By Nubia Jade Brice
“Featuring a collaboration between Japanese and American manga artists, Betwixt: A Horror Manga Anthology offers a collection of terrifying tales from around the world. This anthology brings together six short stories that explore the common fear of the unknown, residing in the space between what is familiar and what is unfamiliar. Will anyone dare to venture across that boundary?” (Viz Media)
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As we approach Halloween, there are countless frightening tales ready to send shivers down readers’ spines. “Betwixt: A Horror Manga Anthology” aims to introduce fans of the genre to six unsettling stories crafted by a diverse group of Japanese and American writers and artists, each presenting their unique take on the concept of being “caught in the middle.”
Right away, this collection captures your attention with an interesting and educational introduction written by renowned horror artist Junji Ito. It is definitely worth reading, as it provides readers with a preview of what to anticipate and familiarizes them with the overall concept of the series. Despite the distinctiveness of each story, they are all linked by this central theme, and the introduction serves as a noteworthy addition to the collection that builds excitement for the subsequent tales.
The first part of the collection contains either three American or three Japanese tales, depending on where you begin reading the physical book. One section is read from right to left while the other is read from left to right, and the cover art spans the entire book. While seemingly insignificant, this attention to detail adds to the unique feel of the book.
Each story in this collection is unique in terms of style, tone, and artistic direction. It is easy to distinguish between them, as they all take a different approach to the theme. “Mirror” by Sloane Leong and Leslie Hung has a less frightening feel compared to the others, but still presents a relatable and deceptive slow-burn. On the other hand, “Film Ephemera” by Aki Shimizu has a almost cinematic quality, drawing readers in with its ominous tone and building fear until the climax.
Different writers and artists have varying interpretations of the concept of “in-between,” resulting in a wide range of plot executions in the stories. The American stories, such as HuaHua Zhu’s Shadow, often have ambiguous endings that allow for reader interpretation. This can be frustrating at times, as the lack of a definitive conclusion may not always have the desired impact of keeping the reader pondering the climax. However, each story effectively creates a sense of terror and unease, making readers eager to continue reading. Many of the stories have engaging and attention-grabbing introductions that draw the reader in and keep them turning the pages.
The artwork in each story varies greatly, just like the plot. It is evident that the illustrators put careful thought into how their chosen style would impact the overall mood of the story. For example, in “Never Left” by Michael W. Conrad and Becky Cloonan, the use of a dark and western-inspired art style perfectly complements the wilderness setting. In contrast, Shima Shinya’s simplistic illustrations in “The Window” effectively build suspense without detracting from the satisfying conclusion. Among all the stories, Ryo Hanada’s “Kamei” stands out with its detailed and gory panels, adding to the impact of this unique take on Kappa folklore and leaving a lasting impression on the reader.
The creators of Betwixt: A Horror Manga Anthology put a great deal of effort and focus into each story. They all revolve around the theme of “in-between” without losing their individuality. While not all of them may appeal to every reader, the range of unsettling to terrifying tales caters to various types of horror fans in this compilation.