Hey Hey Heroes, Travelers, and Wandering NPCs! It’s October, and here on Nice Job Breaking It, Hero I’m kicking off the spookiest month of the year with a bunch of horror themed content. It’ll be a month long celebration of all things horror, with horror themed game reviews, lists, and some of course a few very special posts dedicated to one of my favorite horror mangaka, Junji Ito!! Because you simply can’t Google ‘horror manga’ without at least stumbling upon one or two of his iconic works. But, as much as I love Ito and his works, we can’t deny that there are so many other great creepy manga reads that are just as chilling, if not more so than anything the “Master of Horror” has cooked up.
So what better way to start off our journey into terror than by checking out 13 absolutely horrifying manga titles that are guaranteed to have you sleeping with the lights on! From horror anthologies to standalone stories, we’re delving into the deliciously spooky world of horror manga. Each title puts its own spin on the genre, so, whether you like urban legends, psychological thrillers, or are just a fan of the macabre, you’re sure to find more than a few scary reads to add your reading lists!
Starting off this list are two one volume anthology series chock full of good old fashioned ghost stories. Both Fuan no Tane and it’s sequel Fuan no Tane+ feature a series of unrelated short stories and one shots, some are downright unsettling while others are little more than surrealist black comedies. The series kind of reminds me of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark children’s book trilogy by Alvin Schwartz, a collection of urban legends and folk tales, sure some of the stories are a little campy, but when coupled with the disturbing visuals, Fuan no Tane’s snapshots into the bizarre will stick with you long after you turn the last page.
This next pick is definitely one of the more disturbing entries on this list. The story kicks off with a group of smiling Japanese schoolgirls standing on a train platform, as the train approaches the station all of the girls happily leap in front of the train in a bizarre mass suicide. Of the 54 girls that jumped on the track only one manages to make it out unscathed, but, rather than being grateful for being spared, the young girl becomes obsessed with completing what she started.
This is another horror anthology series from the author of Fuan no Tane, however, unlike the earlier series, Kouishou Radio features a series of interrelated stories tied together by a mysterious God of Hair and its followers… and trust me it’s just as bizarre as it sounds. Reading this manga is enough to make you want to schedule an appointment with a barber… hair can be terrifying!
Technically this next pick isn’t a horror manga in the traditional sense, however, Homunculus is full of deeply disturbing psychological mindfuck moments, but, what else would you expect from the same author that brought us Ichi the Killer?
The series follows Susumu Nakoshi, a homeless man who is given the opportunity of a lifetime, let a med student to drill a hole in your head for 700,000 yen. Seems legit. Only after the procedure he begins seeing grotesque and downright horrifying creatures, talk about nightmare fuel! But, things only get stranger when he discovers that the “monsters” he sees are really just the manifestation of an individual’s subconscious… So, Nakoshi takes it upon himself to “help” people work through their psychological traumas to better understand himself, and the results… let’s just say sometimes its best to just leave well enough alone…
The Drifting Classroom is an oldie but a goodie, having been published back in the 70’s. The manga follows a group of 6th graders and their teachers after their entire school is mysteriously transported to a post apocalyptic wasteland. Shit hits the fan real quick, unable to deal with the trauma of the experience, many of the teachers start losing their minds and begin offing the children. On top of that everything in this futuristic wasteland is hellbent on wiping everyone inside the school out! With danger all around them and the threat of starvation becoming more and more of a reality, these kids have no choice but to learn to adapt their new “home”.
This manga is not for the faint of heart, Umezu turns things up to eleven, and just when you think things are finally starting to look up for our protagonists… the universe finds a way to send things spiraling back downward again.
Zashiki Onna was one of the first horror manga I ever read and it still terrifies me to this day, because unlike most horror, it’s grounded in reality. Written at a time where stalking was a relatively unknown thing, Mochiziuki brings us a rather creepy tale of a man that is being harassed by a strange woman. At first it appears that the woman is a vengeful spirit out for revenge, but as the short story unfold it becomes more and more apparent that there might not be anything inherently supernatural about her at all. Sometimes reality is more terrifying than fiction.
Ibitsu like Zashiki Onna is another story that focuses on the very real issue of stalking, but where the latter stayed largely grounded within reality, Ibitsu takes a detour into crazy town real quick and never looks back.
