Synonyms: Voices in the Dark, The Dark Drinks Blood, Blood-sucking Darkness, The Ghosts of Golden Time, Roar of Ages, Mystery of the Haunted House, Glyceride, Greased, The Earth-bound People, The Call of the Condemned
Yami no Koe was published in Spanish by Ediciones Tomodomo in July 2016. The one-shot Glyceride was published in English as Greased by VIZ Media as part of Shiver: Junji Ito Selected Stories on December 19, 2017.
"Worth finishing up but don't expect anything much"
This being my first Junji Itou manga, his artwork drew me in because it was either more Western or it had a more conservative action POV panel style than most mangas I'm used to.
It's also the first horror comic I really tried following through and finishing but most of that is due to the blessings of the internet making these types of works easier to find and finish.
This newness is probably what convinced me to rate the art this good and yet be more critical of the manga's story even if it was already touted as a set
of short stories.
The art first off doesn't appeal to me. It's not scary and it makes these stories feel more like a children's folktale and it doesn't feel like the artist is interested so much in the horror as much as telling a cautionary fictional urban legend.
It's worth mentioning this bit because the plot highly relies on this art style and it's not a case where I'm saying this so that readers might know how the art looked to me as much as it is a warning to people planning to read this to avoid digging on if the artwork doesn't work for them because the rest of the quality of this manga highly relies on the artwork keeping you anticipated for the next page.
This is why even if the artwork didn't work for me I rate it a 9 over the story's 6 because this is the type of manga where the art elevates the interest of the story to the point that the story only works because the art is there and while an art change in my opinion could help boost the quality of this manga, I cannot deny that this specific style gives the manga a special essence that makes it memorable by virtue of being rarely done this way as an overall package.
How the essence stacks up though I have no other similar horror mangas to compare to but this is the core of why I finished this manga. The art is just eye catching enough that even if it doesn't appeal to me, it makes me want to see the whole thing through.
On the flip side though, I can almost guarantee that this is among the more mediocre horror mangas out there even without viewing anything else. The reason I say this is because the theme of the stories attempt to evoke mystery at the end but unfortunately it not only does an abrupt job of doing this but it has a bad habit of mixing the climax with the conclusion.
To expand on this flaw, the plots are so rushed that if you were more engaged with the story unlike me, you'd probably be surprised that at certain points in a story, it was extended when it could have ended and then vice versa, you'd have stories where you're surprised it ended at the point it ended.
This normally would be an issue of lowering the story's rating if not for the fact that the stories are actually interesting. Right off the bat if your experience of Asian horror stories involve more mainstream things like The Ring for movies or Fatal Frame for videogames, you'd at least recognized that all of the short stories here are far far more original, morally superior in terms of a folk tale warning and finally much much more satisfying to consume as far as general storytelling is concerned.
This doesn't mean much though when it's still not scary just like those two examples and yet it's genre and design is supposed to be horror. Compound that with the rushed conclusions then it's really more of an ambitious but poorly done set of short horror stories with good intentions.
But...again this is where the artwork and the plot hugs each other so well that despite these shortcomings, it's worth picking up and had I found this and read it from a tankobon or comic book instead of on my PC, I'd have rated it higher.
It's just the type of guilty pleasure comic that works well alongside a set of weekly American superhero comics that I couldn't afford/be interested in investing in but when judged relative to the type of quantity and information available on the internet (even if one were to assume there was no piracy/online uploading and it's just relative to other mangas being sold online) it just doesn't retain it's quality very well because of the lack of the portable feel mixed with the fact that you could have been better off checking something other than this instead and all the uniqueness of the plot and the art melding together...all it did was just crash you down to a disappointing and unanswered fictional mystery that neither horrified nor made a mark on your soul because of the lack of a certain quality of conclusion, climax or completion to the tales contained inside.
Not exactly Ito's strongest output, but not without merit. While the anthology consisting of 7 short stories does feature some of the author's best work, it's not the go-to volume to get acquainted with him. The main issue I had is not, that the stories were bad, but that compared to other Ito's work the shock and horror factor was at a much smaller rate in this book.
