Have you ever wanted to watch a horror movie or show but you always had that one friend who’d predict how it goes or laugh and ruin the experience? It’s me. I’m that friend.
My Relationship with Horror
That probably isn’t the best way to start this post, but revealing this shameful past of mine seemed necessary. I was the kind to never take the horror genre seriously. I found them to be so predictable and in general, poorly written. I’m pretty sure I took it as a sign of my mental strength and thought I was too good for horror. However, the fault lies in me as well. I knew there was some great stuff in the horror genre, but I never bothered to look for it. I went about my business, completely disregarding the genre for the majority of my life. Thinking I don’t scare easy and I thought I was above it all. Ignorance truly is bliss, my friends. And it did not last long.
I can’t say I’ve never been curious though. By this point, I’d seen many snippets of panels of Japanese horror manga on social media. It was very hard to miss the aesthetic beauty they held. I’d always make a mental note to read such manga someday, but someday just never came. Back in September last year though, I’d felt this itch. A slight craving for something new; and seeing as Spook Season (October) was right around the corner, I’d found my answer. It seemed like the perfect time to get into a new genre. And being one of the greats and (probably) the most popular, I decided to pick up Junji Ito’s Uzumaki.
My god, that went terribly.
Now don’t get me wrong. It started great! The art was stunning, mesmerising and coupled with what seemed to be an astounding story; I was this ready to give my heart away. Unfortunately with the involvement of bugs in Chapter 2 I think, my involvement with the manga came to a very disappointing halt. I was out. And so was my ignorance. I still can’t tell if I was just plain disgusted or legitimately terrified of the consequences of a centipede entering one’s cochlea, but I wasn’t going to wait around to find out. Only the truly ignorant would forget that bugs and insects are not an uncommon occurrence in the horror genre. So I considered this a lesson learnt.
I was really upset I had to stop reading Uzumaki because I’d been enjoying the manga otherwise. It might seem a little ridiculous, but I was quite ready to give up on exploring horror manga; I simply couldn’t tell which series had bugs and which ones didn’t and I was not about to take another risk. So after lamenting to a lovely friend (Shoutout to Ren for being a sweetheart) about my predicament, he came to my rescue! He gave me what would be one of my best reads of 2020. An incredible and bug-free recommendation which would lead to my first ever proper and thoroughly enjoyed exploration of horror manga.
So now I present to you, my experience with Oshimi Shūzō’s Chi no Wadachi. Alternatively titled, ‘A Trail of Blood.’ I’ve tried my best to make sure this is completely spoiler-free, because I think it would deter the reading experience heavily to mention the plot or show a lot of the visuals, so please forgive me for the lack of information on this front. This blog post is just here to tell you that if you’re looking to get into horror manga, you’re making the right choice in picking up this series, and it’s going to be an incredible read.
Chi no Wadachi: The Epitome of Visual Storytelling.
Chi no Wadachi has some of the best manga art I’ve ever seen. The art in this series has helped me truly understand the impact that manga art has the potential to have in a person and their reading experience. The art is stunning, but first and foremost, it’s incredibly chilling. Chi no Wadachi’s art is not just “aesthetically pleasing” but it’s so much more than that.
The power it has to draw you into the story is not to be underestimated. You might as well be living the tale yourself. The accurate portrayal of expressions of fear and anxiety can induce the same emotions within the reader. I felt a deep sense of unease with every panel and every time I turned the page, I’d brace myself for what’s to come. The phrase “uncomfortable silence” fits the manga so perfectly. I felt so intensely the impact in the high tension moments of grave danger, or at the receiving end of extreme anger. Even though I read the manga on my phone, in a well-lit room, all I saw was the manga and the story unfolding in front of me. The ability of the art to keep me focused and not leave any room for any distraction is incredible and praiseworthy, but it was also unbelievably eerie.
Blood shouldn’t be too thick either.
There weren’t any bugs in Chi no Wadachi. In fact, there wasn’t anything you’d consider ‘out of the ordinary’ like ghosts or demons at all. Chi no Wadachi’s concept was something that we all fundamentally find quite terrifying ourselves.
Other human beings.
I’ve always believed humans were far more terrifying than the supernatural or the unknown. The varying acts of cruelty committed by humans against one another and to their surroundings knows absolutely no bounds. The simple potential to commit such cruelty itself is quite terrifying to me, more than what any supernatural being could do. And Chi no Wadachi is a series that reinforces this belief of mine. Or maybe it caters to it?
If you’re wondering what the plot is, Chi no Wadachi is a story centred on the relationship between 14-year-old Seiichi Osabe and his mother, Seiko. It explores the relationship between a mother and her son, to put it simply. But since this is a horror manga, we have to keep in mind that there’s a lot more to it than that. Which gives the possibility that the story might end up being very unpleasant and could trigger unpleasant emotions and memories in a lot of readers, so I’d advise everyone to be careful as they move on with the story.
The story is simple and straightforward and forces its readers to focus on seemingly trivial yet extremely significant fears they might have had as children. The anxiety and panic you feel building up when you suddenly find yourself all alone in a crowd, having lost your parent to it and feeling left behind; and the fear of obtaining the disapproval of the parents who you love and are the world to you at a much older and impressionable age – are some of the fears that Chi no Wadachi builds on. Reading this series was a very human experience. The story might be even more relatable if you, the reader, are close to a particular parent. Shūzō sensei uses this connection wonderfully in the manga to portray just how haywire and extreme such connections can get.
A lot of people simply aren’t ready for this conversation though, and it’s very understandable. When you think about it, a parent is someone a child can (and should be able to) automatically trust. A family is an entity you can depend on and when this trust is broken and considerable emotional damage occurs, it’s incredibly upsetting. From an outsider’s point of view, it’s simply hard to believe that a parent or a family member can pose danger. There are still many people who cannot believe that such a possibility could even exist. Shūzō sensei takes this aspect of human relationships and weaves an incredible tale.
I enjoyed the manga because it was not very complex in its reasoning. The motivation and actions of the teenagers were easy to understand and even relate to in a certain way. I found myself quite anxious to see how the story would turn out. And seeing as it’s still ongoing, I’m sure I can share my frustration with you, should you decide to read the manga.
To me, Chi no Wadachi is horrifying for one reason only. The fact that this story could probably be somebody’s reality. Maybe not to the very same extent, but close enough. I believe the touch that the story’s concept has with reality is quite unsurprising but just as disturbing.
And while I enjoyed the series very much, that thought did make me a little sad.
Chi no Wadachi was certainly my cup of tea. It is true psychological horror and I’m incredibly happy I read it. It’s a must-read in my book if you are comfortable with its concept. And although this series is still ongoing, I can’t wait to dive into Shūzō sensei’s other works.