Month: October 2019

  • πŸ“‚

    Medusa (Uzumaki part 6)

    You should know I take this as a challenge… I’ll stand out too… you wait and see.

    Sekino gives Kirie a thinly-veiled warning about her new hair.

    You can buy Uzumaki here.

    Medusa β€” synopsis

    Up until now, the Spiral has been affecting the people around Kirie Goshima. Her boyfriend Shuichi’s parents; her own father; a friend at school. But in Medusa, the Spiral is finally catching up to her and has it’s sights set directly on a particular part of her body β€” her hair.

    After a school boy’s death and some discussions with a friend over people’s sudden desires to be noticed, Kirie’s hair begins displaying the cursed Spiral in its curls. This seems to have happened out of nowhere, after a sudden growth of her hair. Will she now finally fall victim like so many before her?

    When the curls in her hair are threatened, they begin to take on a life of their own β€” the spiral protecting itself. The hair grows faster than is naturally possibly and even physically fights back against those that would do it harm. But when a school friend of Kirie’s see’s these ever-growing curls as a threat to her own dominance, that friend decides to challenge her in one of the craziest showdowns I’ve ever seen in a manga.

    A hairdresser’s nightmare

    The subject of hair in Junji Ito’s body horror is something that you may have seen before. In his Tomie chapter “Hair“, characters attach strands of Tomie’s hair to their heads in order for them to obtain her beauty. But in Uzumaki’s Medusa, the Spiral is drawing these people’s own hair out of their heads in order to seduce and mesmerise those around them.

    The idea of parts of one’s own body being out of ones control is a scary one. These have been explored in horror before, whether it’s the classic “arm transplant but the arm is that of a murderer’s” or “an eye transplant that lets you see ghosts”. But the idea of using hair against the person who owns it is a fresh one to me.

    I loved how the hair became so flamboyant and ridiculous as to lure in those around it. But what I found even more effective was how the hair, whilst growing at such a fast rate, took its toll on the owner. You could see it in Kirie’s eyes as the hair lusted after a bigger audience. But it wasn’t until the closing pages that you see its true effect on a host.

    Kirie’s hair fights back against the hairdresser

    The spiral effect grows

    We’ve seen pretty isolated cases of the spiral at work until now. Limited to families and those closely related. Even the episode with Shuichi’s mother in the hospital could be written up as a woman’s madness on the doctor’s report. But the actual encounters with inexplicable spirals has been limited save for those involved.

    In Medusa, however, the hair that grows from Kirie, and later her friend Sekino, is so unnatural that it just can’t be explained away. No amount of hair spray could have kept those curls up. It would have been plain to all that this is some unnatural force at work. Could it be that the Spiral curse is ready to show itself more widely now? Is it no longer content with appearing in the corners of Kurouzu-cho and instead now wants a larger audience for itself?

    Interestingly, the Spiral only seemed to target Kirie after she had been clear to her friend about not wanting to stick out. She was content with just moving along in life. The idea that her friends’ obsessions with being noticed was intrinsically linked to the spiral’s presence, seemed to be confirmed when she was made the centrepiece of the Spiral’s plans within the Kurouzu-cho school.

    In Conclusion

    The image of the woman with the large curls floating over her head is a common one from Uzumaki. When seeing images from the manga or even clips from the Uzumaki film, it is a pretty staple image. Indeed it does represent both how incredibly inventive and at times ludicrous the world within Kurouzu-cho becomes.

    Medusa is a calmer story than most from Uzumaki with absolutely zero gore. The goriest image is that of a girl whose life is visibly drained from her face; her skin and eyes sunk back. But nothing more than how you would expect a mummy to look in a museum. In fact, the story is home to more humour than gore. Granted it is a particular kind of humour, but it is there nonetheless.

    This story seems to be opening up the Spiral to a wider array of people within the town. Many more are becoming affected by it, and it’s only a matter of time until the Spiral’s full force is released. I think Kirie will still serve as the central character, but the curse looks to be spreading its wings wider and wider from here on out.


  • πŸ“‚

    Tomio Red Turtleneck

    Tomio Red Turtleneck β€” synopsis

    Tomio Red Turtleneck is one of the more nightmarish short horror manga stories from Junji Ito, as well as being one of my favourites. Taken from his excellent Fragments of Horror collection, it tells the story of a young man dealing with a very strange injury.

    We join Tomio’s story as he is walking down a street, grasping at both sides of his head, looking very distressed. His eyes are fixed and his teeth are gritted together as he makes his way to his girlfriend Madoka’s home. On arrival he pleads for her help, but it seems as though he’s been a bad boyfriend. She tells him simply to just “go back to that woman”.

    Flashing back to some days earlier in this couples life, it is revealed that Tomio did in fact begin having an affair with a fortune teller. This same teller foresaw their relationship as being “doomed”. But this seems to have been a fortune reading designed for one thing β€” to get Tomio into bed with said teller.

