Halloween is only a few days away and especially with this storm coming in on the East Coast, the notorious feeling of spooks and haunts is finally settling in. As such, it’s only appropriate that I review a proper horror manga full of its own demons and horrors. This week, let’s look at Housui Yamazaki’s Mail.
Somewhat similar to Junji Ito’s Museum of Terror, rather than focusing on one large overarching story Mail instead looks at several cases from different people (or undead, as the case may be at times) only threaded together by the persistent, mysterious detective/exorcist, Reiji Akiba. Even then, you couldn’t really say that the manga has a plot besides dispatching the “monster of the week”. There are snippets of story—such as Akiba’s background—thrown throughout the chapters, but as it seems that there are only three volumes of this manga there’s really not enough room for anything substantial. However, I would say that the characters themselves are not vital to this story—this probably about the only time you’ll hear me say this.
Even when we delve into how Akiba used to be blind and how his childhood friend was murdered (and he found her severed head, that’s fun), the reader can infer how the events affected his character, but it’s a low-key way. That is to say, Akiba doesn’t really have much of a personality because Mail isn’t about Akiba, it’s about the ghosts. And damned if it doesn’t give them the glory they deserve.
My spooky meter is a little adjusted to the higher end, but some of these stories I still find unsettling. For example, there’s a story about a woman who stays in a hotel to seemingly draw the mysterious ghost haunting the room she reserves. It takes a twist (I use the term loosely because it basically gives it away on the first page) when it’s discovered that the ghost is a toddler and the woman is his mother who killed him in an attempted suicide-murder. There are, of course, the essential ghosts that follow unsuspecting people home and the ghosts that stalk their prey through cell phones, but to Yamazaki’s credit there are a wonderful variety of stories and he was able to end the series before it had a chance to get hokey or repetitive.
Personally, I find the art style very striking as well as it edges towards the more realistic. Along with this though, the art sometimes reaches the NSFW level, so I would tread lightly if you’re offended by boobs.
So, make sure to enjoy your tricks and treats while keeping tabs on the storm and don’t forget to read a good ghost story or two (or three, or four…)!