While taking out his trash one night a college student, Kazuki runs into disheveled young girl dressed in lolita- styled clothing. Disturbed, Kazuki attempts to ignore the strange girl, but, she calls out to him, asking if he has a sister…and the idiot answers her. Soon he begins seeing her everywhere as the strange girl starts to slowly encroach on his life tormenting him and his friend. As Kazuki and his friends attempt to uncover the truth behind the Lolita Girl they discover that he might not have been her first victim.
Mail is a three volume episodic horror series that follows Reiji Akiba a private investigator that specializes in supernatural cases, namely those involving ghosts. Armed with a special broom handle gun, which he calls Kagutsuchi, he exterminates malevolent spirits. While most of the series is dedicated to Akiba’s ghostbusting, occasionally the series will reveal a few tidbits about his past.
With it’s mundane locales and slow scares, Mail is an urban horror series that brings the scares a little closer to home than most of the titles on this list.
You really can’t go wrong with a good horror anthology. Much like Fuan no Tane and Junji Ito’s Flesh Colored Horror, this one volume series is relatively light, but still brings on the scares with a handful of spooky offering that are sure to have you quivering in your bed tonight.
It’s business as usual in Shinjuku, people are milling about the city’s crowded streets, some are out for a bit of shopping, while others are making their way home from work and school. Among the crowds of people, a man collapses in one of the city’s busiest intersections his body erupts spewing unsuspecting bystanders with blood and bodily fluids. The man is rushed off to a nearby hospital and an autopsy reveals that the man was killed by an unknown deadly infectious disease. Who is the man? What caused his illness? How many people has the man infected? It’s a race against the clock to uncover the secrets behind the illness in order to stop it from spreading.
If the most recent medical scares like the Swine Flu, Ebola, and Zika scares tell us anything, sometimes you don’t need ghosts or urban legends to bring on the scares, the modern world is full of unknown terrors.
While returning home from a trip with his classmates, Teru Aoki’s train enters a tunnel just before an earthquake hits. Teru manages to survive, but everyone else in his car is killed, when he escapes his car, Teru stumbles upon other survivors an unconscious girl and a guy on the verge of a mental break. They manage to escape the train only to discover that some sort of cataclysmic event has taken place turning the world into a uninhabitable wasteland.
Now Teru and Co. must make it through this new post apocalyptic world, from contaminated food to other survivors, their journey back home to Tokyo is riddled with danger. This kind of reads like a cross between Mad Max Fury Road and The Walking Dead with just a hint of psychological thriller and oddly enough it works.
This is another manga that focuses more on real world scares than supernatural ones. Ken Mizoguchi and Nao Inoue are investigating a series of mysterious murders when they unwittingly uncover an unknown biological agent that is now threatening the city. Then one of the leads on their case finally pans out and the pair set their sights on a suspicious photographer. This is a story with many twists and turns, and sometimes things aren’t what they seem.
Rather than being a straight horror, Manhole is more of a biological horror/detective thriller. We follow Mizoguchi and Inoue as they attempt to get to the bottom of their case despite the threat of a biological disease.
And rounding out this list is a short one volume manga about one man’s descent into madness. After suffering great personal loss, the death of his only son and getting dumped by his editor, Kirishima Seiichi finds his once idyllic life thrown into chaos. Hoping to pick up the pieces of his life, he and his wife take a trip, but Seiichi has other plans… like, killing his wife. Unbeknownst to Seiichi, he isn’t the only terror lurking about, something much more sinister is on the prowl and it has Seiichi right in its cross hairs.
This manga is one of the most artistically stunning on this list, the author has a style that is distinctly more gripping than anything I’ve seen before. The attention to detail and the emotive characters are really what makes this manga a cut above the rest.
Well that’s my list and I’m sticking to it! 13 manga titles sure to scare your pants off as we gear up for the spookiest month of the year! Not all of these are “horror” in the traditional sense, there are quite a few thrillers and black comedies buried in there, a reprieve from some of the more gruesome offerings. And, you’ll notice the distinct lack of Junji Ito on this list, it was intentional. But, as always this isn’t the end all for horror manga, so I want to hear from you guys! What spooky manga titles have your read? Any you think should be on this list? Definitely share them with us! I’m always down for a good scare!