    And it worked.

    However, after they had made love, the fortune teller reveals her true evil intentions towards Tomio. He has no choice but to run from her, but not before she manages to curse him.

    But just what happened when Tomio and the fortune teller met up? What evil secrets does this cursed woman hold and why did she target Tomio? And just what has she done to cause him to go running back to Madoka with his head clutched between his hands?

    Strong Women

    Ito has a talent for bringing strong women to the forefront of his stories, perhaps none more so than Tomie β€” the immortal, self-replicating demon girl who drives men to go crazy over her. However, Tomio Red Turtleneck displays two very strong women too.

    The first is the fortune teller, who manages to captivate Tomio into having an affair without any real effort on her part. Perhaps it was magic but nonetheless she had that power over him. She is an imposing figure over the story and is definitely someone not to be messed with.

    The Fortune Teller reveals her true intentions

    The second is Madoka. Despite being cheated on by her boyfriend, Madoka isn’t saddened or feeling sorry about the situation. Instead she kicks him out in anger and is even the one to save his skin towards the end. It’s unsure whether she will remain with him after this is all resolved, but one thing is for sure β€” she sure knows how to handle herself and wont go down without a fight.

    Monogamy

    If ever there could be a horror manga allegory for not cheating on your partner, then Tomio Red Turtleneck is it. Tomio doesn’t come across as a particularly nice person in the opening pages. He screams at his girlfriend Madoka that the fortune teller is “way hotter” than her, before running off to her bed. I personally couldn’t wait for him to get his just desserts.

    I found that the fortune teller and the affair with her was a great metaphor for, and even a warning against, being unfaithful to your partner. Tomio sees the teller and is taken with how beautiful she is. He ends up in her bed as he probably believes himself to be “upgrading” his lover in his mind. But of course, once he discovers her true intentions, and the severed heads of other men whom I could only assume cheated on their partners too, he realises he has messed up.

    I don’t for one second think that what he ends up going through can reconcile how he treated Madoka, but perhaps having his head almost removed is a little bit too far a punishment. Perhaps.

    Children of the flames

    I loved the imagery of the three children that were revealed once the fortune teller had been stabbed. Were these malicious spirits that were in control of an otherwise innocent fortune teller? Or were they in fact unborn children of hers who’s presence was still felt by those around?

    I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Madoka and Tomio too. Yes, even Tomio. I think that the fortune teller had some kind of control over him. Whilst I don’t excuse his actions, or his attitude towards Madoka, I did feel that he was a very naive person β€” almost child like. And while Madoka came across as more head strong, she too felt not much older than a child.

    The fortune teller on the other hand seemed much older and infinitely more in control of her self. Although her motives were never revealed, she definitely had control over the situation. Of course, she did underestimate Madoka at the end. So I guess she couldn’t have been that much in control.

    In Conclusion

    Tomio Red Turtleneck is a quintessential Junji Ito manga that I think you should definitely read. Whilst it’s not in my top 5, it is definitely up there towards the top of my favourites. The imagery of Tomio stumbling down the street clutching at his almost-severed head is one of those Ito images that I just won’t ever forget.

    Junji Ito has created such iconic imagery through his career so far, and no-doubt will continue to do so. But I think that Tomio and his red turtleneck are, at least for me, one of the most memorable.


  • πŸ“‚

    Marionette Mansion

    That’s right. Just let yourself go limp. Turn yourself over to the puppeteers.

    Yukihiko enticing his siblings to his way of life.

    Marionette Mansion β€” synopsis

    In Marionette Mansion we follow Haruhiko β€” a boy from a travelling entertainment family. Him and his family move from town to town putting on their puppet shows for the townspeople. Because of this, Haruhiko is unable to settle down and make any lasting friendships.

    Whilst staying in one particular town, he befriends a girl before having to move on again. Whilst they have their short time together, he shows her his family’s travelling home and the puppets that they work with. One puppet in particular creeps the girl out, causing her to knock it to the floor out of shock. This puppet’s name is Jean Pierre β€” more on him later.

    Years later, after his older brother had left and the father had passed away, Haruhiko and his young sister Natsumi are living a simple life together. No more travelling from town to town. Everything is fine, when all of a sudden he bumps into the girl he had befriended all those years earlier. With them now both adults and seemingly settled in their lives, they start to grow closer. But this is a Junji Ito story, and you know that their story doesn’t just end there.

    Kinuko and Haruhiko renew their friendship

    Haruhiko discovers that the brother who had left the family years earlier, has in fact been living close by for some time and urges him and the young sister to visit.

    They accept their older brother’s offer.

    To Haruhiko’s and Natsumi’s surprise, the door is answered by none other than Jean Pierre. Yes that’s right β€” Jean Pierre the puppet. They discover how the older brother and his new family live the lives of puppets on strings β€” quite literally. They seem to be getting controlled by some unseen entities in the ceiling above, the strings being lowered through a system of grids.

