Anamorphosis revolves around a group of people invited to a contest wherein they have to stay in a supposedly haunted set for 48 hours after an evil murderous spirit is summoned to produce a recreation of the murder scene.
Over half of the book features this story and the rest is a collection of bizarre shorts designed to shock you?!
I'd like to start off by saying that I'm not an expert nor a fan of asian horror. Why?, well I'm not too sure myself to be honest, I haven't seen that many asian horror movies so perhaps the bizarre style of this manga feels too foreing to me because of that. While I acknowledge that, I do love horror as a genre in many forms of media such as books, movies, video games, etc. Take my review for what is worth with that in mind.
What makes a good horror story?, Is it the hopelessness we like to see portrayed by the characters in the story?, the well managed twists that make everything previously shown understandable?, the unsettling atmosphere that makes you look over your shoulder every couple of minutes?, or perhaps it is the realization that we humans are fragile beings, and our life can end in the blink of a second. Regardless of what's more important to you in a horror story from these elements, It's my personal belief that this manga doesn't succeed in any of them. Let me tell you why.
I will divide the review of the plot in two parts. The first part will cover the main story that starts off the manga and the second part will cover the short stories that come afterwards.
Anamorphosis no Meijuu starts off the first of It's stories with a an interesting premise and a lot of potential, unfortunately that potential soon goes down the drain. A group of people are invited to a contest called "Ana Morphosis" in order to survive in a basement floor with a number of rooms for each participant and the recreation of a murder scene in that same basement. A "medium" summons the spirit and then the participants must resist the urge to escape through the elevator and...survive for 48 hours to recieve a cash prize.
The basics for a survival game are set and we can feel the expectation for what's about to happen, questioning ourselves with what we know is the usual formula for this premise, "Who will survive?", "Who's the coward, the gutsy and the comedian of the group?". As such, this set-up is certainly not groundbreaking, but with the correct amount of suspense and atmosphere it can still succeed if it shows us the emotional responses of the characters in an interesting way. This however is one of the many reasons why the manga fails, the characters are bland and predictable in their usual, previously mentioned archetypes with no one becoming remarkable as the story progresses. As such, we feel nothing as the characters die one after another.
The twists that reveal the truth of what's going on are rushed with no time to absorb what's happening to the characters at the end, not only that, but the grand scheme of the perpetrators towards the victims is quite stupid and poorly explained. The story ends with little to no regard towards pacing and an unsatisfying conclusion puts the final nail on the coffin of a story with an interesting premise brought down by an abysmal execution.
There are 9 short stories after the aforementioned main story. Most of the stories are comedies with a strange and grotesque form of body horror, a branch of the genre that seeks to find horror in the degeneration and corruption of the body.The "body horror comedies" as I prefer to call them, only become more and more bizarre towards the end. A couple of stories are quite sexual, but they all end in a premise strongly sustained in making the human body seem like a sort of meaningless toy that can be played with, with little to no consequence. The stories left me quite perplexed as to what was the author was trying to portray, perhaps it was mostly shock imagery mixed with his own brand of dumb and incoherent humor.
One could call the stories disturbing or perhaps bizarre, but the words that I think describes them the most are incoherent, messy and stupid.
The art style portrayed in this manga is for the most part very realistic, the first story is very photographic in the character design, with everyone looking almost rotoscoped in the way they look. During the short stories however, the art style continues in a realistic fashion but in a more stylized way, you could compare it with the style of Junji Ito, author of the Uzumaki horror manga.
Overall the art style works well with the often grotesque drawings of the manga, composed mostly of blood and gore, but it's otherwise forgettable. There weren't any illustrations that shocked me or stayed with me after I finished reading, so it all blended in a very mediocre way in my head during the whole read.
The main story had a lot of potential to craft a well paced survival game, but the author rushed the story and the ending explanation was very dissapointing.
The short stories are incoherent and contain a very dark and disturbing humor that didn't resonate with me to the point that I think most of the comedy was quite dumb, though, If comedies with gore and weird stories are your thing, you might want to give them a look. Be warned though, these are not for the faint of heart.
If you are looking for a good horror manga to read, these are a couple of my favorites:
A tale of a rural Japanese town in the middle of nowhere where the desire of the townsfolk to maintain their normal lives is crushed beneath the weight of the darkness pouring in.
I am a Hero (2009, ongoing)
View the zombie apocalypse (?) through the eyes of a socially awkward mangaka assistant, his manerisms and kind-hearted personality guiding him in the middle of the breakdown of society.