animefringe october 2003 / reviews

Mantis Woman
Format: right-left manga
Production: I.C. Entertainment / Senno Knife
Comments: Creepy, yet stylish.
Animefringe Reviews:
Mantis Woman

Senno tells us in this release's afterward how horror lurks everywhere in our lives, and I sort of agree. Perhaps you're alone in the dark, and the mood of the room suddenly changes. On the other hand, you could be enjoying a normal day with your friends when you see something out of the corner of your eye that isn't quite right.

Fear is one of our most primal urges, one of the key factors that every human needs to survive. As rational beings, we can use our fear to escape life-threatening situations, but once we lose control over this powerful emotion, it can become more deadly than whatever perception may be causing it.

As it turns out, fear also can be pretty entertaining. Maybe it's because I've come to associate Halloween with candy as much as scary stuff. It also helps that my birthday falls a few days before the costume-donning holiday.

Either way, I picked up Mantis Woman because of its eye-catching cover art, displaying the artist's fine attention to detail and skill at bestowing a soft look upon the visuals of the book. Hooked by the cover, it was merely a matter of time before I bought this particular title. Overall, I found my impulse rather rewarding.

Mantis Woman is a set of six frightening tales set in modern Japan that all have a touch of reality laced with spooky variables. Most involve schoolgirls. It may be because that's the type of person most of us behave like when we're especially scared. In any case, each story comes and goes quickly, but not before making a point and resolving each individual plot. Many of the tales had an ironic twinge of humor laced throughout, and the dark humor, if anything, helped accentuate the horror aspect of each story. After all, if something is nothing more than scary event after scary event, you'll eventually become desensitized by the horror, and it will become boring. Toss in some humor to lighten the mood, however, and you suddenly have a handy contrast to display exactly how frightening things have become, and the scare works that much better.

Readers may be pleased to notice that most of these stories are redemptive. While they don't always end on a high note, per se, they did leave me satisfied by the time I was finished with them.

The artwork on the interior is just as impressive as the cover shot, with highly stylized character designs featuring especially big eyes and angular faces almost reminiscent of a Tim Burton production. Shading is achieved with a wonderfully soft touch, thought the line art is sharp and clear.

I.C. Entertainment (formerly Studio Ironcat) printed Mantis Woman in its original Japanese (right to left) format with the sound effects intact. The book is smaller than TOKYOPOP's standard release size, and it costs a bit more, but it's a high quality release despite its slightly lesser value than the current domestic market leaders' manga series.

Sound effect translations are handily printed at the end of the book, though I'll have to wish you luck finding the page numbers - they're few and far between. Yet, I think the inclusion of a sound effect guide is the best compromise for those who can't read Japanese but still want the artwork untouched by American editors.

Setting the perfect mood for the beginning of the Halloween season, Mantis Woman is a disturbingly good read. It goes quick only because of its highly readable nature, and I'd have to suggest it to anyone looking for a scare.

Of course, it's up to whether or not you want to read this in the presence of others, or while you're sitting, solitary, in a dark, drafty house. Just remember - the only thing to fear is fear itself. That is, unless some bloodthirsty creature is coming after you.