Story/Art: Junji Ito
Translation: Yuji Oniki
What They Say
Something is rotten in Okinawa… The floating smell of death hangs over the island. What is it? A strange, legged fish appears on the scene… So begins Tadashi and Kaori’s spiral into the horror and stench of the sea. Collects volumes 1-2 in omnibus format.
The front and back covers here have a black background with scenes from the book appearing in a dark grey, just barely visible. Additionally, there’s a blood splatter effect hidden under both the title on the front and the synopsis on the back. It’s quite an attractive, classy look, and it also fits nicely with the Uzamaki hardcover Viz already put out. The hardcover nature of the book gives it a nice, solid feel, and the paper quality is pretty high, feeling rather firm. Color images are included on the reverse of the covers, and two bonus short stories appear at the end of the book. Text reads smoothly, honorifics are not used, and sound effects are translated in stylized text.
The art here is quite nice and does a great job of capturing the freaky, bizarre nature of the story. The sea-life comes across fantastically, with the sharks in particular possessing some real power. Scenes which show swarms especially have a ton of detail and can be quite impressive. Perhaps best of all, though, is the backgrounds, which appear in virtually every panel and can get quite complex at times. All in all, a great art style that’s a big part of what makes the book so unnerving.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
After a close call in the ocean, Tadashi finds that his girlfriend Kaori just can’t stop complaining about the smell of the area. As they’re in an area of Okinawa with a ton of fish he just writes it off, and she storms off. However, she gets scared by an unknown creature and returns to the house with him, where the smell only worsens. The stench eventually becomes unbearable and it becomes apparent that a creature has invaded the house. Tadashi is finally able to smash it, but much to his surprise it’s actually some strange form of fish with legs! Though he makes sure the corpse is good and dead and bags it up, the bag soon inflates and begins flying around! The bag ends up flying off, but it soon becomes clear that this wasn’t a one-off occurrence as legged sea life swarms the shores, including even sharks! One such beast corners our heroes in the house, and once they fortunately escape, they decide enough is enough and return to Tokyo.
Once home, Tadashi visits his uncle Doctor Koyanagi, an inventor who gains an immediate interest in the fish. Back home, Kaori continues to complain about the smell, and though Tadashi thinks she’s cracking up, a familiar floating bag soon approaches them. When it pops the fish on the legs has become a skeleton, and Tadashi decides to bring it to Koyanagi. Koyanagi then removes the fish skeleton and finds the legs to be some kind of separate entity, which almost immediately grabs his arm. As the fish continue to invade more of Japan, Tadashi and Kaori visit Koyanagi again, who tells them a story of his father. It turns out he was a scientist for the Imperial Japanese army, and in the desperate final hours of the war they approved a strange project that intended to use smell as a weapon. Through special germs, animals could be made to inflate and expel a gas that had the stench of death in large quantities. However, as this germ paralyzed the animals, Koyanagi’s father invented a walking machine operated by gas pressure, which would be attached to the infected creatures. Eventually, though, the prototypes were lost at sea in an American attack.
As the situation progresses, even Tokyo is overrun, and attempts to hold the monsters back prove fruitless. Furthermore, Kaori herself is infected by the germs. Kaori tries to kill herself, and in the aftermath Tadashi is left scrambling through the streets, looking for a hospital while trying not to fall prey to the sea creatures. Eventually he makes it to Koyanagi’s, who says he’ll get her to a hospital. While then trying to contact his parents, Tadashi is dragged into a ditch full of fish and other marine life, and wakes up a month later in a hospital.
In the hell that he finds, will he be able to save Kaori? Or even just survive, as even humans fall prey to the germs and machines, and his uncle slips into madness?
If there’s one word that can describe this book, it’s bizarre. In fact, that bizarreness is so strong that a lot of the horror of the situation is eroded for much of the book. This also isn’t helped by the fact that there are a number of scenes that should be horrifying, where more immature thoughts may distract readers thanks to the nature of what’s occurring. Even ignoring that, the characters are also unfortunately a little underdeveloped. Tadashi and Koyanagi are the only ones with much depth to them, and yet both are rather flawed in their portrayal. Tadashi’s strongest and most interesting trait seems to be his devotion, especially near the end of the book, but this isn’t particularly well supported by his interactions with Kaori early on. Koyanagi on the other hand just doesn’t really have much going on to explain his actions or properly show him slipping. That said, there are some absolutely great scenes and some real horror contained within. And if you’re looking for something that really encapsulates oddity and weirdness, then this is a great option. Unfortunately, though, it feels just a little lacking to be called a top of the line horror story, close as it may come at times.
Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: A
Package Rating: A-
Text/Translation Rating: B+
Age Rating: Older Teen
Released by: Viz Media
Release Date: April 21st, 2015