Beauty and terror walk hand-in-hand in this intriguing horror shoujo.
Translation: Julie Goniwich
What They Say
Welcome to Murakumo Inn, a curious establishment that opens its doors to the troubled masses, human or otherwise. But to pay for the stay, the equally curious innkeeper takes payment only in the form of one’s deepest secrets…Who will come calling today?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I’m a fan of the horror anthology series were a mysterious proprietor grants monkey paw wishes for folks. I was a big fan of Pet Shop of Horrors, for instance, and XXXHolic before CLAMP went completely off-the-rails with it. Phantom Tales falls into that category but with a slightly darker twist.
We’re introduced to a teenage boy named Sasaki who is fleeing for his life from a strange monster dragging a cage. The butterflies following in his footsteps save him from disaster, but he finds himself in the den of an inn of ill repute. Its young owner lures him in with the promise of saving him, in exchange for a secret.
We’ve seen this sort of scenario before, and we wait to see what sort of horrible thing this boy did to earn him the privilege of being chased down by a monster. Yet it turns out there is no great crime, the boy does have a secret that even he doesn’t know, and his wish is granted while the proprietor smiles a chilling, hungry smile. The boy isn’t the only one to wander into the inn. A woman who is jealous of her sister spills her soul and a serpent sent on a suicide mission learns she isn’t at the top of the food chain.
Cleary the owner of the inn isn’t an altruistic being only punishing the wicked. He is a monster, which sets this story apart from others like it. Instead of attempting to remain neutral in dealings with mortals and spirits he makes deals which suit his needs. Often this results in horrific outcomes, and his helpers are aware that things often go awry. This draws the attention of those that would wish to stop him, at all cost.
The translator chose to translate the names of the owner’s workers, which are just Butterfly and Spider in Japanese. Usually, I don’t go for literal translations of names, but the story is rather blunt about their identities.
The real draw of this series is the artwork. Matsuri’s artwork is gorgeous. The multiple two-page spreads in this volume all are beautifully crafted. That beauty is strongly contrasted against the sheer body horror, often in the same scenes. What was calm devolves into spectacular chaos. Flesh melts, bones expose, bodies mingle, yet you can’t look away. All of the artwork has a strong female gaze, with lingering views on male posteriors and a surprisingly mature take on sex. The men are all attractive, especially Butterfly. The owner is so far into beautiful boy territory it’s almost unnerving. The characters are very aware of their sexual magnetism too, with one using it to his advantage.
For extras, Yen includes an opening set of color pages, a page of translation notes, and two pages of comic strips.
Never accept offers of help in exchange for intangible elements of yourself. What sets Phantom Tales apart from other supernatural horror stories is that the ambiguous pact-makers have never been so clearly in it for themselves. This isn’t just some episodic tale of human fallacies, it’s a story of lurking, crawling things. True, some are making dark dealings and fully deserve the damning coming to them, but the same can’t be said for the wayward spirits. Above all else though, this series has amazing artwork which finds beauty in decay and decadence among gore.
Content Grade: B +
Art Grade: A –
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: B +
Age Rating: Older Teen
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: September 3, 2019
MSRP: $15.00 US / $19.50 CAN