By Maggie Hsu, October 31 2023—
Are you looking for a bigger or a new scare to keep you up at night this Halloween? Here are some manga and anime recommendations that will make you question everything you know.
Chi no Wadachi by Shuzo Oshimi
Chi no Wadachi also known by its English title, Blood on the Tracks is a manga written and illustrated by mangaka, Shuzo Oshimi. Chi no Wadachi starts off slow and innocent, showing the rather mundane life of the Osabes.
Seiichi Osabe is your average middle school student. He has a few friends and lives his life uneventfully. However, he is prone to bullying due to his mother, Seiko’s, overprotective nature. She commits her life to caring for her son, as many mothers do so what’s wrong with that? As we delve deeper into the Osabe family’s seemingly average life, the cracks begin to show and the reader starts to wonder what is truly going on with this family. At what point does a mother’s love become too much?
While Chi no Wadachi is not your typical Halloween haunt of paranormal activity and escaped, deranged killers, the true scare is this story can happen to any one of us and if it’s not you experiencing it, it can be anybody you pass by during the day.
If Western literature has Stephen King, the manga and anime genre has Junji Ito. Ito’s works often feature allusions to experiences from his childhood and inspiration from Dracula and Frankenstein. The exploration of Ito’s works will consist of subgenres ranging from body horror, psychological horror, the supernatural, and dark fantasy threaded into themes of loss of humanity, the commonality of obsession, and the macabre. Ito is great at creating a feeling of ominousness and dread through his illustration and storytelling of his own fears including death, war, and bugs.
Some of Ito’s most well-known works include Uzumaki, which follows a high school student, Kirie Oshima, and the residents of her small town that is cursed by a supernatural presence that causes spirals to emerge everywhere and on everyone. As we follow Kirie’s daily life, we see how the spiral curse has inflicted the people in town, causing everyone to become either obsessed with spirals or extremely paranoid about them.
Tomie centers on the titular character, Tomie Kawakami, who’s described as beautiful and mysterious. She acts like a succubus and every chapter of the series tells a short story of her effect on others in her many forms and showcasing her many supernatural abilities.
Gyo translates to fish and illustrates a town being invaded by creatures that seem to be fish with legs. We learn that the creatures are a result of World War II and are determined to inflict the same fate on humans.
No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai was adapted into manga form by Ito. While following the plot of No Longer Human quite accurately, readers of the novel can enjoy the imagery painted by Ito and those who haven’t read Dazai’s original novel can experience the dread and hints of something off about Yozo Oba and the way he perceives the world around him. We witness Yozo grow up to become an extremely troubled man and despite “knowing” him since childhood, we never really know him despite being the main character. While the story is filled with dread and discomfort, Ito adds his own style with some haunting images that help us get a glimpse of what Yozo sees.
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (translated to: When the Cicadas Cry) is an anime series adapted from a visual novel (similar to a video game but with less gameplay) that takes us to the village of Hinamizawa, Keiichi Maebara is a new resident and student of the local school and befriends some classmates. Hinamizawa is a rural, farming community that’s quiet and peaceful but Keiichi learns that prior to the annual festival, a murder or disappearance has occurred over the past four years. The villagers have dubbed this the “Oyashiro Curse”, named after the local deity that the annual festival is intended to celebrate.
Keichii and his friends find interest in this and decide to try to solve the mystery of the Oyashiro Curse but we learn with them that something is not right with Hinamizawa. Everything is intertwined and we wonder if there is any escape to the madness.
Little Witch Academia
If one or all of those series were a bit too much for you and you need something to soothe your now tormented soul, Little Witch Academia takes place at Luna Nova Magical Academy where young girls go to receive training to become witches.
We enter Luna Nova with Atsuko “Akko” Kagari who enrolled upon inspiration from a witch named Shiny Chariot. However, Akko struggles to reach her dreams of becoming a great witch like Shiny as she does not have a magical background. We follow the successes and failures of Akko to make her way through school while discovering the secrets of magic through fun and adventure. Perfect to make you feel better after experiencing some existential dread from any of the other series.
Anime and manga are an underdog in the world of horror. The illustrated medium combined with the otherworldly nature of the genre provides the perfect setting for a world of spook. Grab a blanket, a plushie… or ten for comfort and support, and dive into one of these series to help take your mind away from the horror of midterms and the scary realities of your daily life.