The Bottom Line
When you're haunted by the usual ghosts, monsters and yokai, there are plenty of manga characters you can call. But when the urban legend about an axe murderer hiding under a bed comes to life in your bedroom, your options are limited.
Hanako and the Terror of Allegory introduces a detective agency that specializes in meta-fictional threats, a clever idea with plenty of potential for horror. Ultimately, however, the storytelling never advances far past the idea stage, while the art does little to spook things up.
- Unusual and interesting premise
- Some good monsters and gore
- Promising blend of comedy and horror
- Bland artwork
- Doesn't quite work as comedy or horror
- No sense of flair
- Original Title: Hanako to Guuwa no Tera (Japan)
- Author & Artist: Sakae Esuno
- ISBN: Vol. 1 - 978-1-4278-1608-5 / Vol. 2 - 978-1427816092
- Cover Price: $10.99 US / $13.99 CANADA
- Age Rating:
OT – Older Teens, Age 16+
for some violence, gore
More about content ratings.
- Manga Genres:
- Shonen (Boys') Manga
- Action / Adventure
- Mystery / Suspense
- Paranormal / Supernatural
- US Publication Date: Vol. 1: Mar. 2010 / Vol. 2: Aug. 2010
Japan Publication Date: Vol. 1: Oct. 2004 / Vol. 2: Jan. 2005
- Book Description: Vol. 1 – 240 pages / Vol. 2 – 224 pages , black and white illustrations
- More Manga by Sakae Esuno:
Guide Review - Hanako and the Terror of Allegory Volume 1 & 2
I'm a sucker for both metafiction and horror, so Hanako and the Terror of Allegory had me at the premise: "allegories," a loose collective term for the folk tales, urban legends, and campfire stories floating around the collective unconscious, have the ability to come to semi-life and possess people who believe in them.
Freelance detective Aso Daisuke keeps running into cases involving allegories, maybe because he himself is possessed by at least two. A girl named Kanae becomes his personal assistant more or less at random (near the end of Volume 2, creator Sakae Esuno finally remembers to toss in some dialogue explaining why Kanae is still hanging around), providing the reader with a point of entry into Daisuke's postmodern world.
Hanako is broadly a horror series, but the scares are fairly light. There's a lot of comedy, starting with the nature of Daisuke's two allegories. The first is the superstition that if you hiccup more than 100 times in a row, you'll die. Unfortunately, exposure to other allegories triggers hiccupping fits in Daisuke, so in every case he runs the risk of dying of the hiccups.
The other allegory haunting Daisuke is Hanako, a little girl who works as the tech center of his detective agency. Although the Tokyopop edition doesn't explain it, "Hanako of the Bathroom" is a popular Japanese urban legend about a ghost who supposedly haunts girls' restrooms in public schools, which is why the Hanako of the manga spends most of her time seated on a toilet. When the toilets and hiccupping don't provide enough laughs, Esuno falls back on manga-comedy standards like Daisuke being a porn addict or characters getting drunk.
Nonetheless, as Hanako goes on, it gets scarier. Volume 2 features darker storylines, creepier monsters, and more graphic gore. Some of the scenes of horror come through with the scares, especially a storyline about "human-faced fish," based on another common Japanese urban legend. The fish-people that menace Kanae are satisfyingly creepy and disturbing.
Unfortunately, most of the art is flat and generic, with vaguely cute big-eyed characters, bland backgrounds and a paucity of detail. Horror manga demands horrific art; no one ever forgets the distorted, heavily-inked faces of Kazuo Umezu, or the deep-set, haunted eyes of the characters drawn by Junji Ito. Hanako has no atmosphere.
Ultimately, Hanako and the Terror of Allegory doesn't come together as either horror or comedy. The concept of urban legends coming to life is intriguing, but it's been done better—with creepier creatures, more atmospheric artwork, and cleverer twists on the basic premise—in manga like Eiji Otsuka's and Housui Yamazaki's Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and CLAMP's xxxHolic. Compared to these manga legends, Hanako seems like a story destined to be lost to the collective unconscious.
Shaenon Garrity is a manga editor, writer and comics creator. She is the author of CLAMP in America, and the creator of Narbonic.