Yeah, I said it. I’m an otaku. The word in Japan has the same connotations as our American idea of a basement-dwelling comic book fanboy, so my Japanese friends are kind of disturbed by my proclamation. They also think I’m a dirty fujoshi, which is completely true, so our friendship is safe.
I’ve been reading manga since I went to Japan when I was 15 years old, which means that I’ve been doing so for 18 years now (oh good lord, why did I examine those numbers?). Over that time I have amassed something like 500+ volumes of translated and untranslated manga that ranges from the high school romance (shoujou) to action and adventure (shounen) all the way to stuff meant for more mature ladies (jousei) and gents (seinen). I enjoy fantasy, romance, science fiction (both robot-type and apocalyptic), horror, animal stories, supernatural…if it’s a genre of sequential art that’s read from right to left, I’ve probably got some of it in my library.
My taste has started to move away from young adult oriented, though, especially with the end of Fullmetal Alchemist, a shounen series I have followed since its first volumes were published in the US. The closest thing I get to high school drama is Afterschool Charisma, which is set in a high school. For clones. Of historical figures like Mozart and Hitler. Yes, it is every bit as awesome as you are imagining. These days I am mostly about the horror, and it is with this in mind that I would like to recommend two series to you.
Higurashi – When They Cry [Higurashi no Naku Koro ni]
The full Higurashi series by Ryukishi07 spans more than 20 volumes, broken into “question arcs” and “answer arcs.” The question arcs tell a creepy story of murder in a rural town that has some very bizarre legends and rituals, and the answer arcs delve deeper to explain some of the bizarre occurrences. However, each of the answer arcs tells the same story – but from different perspectives, which means that while some of the basic events are the same, the way the story plays out is completely different. It is disturbing, gory, and there’s an undercurrent of doubt to all of it. Is there a curse? Is it all just paranoia? Who’s killing these people? Worth mentioning is the fact that the art is your standard cute manga girls and guys, which really amps up the creepiness factor when a sweet schoolgirl starts stabbing herself in the neck.
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service
A new find of mine by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki, it’s actually been out for a few years now and I’m terribly sorry I didn’t know about it before. It’s about a group of misfit students at a Buddhist University who have powers such as talking to the dead and dowsing for corpses. They talk to the corpses they find and endeavor to fulfill their final wishes so their spirits can go on to the next life without regrets. It’s also incredibly disturbing. The mysteries aren’t really that; you know who did it pretty much off the bat, the question is why they did it and how they’re going to pay. One of the only non-erotic series I buy regularly that’s shrink wrapped.
Chi’s Sweet Home
Your official kitten chaser from the last two, and a bonus recommendation by Kanata Konami. Chi is a super-cute kitten who was adopted after getting separated from her mother. She has adventures that any cat lady or gent will recognize, and the author perfectly captures how cats think and behave, right down to their sounds and body language. It’s also so adorable you’ll pee rainbows. Having a rotten day? Go read Chi and for added value, look up the subbed anime shorts. Peeing. Rainbows.