So I was walking down the aisle of a bookstore when I noticed a manga with a cream-coloured cover and a red eyeball looking back at me. There weren't any content samples on display, but the text on the wrap-around all seemed to indicate that the manga, titled Kouisho Radio (後遺症ラジオ) or "After-effect Radio", was a scary story. Curiosity piqued, I grabbed a copy to check out.
For those of you out there who are familiar with the J-Horror genre, yeah, this is basically how those stories start. Little did I realise that I had unwittingly picked up a tome of horrors...
Warning! This article contains some unsettling images.
What It's About
It's rather difficult to describe what Kouisho Radio is actually about. The manga is in a very disjointed short story format with multiple stories from different places and times that seem unrelated at first -- other than the fact that they're creepy as hell. But, as you read more of them, you begin to notice an underlying theme of some sort of curse by an old rural deity-ish thing that seems to have a bone to pick with some people, although the reasons seem more unfortunate coincidence in most cases than any intentional offence against it.
From the first 2-page short, Kouisho Radio sets the groundwork that there is something a little weird going on. A young girl is getting her hair cut by her grandmother. The young girl is crying, but the grandmother reassures her that it's so that the young girl "isn't taken away." From there, the manga is just a downward spiral of fear and unnerving imagery with hair and teeth and eyes and hair and hands and teeth and hair and hair and eyes and hair and...
The unnatural happenings within the manga all seem to stem from a rural deity that was worshipped in a small village, though it seems more a force of nature than an actual spirit, something that responds indiscriminately regardless of any sort of intent on the part of an offender. Among the short stories, there are some pieces that offer tidbits of background and origin as to what this thing is and what people seem to have done to accidentally incur its wrath.
The manga successfully captures the essence of Japanese horror in its pages by showing things that are wrong and unsettling, occasionally mixed with a splash page of unworldly freakishness that sticks in your mind and stays with you even after you've put the book down. That, coupled with the unstoppable nature of the forces at work, make for a haunting narrative that makes even the reader feel unsafe.
The short stories in Kouisho Radio aren't all that gory or even very violent -- not to say that either element is entirely absent. Even so, I slept with the lights on after reading the first volume. The next day I went out and picked up the second volume and read straight through it in one sitting because I simply had to know what was going on. The story is captivating in a morbid fascination sort of way with the short stories making for a very bite-sized, easy to read format.
Overall it's a very curiosity killed the cat affair. You want to know what's in the box, but you're well aware that nothing good could be waiting in there. Even so, if you are a fan of Japanese horror, Kouisho Radio is an entertaining, if not bone-chilling, ride.
Manga Title: Kouisho Radio Author: Masaaki Nakayama Publisher: Kodansha Ongoing: Yes Volumes: 2