When I was a kid, I was over at a friend’s house and found a magazine with a bunch of comics in it. As I started looking through it, I found a horrifying comic. I’d never really seen a comic like it before, and was really freaked out by what I saw.
Even today, a decade and some change later, I remember sitting in the back of my family’s minivan on the way home with those images still in my head, more than a little shaken.
Guess what happens next.
This week I found out that the comic that had scared me so much as a kid is called Parasyte, a manga about alien parasites that take over human bodies and kill and eat people.
I read through it recently and was kind of underwhelmed. Even though I remember Parasyte being so freaky and unnerving when I was a kid, it doesn’t have the same effect on me now.
Although Parasyte isn’t the scariest horror manga out there, it taught me early on how manga can really scare you and shake you up.
For Halloween week, I decided to look into more horror manga and explore the different Japanese artists who frighten us to our core.
I don’t think that many people would be very scared of Shigeru Mizuki’s manga, but he has to be included in any conversation about manga featuring the spooky and supernatural.
Mizuki is most famous for his manga ゲゲゲの鬼太郎, or GeGeGe no Kitaro. It’s a story about a boy trying to bring peace between the warring worlds of humans and supernatural beings.
Kitaro is about as scary as Casper the Friendly Ghost, but what is lacks in creepiness it makes up for in traditional Japanese folklore. There’s probably no other manga that’s so full of different obake, or Japanese monsters and spirits.
Over the years, Kitaro has gone through (approximately) a billion iterations, from manga to anime to live-action features. Kitaro isn’t the scariest manga out there by a long shot, but it’s still very near and dear to most Japanese.
Kazuo Umezu is another old-school manga artist. Besides being known for dressing like he’s starring in Where’s Waldo?, Umezu has been making manga for decades.
His most famous work is The Drifting Classroom, an eerie story of a school miraculously transported into a post-apocalyptic future. Separated from their families, the kids and teachers begin to snap, grow paranoid, and drift apart.
It’s a chilling world that Umezu has created, and one that’s resonated for the forty-some years since its release.
The Drifting Classroom was also made into a laughable, English-language movie in the 80s that pretty much destroys the eerie atmosphere that Umezu worked to build. But let’s not talk about that.
We wrote a whole post about Junji Ito last year, but he’s still worth mentioning here.
There’s a reason he’s so iconic and such a favorite of mine. His stories and art are bleak and convey a sense of hopelessness that’s hard to shake.
Ito’s created classics like Uzumaki (which was made into an awful movie), Gyo, and The Enigma of Amigara Fault.
You can read our whole post about Ito here.
Hideshi Hino really stands out from a lot of other manga artists; his art style is radically different from what you normally expect out of manga. His characters are simple, cartoony, and he’s all but thrown anatomy out the window.
Even though Hino’s art looks less realistic than most manga artist, the effect is that it’s more frightening. Something about these inhuman characters doing such horrifying things seems to take it to the next level.
Hino’s more than a manga artist; he also directed and starred in a movie in the infamous Guinea Pig horror movie series. The movie, Flower of Flesh and Blood is so gory and realistic that, before his life became the train wreck that it is today, Charlie Sheen reported the movie to the FBI because he thought it was all real.
About all I want to show you of Flower of Flesh and Blood
Needless to say, we can’t really show you anything from Flower of Flesh and Blood, so use your imagination. Think Cannibal Holocaust and you’re probably pretty close.
This is just a small dose of all of the horror manga out there. There were some artists whose art was so gory and graphic that I decided against putting them in this post, and I’m sure there are a ton of incredible artists that I’m completely unaware of.
What’s your favorite horror manga? Who’s your favorite artist? Let us know!