By Deb Aoki
From the slightly spooky tales of Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation to the extremely disturbing Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show, our list of horror manga offers a chilling array of paranormal delights, ghostly lore and gruesome gore. Our list starts off with a few scary shonen and shojo stories, then delves deeper into the disturbing and twisted depths of horror as only these macabre manga masters can deliver.
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Author & Artist: Yoshiyuki Nishi
Publisher: Shonen Jump / VIZ Media
Visit Shonen Jump / VIZ Media's Muhyo and Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation page
Vengeful spirits making it difficult to relax at home? Evil toys trying to possess you while you sleep? Who you gonna call? No, not Ghostbusters. When dead are disturbing the peace of the living, only a specialist in supernatural law like Tohru Muhyo can send those evil spirits packin' to the afterlife.
With his slightly clueless sidekick Jiro Kusano, Muhyo takes on cases like a school girl haunted by a friend who committed suicide and a ghost-infested dorm and delivers tales of the supernatural that are only slightly spooky, but very entertaining.
Shadow's Pawn Shop looks ordinary enough, but the deals that Shadow and his not-as-innocent-as-she-looks assistant Maria make with customers are for higher stakes than just money or possessions. Customers make deals to fulfill their dreams or to rid themselves of their troubles, but somehow end up losing some, if not all of their souls in the bargain.
Nightmares for Sale is a series of short shojo-style horror stories, focusing on Shadow's customers and the tragic lessons they learn when they make a deal at this mysterious pawn shop.
Kurumi is a pretty little girl, but her jealous classmates conspire to deprive her of birthday presents on her special day. Because Kurumi never receives a present as a child, she never grows old and becomes a wandering spirit who bestows gruesome gifts upon unsuspecting people.
Much like the Twilight Zone, the short stories in Presents are cautionary tales warning readers of the perils of vanity, selfishness and greed. The artwork is somewhat retro in feel, but timeless in its creepiness.
Aliens have landed on earth and have begun possessing humans, turning them into killing machines. Shin also gets possessed by a parasite, but due to extraordinary circumstances, only his right hand gets taken over. Thus begins a strange partnership between this high school boy and his right hand Migi, as they try to solve the mystery of this alien invasion before it's too late.
Probably more sci-fi than horror, Parasyte is an amazingly inventive story that pulls you in and won't let go. There's more than a little gore and dismembered body parts flying in this book, so it's not for the super-squeamish.
Reiji Akiba is a different kind of private investigator, who gets called in to solve very special cases. Reiji is kind of a mix between an detective, a ghost hunter and an exorcist, who solves paranormal mysteries. His signature move? He sends the evil undead to Hell with his gun, Kagutsuchi.
Each volume of Mail contains a series of short, self-contained tales, with Reiji as your Rod Sterling-like guide through a Twilight Zone of modern ghost stories. While the stories in Mail are relatively mild compared to the titles mentioned below, the horrors that Reiji uncovers can be horrific and is strictly for mature readers.
Like Akiba in Mail, Godchild's main 'anti-hero' is a paranormal detective. However, in every other way, these two supernatural sleuths are very, very different. Cain's world is Victorian England, and his quarry are serial killers and demented souls who inflict cruelty and death upon the innocent.
Where Mail is spare and modern, Godchild is filled with lush gothic details. The art is ravishing, but it doesn't candy-coat the grim stories and decadent deeds detailed in these stories.
Author & Artist: Mitsukazu Mihara
Like many of the horror manga spotlighted on this list, Doll is a series of short stories. In these themed tales, human-like androids called Dolls change their owners' lives, often in strange and unexpected ways. A woman develops an unusual closeness to doll that will affect her human family from beyond the grave. A man wants to make his doll into the perfect human lover, but discovers that humans are not perfect.
The gorgeous artwork in Doll follows the classic Gothic Lolita aesthetic of haunting delicacy with a dark, decadent core. While not your traditional blood and gore horror story, Doll will haunt your dreams long after you turn the last page.
Asami's best friend mysteriously commits suicide and all signs point to a video game as the cause of her death. Portus is the name of a video game with an evil 'Easter egg' or hidden feature that causes the player to be haunted by a malevolent, vengeful spirit.
Portus is a single volume graphic novel that reads like a Japanese horror movie, much like The Ring or Ju-On (The Grudge). The art is crisp even as it depicts horrific, bloody events and the story unfolds like a movie, complete with those "everyone gasps and popcorn flies" type surprises like you'd see in a theatrical feature.
The smell of dead fish becomes an omen of terror as it is in Gyo, Junji Ito's take on the zombie movie genre. Set in a peaceful beach town in Okinawa, Gyo is an inventive, albeit incredibly creepy story about technology gone so, so wrong and what happens when the local creatures of the sea rise up and start attacking the people on shore.
To explain more about Gyo's plot would give away some of the bizarre twists and gruesome turns that this story takes. Suffice it to say that Ito's artwork is stunning. You'll admire his detailed linework even as his story sickens you to your stomach.
Imagine that the earth swallowed up your school and all of a sudden, none of the rules of 'polite' society applies any more. Your school building is in the middle of a barren desert. Your teachers become insane with panic and your classmates are going crazy, but in their own sick way.
Welcome to Kazuo Umezu's The Drifting Classroom, a classic tale from one of the many masters of Japanese horror. Yes, the characters have big eyes, but there's very little that's cute about the graphic violence and horrific plot twists in this story. Venture inside if you dare.