The volume starts with "Blood Slurping Darkness", which as the title suggests is an alternative spin on vampirism. While the ideas Ito has are interesting and there is a twisted touch of romance to the story, it's not
exactly the most terrifying story Ito put out. This is followed by "The Ghost of Golden Time", which is quite frankly one of his weakest stories I read/seen adapted; bland villain idea, forced conflict and a main character, who just happens to have the right supernatural ability to explain to the reader what's happening for some reason. Luckily this is the lowest point the volume reaches. "Roar of Ages" as story #3 is titled brings back Ito's ability to take long existing horror concepts and twist them in a way, that feels fresh. While the writing definetly is in the right place, Ito's intention seems off, as the story seems to play more with the emotion of sympathy than with fear. "Secret of the Haunted Mansion" is another story, that plays with my horror-fan expectation, but doesn't quite satisfy it. To be fair, the build-up is great, but the pay off is basically (if I may allow myself a bit of a indirect spoiler) mostly just fan service for the Ito fan and probably a mess to the outside-manga-reader. Story #5 "Glyceride" is one of Ito's most memorable stories. Partwise for the broken-home setting, but mostly for the creative and wonderfully explicit portrayal of the effects puberty has on the human's body. "Earthbound" is similair in nature to story #3 in that it's more of a mix of supernatural with drama and mystery than being a horror story. Once again, interesting concept, but not exactly packing much of a horror-punch. The book concludes with "Dead Man Calling", which I liked for its ambiguity and some of its art, unfortunately it's once again not much of a shocker.
So to summarize; it was a fun read and a competent addition to Ito's vast collection of horror stories, but as far as horror goes, it does lack some big guns. I do recommend it to those, who are already Ito fans,as for those who aren't: try Uzumaki or Fragments of Horror first and if you liked either of those, here's a bonus.
This review has been structurally a bit different from my other reviews, though I'm sure most readers won't catch up on that. The reason behind it, is that this was a 20 minute slap-together for Goodreads, that I wrote spontaneously, since the site immediately gives you the text box after setting a novel as finished and I felt like writing at the moment. In order to compensate for the different structure, here's the run-through of different categories I otherwise cover:
This category, I covered relatively well in my original review, so read above if you for some reason haven't yet.
I guess this one is a no-brainer to everyone familiar with Ito's art. The man is a master of turning ink lines into horrific and unsettling imagery. Though I must admit, that I almost felt compelled to take a star away. As mentioned the book lacks some big schockers. Most of the stories are lacking in visual horror. Exception is the gruesome "Glyceride". "Secret of the Haunted Mansion" also has some fascinating visuals, but those are mostly staples in Ito's artistry and therefore only have a limited impact.
It's a horror anthology, therefore characters play a limited role and only serve as the devices to make you relate to the horror of the situation. None are particularly well characterized, but they don't really need to be. I guess, you can alway be a monster-fanboy and critique the creativity of the villains, those are however a mixed bag. On one side you have the acne-ridden weird kid in story #5, which had a great backstory and intriguing excentricites and on the other you have the completely unfunny comedy duo in story #2 with their unappealing character design and bland super powers.
As seen above, I use a star system (symbols I have stolen from Yu-Gi-Oh!'s entries here on MAL) to rate the series/movies in terms of the significant categories, which can indicate its quality. Those ratings do affect the final score I give the series/movie, but I do not use a strict mathematical method to assign the final score. Ultimately I weigh the final ratings by considering the stars given. I do not consider the categories to be equivalent and value a good story and characters over good art or a cathcy soundtrack. As far as the stars given go, I use a four stage scale:
(-) - bad, a series/movie is terrible in this category
(☆) - okay, it's fine, tolerable, but likely nothing special
(☆☆) - good, it's good, but may have flaws or isn't quite among the best I've seen in the category
(☆☆☆) - great, the best rating I can give, when it's truely remarkable in the category
Yami no Koe is a set of short stories or one-shots. It's a bit difficult to score as a whole since each one left different impressions with me. I suppose it all was good. I enjoyed reading some of these well enough.
The best thing about this was the art. There's a definite unsettling style that Ito has that pairs so nicely with the stories he's conveying to a visual medium here. But, my main issues with this whole thing comes down to a couple specific stories. There was one in particular that felt grotesque for the sake of being grotesque without having much of a
story to really back it for me.
Overall, I'd say that if you're looking for some short horror stories, this is worth looking at. But, if you're squeamish at all, be aware it can get a bit, not gory but... There's a gross factor to some scenes.