Orochi is a philosophical horror manga series from Japan's master of the horror genre.
Each chapter is a separate story that explores different aspects of humanity and the human condition. The main character, Orochi, is a mysterious woman with odd powers and a keen interest in understanding human nature. In her travels, she meets people that she is so fascinated by that she takes an interest in their lives, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
One of the first, and lesser known works from horror master Kazuo Umezu, Orochi consists of 9 tales linked between them by the eponymous narrator; Orochi, has the appearance of a beautiful girl and is a keen observer of humans she deems interesting. Sometimes she will even exit the shadows and intervene with the lives of those she observes, altering their fates using her array of supernatural powers.
Unlike more famous Umezu works, like Hyouryuu Kyoushitsu (The Drifting Classroom) or Kami no Hidarite Akuma no Migite (Left Hand of God, Right Hand of the Devil ), horror; gore; and the supernatural, have to backpedal to a
lesser role and allow the humans to take the spotlight; this is a series of dark secrets, revenge, and accumulated hate. With Orochi as our guide, we get to witness the corruption of our human hearts with little-to-no aid from the traditional supernatural scapegoats.
There is a variety of themes explored and some stories will better suit your tastes than others. I found some of them lacking, especially compared to Blood -the last one. All the stories are pretty long for manga ones, averaging well into 100 pages, meaning that characters and plot are well developed. The psychological focus, may alienate some readers who were maybe expecting a more mainstream horror setting. I have to admit that sometimes I, myself hoped for a more sinister turn of events.
The artwork is superb. Umezo puts to shame today's computer-aided mangaka. Each panel is masterfully drawn; the women are especially beautiful and the depth of the details of the backgrounds seems to draw the reader inside the story.
This is an important manga because it can be clearly seen how it influenced Ito Junji, arguably Umezo's successor and a horror master in his own right; we have the beautiful women, the existential dread, and the heavy panels. Although Ito always opts for the most sinister of turns, it is obvious that this manga was a big inspiration for him.
Orochi is a good manga, although the quality of the stories is uneven. If you find Blood at some bookstore's shelves do not hesitate, the great story and even greater artwork will make it a great buy. 7.5/10.
Orochi: Blood is the first manga I've read from Kazuo Umezu and I've unfortunately had a poor experience with this one.
By some unknown method Orochi is able to determine if a person is interesting and proceeds to stalk them until they die or she's satisfied. Sounds intriguing, but it's rather boring most of the time.
Unfortunate events just tend to befall the people she stalks and it seldom concludes on a strong note. Some tales often drag on for too long and you'll have periods of very little to read and then walls of text that would be much more attractive were they condensed. Consequently, the
stories become a chore to push through rather than an enjoyable experience.
Ultimately, it's the circumstances that these characters find themselves in that have to keep you engaged, but even these are weighed down by the sheer amount of nonsensical decisions the characters make or the all too convenient plot devices introduced just to propel the narrative forward. I'm not kidding, some of these contrivances gave me conniption fits that I wasn't prepared for.
The art isn't anything exceptional. It does its job of illustrating the story, but there's too few pages that effulgently demand your attention. Character expressions almost seem intentionally laughable at times, especially during serious scenes, but this is more of a subjective point.
I also get the impression that Umezu likes to draw angry children. Most of Orochi's targets start as children so there's loads of forlorn and grumpy faces to accompany your reading.
This may just be more telling of manga at the time, but the panel work was extremely drab and needed more variation. At times, it was like Umezu was trying to squish as many rectangle boxes into a page as he could. Sadly, these contributed to the lack of impact in the manga as a whole.
The characters Orochi chooses and those that surround them are usually dull, two-dimensional good person, bad person types. There's also a few "haha I was bad person all along!" types too.
Orochi is the only reoccurring character so I'll just be focusing on her.
Her role in the story is an unnecessary one. She's a passive observer for most of the narratives and then she becomes deus ex Orochi for when things go awry.
She rarely takes any proactive steps in the stories and does little to effect change in a meaningful way, so she's really just a glorified commentator. There's no carry over from each tale so it's not as though she learns anything that would be conducive to her future stalking victims.
The extent of her stalkings are also very unclear. She's knowledgeable of nearly everything in her stalking victims' lives except for very key aspects. I can only assume this was done so that when revelatory plot details were revealed Orochi would be just as dismayed as the reader when in actuality she should be aware of them if she were stalking her targets so intently. It's just a crutch for tension.
Again, I really don't understand how Orochi determines whether the people she stalks are interesting or not. She knows nothing about them beforehand so maybe she's drawn to these strangers by some latent foresight. Maybe she's a fairy godmother. I really don't know.
Moreover, her origins and the extent of her esper abilities are left unexplained; no character arcs to speak of either. Orochi is left too cryptic to make for a compelling central character.
The bottom line is: this work hasn't aged well. If you're looking for horror then checkout 'Hometown'; it's the least obnoxious of the lot and offers the most in terms of creep factor.
Upon its release Orochi: Blood may have been innovative, but today you've most likely heard these stories, themes, and lessons before and they've been conveyed much more competently than what you'll find here.