I thought this manga wasn't going to be scanlated until the end for real, but I'm glad it was. I read Baptism for the first time a long time ago, and I planned on dropping it because I couldn't find the fourth chapter in English. A few days ago, however, I realized that it has been translated. I finished it and I guess I could say that it was a breathtaking ride.
Baptism is grotesque, surreal and thrilling, just like Umezu Kazuo's other manga. It's impossible not to binge read - for me, at least. I thought it was going to be some boring,
ordinary classic manga. But my first impressions tend to prove me false. Baptism somehow mirrors how humans can be lunatic and delirious when they're obsessed with something (in this case, beauty).
Let's start off with the story. I don't know what's inside Umezu's head, but for someone to be able to think of a plot this excellent, he must be quite of a genius. This manga doesn't even fit to the fantasy genre, but it has a lot of things that are clearly wouldn't be able to happen in our real world. As I said, Baptism is surreal. It was the disturbing kind of surreal. It was extremely disturbing, both because of the thrill and violence. For the thrill, though, it was impossible not to binge read. Each chapter has a lot of pages (that's how it is online, I don't know about the actual manga), so finishing one chapter could take a bit...but you could read it in one sitting and don't even notice. I always want to know what happens next, because hanging myself at the end of the chapter is just not possible. I could only say some quick things about the violence, because I don't want to spoil. They weren't exactly gruesome, but bloody, yes. There are a few gross non-bloody moments too, mind you. Aside from that, I could say that the whole story is mindblowing, and if I have time, I might as well re-read it. It was amazingly messed up.
For the art, well, we all know his classic style. I like it. The characters look real. The expressions look quite realistic too. Yeah. Literally the only realistic thing in this manga is the art.
The characters, well, I don't really see any character development. I am just amused of how each of them have their own personality, mindset and point of view - and they are all scary.
Izumi, who thought of killing her own daughter for the sake of restoring her beauty and youth. Sakura - Izumi's daughter, who was so shocked that she began to hallucinate and do horrible things. Ryouko, who was too loyal that she would run any errands, no matter how horrible for Sakura. Mr Tanigawa, who literally had a romantic relationship with a little girl even though he had a wife and a child. The reporter (I forgot his name) who acted so recklessly.
I personally think they are characterized very well done. This is not a seinen manga in which everyone is nice. Seeing that this is a thriller manga, a 'kind-hearted' character is not really that necessary. Every single character disturbs me.
In other words, if you like pseudo-horror and thriller manga and if you like Umezu Kazuo's other works, this one is a must.
I just finished reading Baptism and saw that there was no review for it, so I decided to write one myself.
Baptism, or Senrei (in the Japanese name) was created by Umezu Kazou, the famous and old horror mangaka who inspired many other horror mangaka like Junji Ito, but I have never read any manga from Umezu Kazou before, so I went in without any expectations. I'm saying this, because despite the promising first few chapters, Baptism was overall a letdown, primarily because it was ruined by the sudden "plot twists" that came in the last volume, up until then it was fine or even
decent. I'm not going to go into any spoilers, but if you, like myself, hate the whole "it was all in your head" or "you were just imagining it the whole time", then it is pretty likely that you will not like Baptism.
Now Baptism is a "horror" manga, the reason I put horror into quotation marks, is because there is nothing really scary about this manga, if you are looking a frightening or chilling read, then Baptism won't give you that kind of experience. Instead of being scary, Baptism is more gross and unsettling, there is a lot of messed up stuff going in it that might make you uncomfortable, but not scared. The basic gist of the story is that there was a beautiful actress who was so scared of losing her beauty and growing old to the point that she had gone insane, this mad woman wanted a way to stop herself from going ugly like everyone else, so she has given birth to a young daughter, Sakura, who grew up without knowing that she would be the sacrifice for her mother's everlasting beauty and youth......
Theme-wise the basic story is about human greed and selfishness, how much a person would be willing to trample others just for the sake of her own happiness, but in the last volume this theme suddenly changes to the dangers of beliefs and imagination, which was a pretty bullshit turn of events, mainly because it did not fit the narrative of the earlier volumes. In fact, due to the revelation made in the last volume, the story outright becomes contradictory and paradoxical, since earlier events do not line up with the later plot twist, however I am unable to talk about these without spoiling the manga, so I shall leave it be.
The second biggest weak point of the manga are its characters, there is not much to say regarding them, there are only 2-3 important characters and a few side characters, all of them are equally simple and shallow. The story is told from the viewpoint of the protagonist, who is also the villain of the story, which is also the primary reason why the manga is not scary, you know everything that is going to happen and everything that the villain is going to do, since the story is told from her viewpoint there isn't really much of a suspense or mystery.
The protagonist is highly one dimensional in her selfishness, she doesn't really care about anyone else, thus its very hard to like her or empathize with her, but then again you are not supposed to root for the villain.
The other characters are not any better, its hard to care for any of them due to the fact that they suffer from chronic stupidity, as it is typical from horror characters. Indeed, had the side characters possess any semblance of intelligence, the villain could have been apprehended much earlier, but instead of that, the characters regularly made stupid decisions that real people wouldn't make, which is what prolonged their suffering. I would even call certain characters unrealistic, like the X year old little girl who was willing to help the villain commit murders due to some retarded loyalty that no real person, especially not an X year old little girl would possess. And then there is also the other X year old schoolgirl who decided to play detective (because none of the adults would do it) and almost ends up getting killed because of it. Speaking of adults, they are useless for the most part and don't really act like adults would do, which really bothered me during the manga.
The few good things I can say about this manga have to do with art and enjoyment. First off, the art looks really good, so good that upon looking at it, you wouldn't even be able to tell that it was made in 1974, of course it might still fall short to the art of modern manga, but considering the time it was made and comparing it to its contemporary manga, it looks very well made. While the manga itself as I said wasn't particularly scary, the few chilling moments it had, was primarily thanks to the skilled artwork. Other than this, the manga is relatively short and since the pacing is also fast, it can be finished it in an hour if not less, and despite its shortcomings, the story is at the very least interesting enough that you will want to see how the manga will end.