parasites, infestation, self-harm/suicide, eye and mouth gore, pregnancy/abortion themes, infant death, one use of a swastika in a joking manner
Recommended?: Yes!

Happy to report that I read another collection of Takahashi Yousuke's work and he did not disappoint! These one-shots are definitely a lot more gruesome than the ones in Tetsunagi Oni (just look at all those content warnings, lol!) but man, they were all really enjoyable. I love love love his artwork so much, and his sense of ironic humor is delightfully twisted. It pushes the edge a bit, but I still find it very charming. I love dark content that still has a mostly light or humorous tone throughout; if you can nail that ambience, then I'm on board.

Every chapter was engaging throughout. Takahashi really has a great sense of pacing, and his concepts are so delightfully out there. My favorites in the collection were "Whatever You Like" and "Twin Love". "Peas in a Pod" and "Kitsune" were also quite fun. I enjoyed how the first and last stories bookended the collection with strangely similar but reversed themes. Also, the last one-shot collection should take note; THIS is how you open a collection with a baby-horror themed chapter. The endings are both fundamentally the same in both this collection and the last one, but this one landed.

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11/10/22

Shoujo Kaitai/Dissecting Girls (2015) by Kaburagi Saiko
Chapters: 8
Content warnings: Incest, fetuses/abortion themes, gore, cannibalism
Recommended?: No, not worth the time.

Man, I really wanted this to be good. Unfortunately, it wasn't. I read it entirely because the cover (an idol girl getting vivisected while still singing and smiling) made it look cool and cute and interesting, but it was pretty much thoroughly disappointing - I'm probably being harsh, but I did indeed judge this book by its cover, and it did not give me what I wanted.

Shoujo Kaitai is a series of eight one-shots that all revolve around girls getting torn apart in one way or another. It starts out with probably the worst possible choice of the eight that it could have started with, which is about a pregnant middle schooler and her infertile aunt, who carries around a baby doll and pretends that its her daughter. Listen, that could make for a really tense and engaging story, but that is absolutely not what happens - it just kind of spits out some weird anti-abortion rhetoric (??) and then uses fetuses for shock value that doesn't land. If the collection wasn't so short I wouldn't have bothered reading the rest of it. I just think this is the type of story you should stick in the middle of your collection, not open it up with, unless you can make sure it's effective. (It really was not.)

Most of the other one-shots share the same problem - they have a premise with some potential, but they just meander too long, or they don't stick the landing. The second chapter is the idol dissection, and I kind of liked that one, even if it was on the nose and kind of mediocre. Chapters three and four are about a family that has children who can consistently regrow their flesh, and the family is addicted to eating pieces of their body. Like, how do you mess up a premise like that?? The fifth chapter, Wishing Doll, was alright I guess - it could have ended a lot sooner. Chapter six could have benefitted from a more subtle touch on the gore and I think it would have been pretty good - it's just two short 'nightmares' that a kid has. The seventh one was a little cheesy, nothing to write about. The last story honestly could have been really cool, and I didn't entirely hate it, it just got muddled along the way - a girl wishes for things, and they're manifested from inside her body. The very last page is honestly pretty spooky the more I think about it. Anyway, this one is a big 'skip' in my opinion.

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10/31/22

Fetish (2004) by Fujiwara Kaoru
Chapters: 5
Content warnings: Nudity, rape, parental incest, genital torture, abortion/child abandonment (?)
Recommended?: No.

Last time, I picked up a manga just based on the artstyle; this time, I picked one up just based on the name. I'm not really sure what I expected from it, and I didn't do any research beforehand because it was so short, so I just blazed through it in about 15 minutes. Fetish is a series of one-shots that are, for the most part, centered around relationships that lean towards the obsessive. They're not 'horror', but the dark content makes it pretty jarring and uncomfortable to read. Fujiwara Kaoru's art is pretty gorgeous, but the stories themselves either lean just slightly too ephemeral (Our Vast Loneliness, Fetish) or too shocking without real content (All of Sully/Lily, Airport) to really be successful. The one chapter I did enjoy was Love Letter, which wouldn't have felt out of place as a Junji Ito one-shot if it was just slightly shorter.

Our Vast Loneliness is honestly quite interesting, but it seems like the type of story that would benefit from a re-read, so I might end up doing that. The storytelling in that chapter is choppy and a little hard to follow on purpose. Love Letter was simple but effective, telling the story of a woman who recently had surgery to restore her eyesight, but sees a 'ghost' of herself wherever she goes. All of Sully/Lily, the third one-shot, is just gross and creepy for unenjoyable reasons - it's about a scientist who has a torturous, incestous relationship with a clone of his daughter. Something like that could have been interesting if approached the right way, but it was just too gratuitous and I didn't feel any sense of depth to it.

