From its very first page I could tell that Freak Island, also known as Kichikujima, was going to be a tough story. And from what I’ve read of it so far at the time of writing, I wasn’t wrong.
We begin with a young woman lying in pain on a jungle floor — her bare foot caught in a bear trap. Screaming for pain and crying, nobody comes to help. In fact, only one person hears her: the towering beast of a man looking from behind her with a large blade in his hand. The woman pleads one last time but, as she raises her hands in defence, the figure — wearing a pig’s head as a mask — swings and removes all of her fingers at the knuckles.
After the relaxing face of Franken Fran I just wasn’t ready for this level of brutality. But I’ve started so I’ll continue.
Just off the coast of the island where these monstrous events are happening, a small pleasure boat sails by carrying six young students. These students are out in search of ruins on the island as part of a University expedition. Little do they know that the thought-to-be-deserted island they are approaching is in fact home to the violent destruction of a helpless young woman.
And probably many more people before her.
We get some time in the chapter to get to know these characters a little bit too. I found each had enough unique characteristics to help me remember them all long after I’d finished reading. Nothing too cartoonish, but they were individual enough. I have a tendency to get manga characters mixed up if there is a group of them.
Let’s hope these innocent students don’t find themselves stranded on this island…
I just loved the fact that this story pulled zero punches right from the start. There was no pretence of safety or the possibility of escape for the young woman. She was just brutally hacked to death by the pig-faced man with absolutely no remorse. Then when it came to our protagonists, the students, even they seemed disposable as one of them meets the sharp end of a hammer.
This feels like it’s going to be a story where absolutely nobody is safe — even at this early stage. A story that will punish poor decisions by the characters, and punish them badly. Although it is sad to see beloved characters killed, sometimes it is refreshing to find a story that isn’t afraid to hold back.
No plot armour here, I fear.
I wanted to mention the level of detail in here too - especially when we see the wider panels of the island and its shoreline. There is a high level of detail put into the scenes that really drew me in. This really helped to set the scene for me and seemed to make the violence feel all the more visceral.
Horror Manga in its very nature has the expectation of being violent, or at the very least mildly disturbing, but Freak Island pulls you straight into the heart of its violence from the start. And if you don’t like what you see in this opening chapter, then it’s probably wise for you to stop reading there.
I fear it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse for our heroes before there’s any hope of it getting better.