I just read: Dissolving Classroom

I’m a big fan of two of the Junji Ito’s other two horror comics, Uzumaki and Gyo. So I was excited to try his latest manga.

Ito has a very distinctive style. His ideas feel like they were written by a demented 7th-grader, but that helps him maintain a sort of allegorical mood—and his stories always feel claustrophobic in their dream-time logic. His pen-work can be alternately beautifully dainty and creepily off-kilter, and that also fits the day-dream-to-fever-dream his tone.

Dissolving Classroom is a collection of stories that follow a strangely polite young man, Yuuma, and his gonzo little sister, Chizumi. Both are unique characters, and their both up to some sinister stuff. But I have to say that I found Yuuma much more interesting. He’s a sort of diabolical version of toxic friend. He’s very well-mannered—almost subservient at times—but beneath that bland exterior lurks an ardent devil-worshipper. Literally. Yuuma kills small animals to lure the devil to him. He keeps in constant mental contact with the devil, and those bad vibes he shares can rot away at his new friends, dissolving their brains and their bodies. He’s like a walking Fukushima, and he’s in a continuous state of demonic meltdown.

It’s not entirely clear whether or not Yuuma enjoys the effect that he has on people. He is constantly apologizing for the harm he has done—and will do—but it soon becomes clear that Yuuma’s apologies are his most common M.O. for melting people down. If Yuuma falls to his knees and starts repeating, “I’m sorry… I’m sooo sorry…” you need to run away from him immediately. Early on, it’s revealed that he’s not actually apologizing to the people around him, he’s apologizing to the devil. And those direct transmissions to Hell interact with the human body in the same way a microwave oven reacts with a popsicle.

The concept doesn’t 100% make sense to me. Why is Yuuma apologizing to the devil? Yuuma’s helping to sow death and destruction, and it becomes clear that the devil likes this. But as I mentioned, this is where dream-logic kicks in, and on some gut-level I really synced with this idea of there being something sinister about apologies.

I definitely fall in the camp of people who might say, “Don’t say you’re sorry, do something to prove it.” And of course, no one likes groveling. But Ito shows effusive apologizing to be a passive-aggressive act of self-gratification. Like I said, this idea really struck me as ‘true’ on a gut level. Maybe I needed a Japanese writer to help me grasp this idea—like how the German language helped us define a concept like Schadenfreude, which most Americans had never really thought about before, but innately realized was a real thing.

Anyhoo… The ‘Dissolving’ concept is definitely not a one-trick-pony. With each story, Ito finds new ways to draw out drama—and creeps—from stiff Yuuma and wild Chizumi. The final story is not as disturbing, but it wraps up the saga in a perfect way that left me feeling surprised but also thinking, ‘I should have seen that coming!’

If you’re a manga fan or a horror fan, I’d say check this out!

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Don’t You Roll Your Eyes at Me!

I’m currently querying for my paranormal novel, TURNING, (up to eight rejections so far!) and I started working on a promo image for the book. Here it is. I kind of like it.

Promo image for TURNING. My paranormal novel about reincarnation through possession.

Promo image for TURNING. My paranormal novel about reincarnation through possession.

Overall, the image reminds me of Junji Ito. Which in and of itself is a good thing; except that I’d prefer to think of TURNING as ‘paranormal’ and not ‘horror.’ And Junji Ito is very much ‘horror.’

It took a while browsing through stock photos to find a pair of eyes that worked as a pair once I flipped the left eye upside-down. I’m a little worried that the image looks more grotesque than eerie (eerie is what I was going for). But hopefully the spiral of text helps to convey the idea of   ‘juxtaposition’ as opposed to disfigurement! The text is part of an occult scripture in the book, so it was nice to get to use it here. I think the rough canvas background also helps to convey the idea of something ancient and possibly a little bit sinister. I picked the sea foam color because the story takes place on the coast, and I think it helps keep the image inviting.

Finally, there’s the Gotham font for the title. Gotham the official font of the Obama campaign and of most of Coke’s marketing. If you’ve seen a san-serif font on a print ad in the last six years, there’s a 50% chance it was Gotham. But there’s a reason Gotham’s so popular: it’s a damn good font, both for text and for headlines. I think it gives a clean, calm, inviting feel—as opposed to a font called Splatterpunk or the like. Also, it needed to have a nearly round ‘G’ for the rotated letter at the end. But maybe Futura would have been a little less cliched.

Please let me know what you think! And check out more info on the TURNING page. And read a Junji Ito book if you’re into comics!