Airport, the fourth chapter, is very short and abrupt - a taxi driver drops off a pregnant woman at an airport. The final chapter, Fetish, deals with a man who has a fetish for injured woman. It's an interesting subject matter and was honestly an alright one-shot, but seemed a little unsure of itself, like it was too afraid to really 'go for' the opportunities a theme like that could bring. I could be being too hard on the manga, honestly, since it's more psychological than full-on horror, but still.

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10/20/22

Jigoku (2000) by Nishioka Kyoudai

Chapters: 12

Content warnings: Nudity, sexual content, stylized violence, domestic abuse

Recommended?: If you like art-for-the-sake-of-art/"fake deep" media, or looking at cool pictures, then yes; otherwise, no.

 

I will be completely honest, I picked this manga up entirely based on visuals. I had stumbled upon another manga by the same pair (a brother and sister team) that looked gorgeous, but after reading a summary I decided it pushed things too far for me and I would rather leave it unread. Instead I picked out one or two of their other works to toss onto my reading list.

Like the last entry, Jigoku is a collection of twelve unrelated one-shots. However, instead of being fully fledged short stories, they're more like eerie glimpses into an uncomfortable dream world. It never gets 'scary', but it's definitely a little dark. Since the story telling is so fluid and dreamlike, I never really got a solid foothold into the manga, and honestly read it so fast that it was more like I skimmed it. The Nishioka siblings' artwork is fascinating, so if unique art styles are your thing, it might be worth a cursory glance just for that. If you need a good plot to be interested in a story, though, definitely pick another manga. If I had to pick a favorite/standout chapter, it would be "The Woman With No Face". I do plan on reading some of their other works eventually to get a better grasp on what they're like as creators, because they definitely have a really interesting artistic vision.

 

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10/19/22

Tetsunagi Oni (1999) by Takahashi Yousuke

Chapters: 12

Content warnings: Some gore, nudity, and slight body horror (just in case)

Recommended?: Yes! 10/10 tbh.

 

I really, really loved this! Tetsunagi Oni is a collection of twelve different one-shots, and every single one was unique and engaging. A lot of them have a very urban legend/folktale vibe to them, which was super refreshing and enjoyable. There's also a surprising amount of humor splashed in, keeping the atmosphere very light throughout the work and making sure that the spooky parts don't go too far.

 

I absolutely adore the art style throughout. It's so satisfying. Some of the chapters call to mind 60's-70's manga where the side characters and monsters often have extremely exaggerated facial features, while the main characters are very soft and rounded, but the thing that really caught my attention is how pronounced the eyelashes are. I'm a sucker for any artstyle with that trait!

 

It's a very quick read and I definitely recommend it! Twelve short stories with interesting themes, some humorous plot twists, and a very lovely art style that prevents anything from getting too dark. I definitely want to check out his other works, too!

 

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10/07/22

Pygmalion (2015) by Chihiro Watanabe
Chapters: 19
Content warnings: Gore, slight body horror, violent sexual assault (chapters 8-10), gore/violence/torture happening to a child
Recommended?: Not particularly, though it had some interesting ideas in it towards the second half.

Pygmalion is a pretty short and speedy read, very well condensed and self-contained. During a large mascot festival, the costumes suddenly come to life and begin gruesomely killing and eating everyone in the crowd. The protagonist, Keigo, is separated from his little brother Makoto during the chaos. He eventually finds him torn to pieces, seemingly dead - but Makoto gets back up, with half of his face merged with that of a plush mascot. Keigo, Makoto, their friend Ako, and a group of other characters try to survive the onslaught while getting to the bottom of the mascots' origins.

The 'killer toy/mascot' trope is so overdone by now that Pygmalion, from the onset, kind of suffers from that being its premise. Like, oh no, we get it, cute happy thing kills people!! Keeping it short was a good call, since I think it would get repetitive and boring if it went on for too long. The first few chapters feel a little stiff because the concept has been done to death, but there are a few gory moments that are charming and unique in their grotesqueness and give the mascots their own personalities - like a doll-type character wearing a 'dress' made of torn-up women. By the second half, I was interested enough that I would have liked to see the lore/explanations extended a bit further, but what we get is satisfactory and serves its purpose to finish up the story with a nice little bow. The story was just long enough for there to be callbacks/bookends that were thematically effective.

Keigo and Makoto's relationship gets just enough development for the reader to care about them as siblings, and feel for them. Honestly, the other characters all felt pretty fleshed out, too, for how little time the manga actually has, but the stand out character is the 'antagonist' who seems to have a hand in the mascots' actions. Once that character is properly introduced, the rest of the manga goes down smoothly, and there are even a few plot developments that were both interesting and made sense, a hard combination to achieve sometimes.

I honestly really liked the art in this! There are some really great panels where the author can showcase the depth of emotion he can show on a character's face. There were some expressions that honestly felt very real, and made me slow down a little bit, letting me get a bit more invested in the story and the characters' experiences. The only part I didn't like was one particular mascot introduced in chapter 8, which assaults its victims before killing them. It's used to show that each mascot has its own idea of fun/what it wants to do to people, but it was pretty gratuitious and didn't seem to fit the tone of the rest of the manga.

