Mera Eriko is a normal high school student who was bitten by a strange insect while playing in the forest. The insect planted an embryo in the back of her neck, trying to make her their host mother. Not long after, Meira developed the ability to communicate with the insects. One night when studying in the library, she was sexually assaulted by the librarian. Calling out for help, the insects swarmed her attacker and ate him alive. The police arrives and begins to question Mera. Slowly, the insects begin to infect the other students as well.....
Embryo is a manga that took me by surprise, reading it blindly I wasn't quite ready for the escalating jarring experience that made me reminisce of a well-crafted Ridley Scott-ish film with a devout emphasis on storytelling. I've seen quite a few horror films, Japanese or American, and Embryo managed to surpass most of them in a mere 3 volumes. Albeit not horror per se, since there aren't any strange frightening moments that you encounter, but there is the tone of constant uncertainty and dread, mixed in with an almost innocent presence of the supernatural. Many of the characters in the manga also have a cute curiosity of the bug monsters that they are dealing with. I find this to be the most interesting, as this manga goes into extreme, borderline annoying detail in dissecting and giving us an explanation of the grotesque worms that we encounter.
In the many horror story I've seen, rarely do they go deep into detail about such monsters, the rule is the more that is left unexplained, the better we can dive into the viewer's imaginations, which is where the true horror is. But in this rare case, Embryo does an exceedingly wonderful job into giving us every, single detail of the alien bugs. Not only do we learn how they behave, we are given information on they breed, how they relate to other insects, how all their bodily functions work, how they breathe, their environment; There are parts where it becomes an entertaining textbook study on insectology, giving us their entire physiology. We not only learn about these worms, but there was a panel where it gave us an entire treemap of the evolution of insects, which I thought was very generous of the author. And it was fitting that 3 of the main characters are acutal scientists, and not not bumbling idiots who suddenly became smart.
The study of the anatomy of bugs is the true horror element in this manga. Because we know that the behavior of these bugs aren't "normal" at all, they have this connected bond with the main character, planting an embryo in her, and while the scientists scrape for a possibly explanation as to why this is happening, the eventual discovery of the bugs' evolution and growth will definitely give you chills down the spine. The storytelling here is very cohesive, strong, all the pieces of the puzzle definitely fits for the most part, given how difficult it is to write a story like this, the author did a magnificent job. A good example of the author's skills was her ability to convey the dream sequences, there were 2 or 3 dreams in the story that was horrifying, and I even mistook them to be real events.
The art in this manga can be a little perplexing, since the characters themselves have very little expressions on their faces, most of them nothing more than oval circles with 2 dots as eyes, some hair, and a mouth. This can be somewhat disconcerting given that the bug creatures are drawn with meticulous detail. Especially during the dissection scenes, where we see every organ and vein in the bug's body, drawn with extreme detail. And also not to mention the birth scene towards the end, which was one of the most gruesome and graphic birth sequences I can remember in any media.
Also like many other horror films, there is an ending that can be quite ambiguous, it isn't quite explained clearly as to how the bug creatures were stopped, or whatever the birth of the new evolved bug creature was. These does give off a sense of frustration, but maybe giving it more attention the second-time around I can pry off some answers. And since the story-telling and plot in this manga is masterfully done, it wouldn't be a problem for any manga fan, or any horror fan to be consumed in the story.