Everyone knows what brings out the best in horror is when the story uses elements from various genres to fuel the plot. A few examples from the film medium would be the entire Aliens franchise and John Carpenter’s The Thing, considered classics in the horror genre. In the case of Junji Ito’s latest book Black Paradox, the story weaves sci-fi along with the creators’ use of supernatural and body horror.
It wouldn’t be the first time Ito has written sci-fi in his work, as he previously wrote Remina (some readers like me would argue that it’s among his best work to date), so that style of storytelling continues. The plot is told across six chapters; the short 4-page story Strange Pavilion is added at the end.
The reader is introduced to 4 characters: Taburo, a young man who’s constantly looking over his shoulder; the brilliant but eccentric, Pii-tan, the alluring yet tragic Baracchii; and lastly, the equally tragic woman named Maruso.
All of them gathered for a grim purpose, but fate changed their lives for something beyond their original intention. So what awaits this young group with their discovery, which sets off a series of events and seals their fates? I assure the reader in this review that there is more to meet the eye in my vague descriptions, so spoilers are being kept to a bare minimum.
I want to say Black Paradox won me over from the start as I was captivated by each of the characters, all of whom are dealing with complex issues on their own. The best part is these issues are set even before the story really starts to get moving. As the plot progressed, their respective problems would just escalate further, no matter how they tried to make them go away.
A domino effect, if I may describe the entire ordeal, turns one situation into another. That said, there is no easy solution for what the characters are experiencing, and the reader would also feel helpless as the story goes further down the rabbit hole (trust me, this analogy makes more sense if/when the reader picks up the book). In the end, I felt the finale was fitting for where the plot was headed, which not many stories can pull off in the horror genre.
Fans of Junji Ito’s art would be shocked or delighted in the gruesome details as it shines once again, reminding the reader of his famous previous work Uzamaki & would undoubtedly catch the attention of H.P. Lovecraft readers too.
A worthy mention would be the short story bonus Strange Pavilion, as the colorized art style reminded me of classic oil paintings mixed in with the creator’s signature artwork & the story itself was intriguing, in my opinion, based on the bizarre setting (I only wished there were more pages so I can see more of the nice art backgrounds). If manga readers are familiar with Junji Ito’s work or are new manga readers, this title is highly recommended.
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