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10/05/22

Litchi ☆ Hikari Club (2005) and Bokura no ☆ Hikari Club (2011) by Usamaru Furuya
Chapters: 9 (Litchi) + 12 (Bokura) for a total of 21
Content warnings (oof): Sexual violence (including towards a child), misogyny, extreme gore (especially near the end), Nazi imagery and themes (more explicit in Bokura), cult themes, explicit sexual acts between underage characters, prolonged eye gore in Bokura, homophobia (?)
Recommended?: I could not in good conscience recommend this to anybody, research and decide for yourself if you want to read it.

Another example of my 'I heard about this, read the whole thing, and then wrote a review of it in the span of 12 hours' trend that I seem to be repeating on the dark side of this website. There are just some pieces of media that are so unique/dark/wild/etc. that I need to talk about them pretty much as soon as I've finished them.

Litchi Hikari Club, or Lychee Light Club, is about a cult of middle school boys who worship their leader, Zera, and follow his every command. Zera is disgusted by adults, and vows that the Litchi Hikari Club will never follow in their footsteps, instead focusing all of their energy on preserving the beauty of youth. The Hikari Club's main focus is to build a robot named Lychee, who will carry out their orders - the first of which is to kidnap a girl to serve as the club's Queen.

That's the plot on paper, but it almost immediately devolves into the web of interconnected jealousy, violence, and confused feelings that the members of the Hikari Club hold for each other. The Club cannot withstand this infighting, and begins to break down, taking the members down along with the organization itself. It's quite an... interesting read, if you can get past the content? I will say that much. I didn't really enjoy reading it, but it made me go, "Hm," a few times. It feels a little bit like just checking off a bucket list piece of media or a shock site, like, "now I can say that I've done that." I'm also going to do what's called a 'pro gamer move' and compare it to two other things that I've never actually read, namely Lord of the Flies and A Clockwork Orange. Also, the overall tone kind of seemed like what would happen if the characters in Pretty Boy Detective Club were barely containing years' worth of pent-up violent ideation.

Litchi Hikari Club kind of just throws things at you too fast for you to really get invested, and treats you more like an unfortunate bystander, just watching as things happen and reacting to them. Bokura no Hikari Club, however, is a prequel, and further details the relationships of the boys starting from the very beginning of the Hikari Club. Bokura is paced much better, and because of that, I was able to get invested in the tragedy that the original kind of zoomed past. Bokura also shows more of the thought process behind the cult's beliefs and the uncomfortable way that Zera gets his grip on the other boys over time. For anybody who does get all the way through Litchi Hikari Club and isn't immediately 100% disturbed, I think the prequel is required reading - in fact, I kind of feel like 'Litchi' is more of a preface you just kind of sit through in order to enjoy (? not the right word) the deeper look into the story that 'Bokura' offers. Litchi by itself might not be worth reading for much more than some (honestly pretty shocking) gore, but as a pair, it's much more valuable as a piece of media.

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10/02/22

The Bug Boy (1975) by Hideshi Hino
Chapters: 12
Content warnings: Body horror, bad things happening to a child
Recommended?: If you like vintage horror manga, yes.

Oddly enough, I've known about this manga since I was 9 or 10, because it was mentioned in a manga guidebook my mom got for me. This particular image was the one they used to preview it. It always kind of freaked me out, but I didn't think about it much more than that until I stumbled upon it in AniList and vaguely recalled hearing about it.

The Bug Boy is about a young boy named Sanpei, who is bullied in school for his unusual interests and appearance, and beaten at home for his failure to perform academically. Sanpei would much rather spend time playing with bugs, rats, and snakes than be around other human beings. One day, he gets stung by a strange caterpillar, and undergoes a painful and horrifying transformation, ultimately becoming a mirror of the strange caterpillar himself. At first, Sanpei is thrilled with his new body and his new life, but things don't stay happy for long.

At risk of making the one obvious comparison that everyone will make, this manga reminded me a lot of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, which is a book I loved. The version of The Metamorphosis I read discussed the text as an allegory for the mistreatment of the physically disabled and mentally ill, and there are definitely shades of that theme in The Bug Boy, even if that's not the overall 'point'. I found the first half or so of the manga much stronger than the second half, when the focus was still on Sanpei's mistreatment at the hands of others, and the audience was intended to feel sympathetic for him - once the focus changed, the story's weight quickly fell away for me, but I do still find the first half quite impactful.

Hino's art style is, in some ways, almost 'goofy', but I say that with the utmost respect. I really adore the look of his work and I plan to read more soon. He ups the ante on grotesqueness when it's called for, mostly when Sanpei is bedridden and his body is falling apart during his transformation, and the disparity between those scenes and the sort of charming style otherwise makes those panels much more impactful. That being said, it's still very clearly cartoony, so don't worry too much there.

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