    But how will Haruhiko adjust to not only getting back in touch with his brother, but also getting used to their very unconventional way of living? And how is he going to keep his little sister safe from the danger that is sure to be near?

    Who’s pulling the strings?

    This is without a doubt one of the weirdest stories of Junji Ito’s that I’ve read for a while. It raises the question “Who is pulling the strings”. Of course, the family at the start literally pull the strings of the puppets in their travelling show. But in the later years of the siblings’ lives, that role is reversed.

    The fact that Jean Pierre – a seemingly inanimate puppet – welcomes them at the door, let me know that this was going to be an odd one. I realise that Junji Ito is known for how strange and infinitely imaginative his mangas tend to be. But in Marionette Mansion there seems to be a sense of whimsy to the whole thing. Like he is simply having fun playing with these characters and literally pulling their strings for his own, and by extension our, enjoyment.

    After reading this in the Shiver Collection, I also read the accompanying backstory of the manga that comes with each chapter. In it, Junji Ito says:

    …I’d like to hang my upper body from the ceiling. How lovely would it be to leave my body like that and get the work done? This story came from thoughts like these…

    Junji Ito talking about the origin of the story for Marionette Mansion

    Interpretations

    Despite Ito’s explanation of the story’s genesis, I still can’t help but try to find extra meanings. I thought that the “family on strings” was an interesting metaphor for not being in control of one’s own life. From the start the siblings had no choice but to travel with the family and their puppet shows. Then later the older brother, although the first to leave the family, still relys on his strings being pulled for him.

    The Wooden Ballerinas

    The welcoming of Haruhiko and Natsumi into the house presented a danger to their way of life. This danger is especially true for Natsumi, who is still very much young and impressionable. Although Haruhiko comes across as being very headstrong and wishing to be in control of his life, Natsumi perhaps wont see the long-term effects of having one’s decisions and movements made for her.

    I think of Marionette Mansion as a tale about fighting the urge to have everything in life done for you. To fight against handing over responsibilities to others for the sake of living an “easy” life. And to always strive to be your own person β€” not imitating or relying on others for your own sense of self.

    In Summary

    This is an enjoyable story that came across as a lighter read than other mangas in Ito’s large body of work. Nothing in this story made me want to look away in disgust. However, there are still some nice gruesome moments to keep your pallet salivated.

    I loved how the main character fought his side of the argument and does his utmost to protect himself and Natsumi, no matter what pressures get placed on him. He is a great conduit for the lessons that I believe we can learn from this story:

    Never be afraid to be yourself and always be willing to fight for your independence and dignity.


  • πŸ“‚

    Twisted Souls (Uzumaki part 5)

    You can buy Uzumaki here.

    Twisted Souls β€” synopsis

    Yoriko and Kazunori are deeply in love, but are from two families at war. To make matters worse, these two families share the same row house within the town of Kurouzu-cho β€” separated only by a thin dividing wall. The row houses are long, wooden, single-level buildings that can be found throughout the town. Some are hidden away in the towns forgotten places, whilst others sit on its outer edges.

    Row houses hidden in Kurouzu Cho

    Each attempt that Yoriko and Kazunori make to be with one another, is ended with their families ripping them apart. They have no care for their families’ age-old feud, and simply want to be able to live out their lives together in peace.

    Kirie stumbles upon a fight between the families on her way home one day. She soon decides that she will help these two attempted lovers to escape their respective families and start their own lives once and for all. These controlling family members are, as Kazunori puts it, twisted souls; their hearts are bent out of shape.

    However, it may be that embracing the spiral is the only way for them to escape once and for all.

    A Shakespearean tale

    The focus in this story is completely removed from the previous chapters so far. The families in Twisted Souls are separate from both Kirie and Shuichi β€” it was only through chance that Kirie stumbled upon them. But the spiral is still at work in this story. It is obvious after reading this that the spiral is in fact all over Kurouzu-Cho.

    The star-crossed lovers in this chapter reminded me instantly of Romeo and Juliet. It’s a pretty common Shakespeare story that influences a lot of popular fiction, but it was nice nonetheless to see it woven into the world of Uzumaki.

    Junji Ito’s work is often compared to the work of acclaimed horror author H.P. Lovecraft. However, I believe there will be many parallels with Shakespearean tragedy in Ito’s work too. Although I can only recall this reference to Romeo and Juliet currently, I will start to look out for other references going forward.

    Red herrings

    On first reading this story, when I saw what Kazunori was saying about his and Yoriko’s families, I thought I’d immediately guessed how the ending would go. “Their hearts are bent out of shape”, “You can’t untangle them”, “They shield themselves by becoming warped”.

    But I couldn’t have been more wrong about my predictions in Twisted Souls. It was an interesting spin and, dare I say it, a relief to see the spiral being used by these people as a way for them to finally realise their own dreams.

    In Conclusion

    I very much enjoyed Twisted Souls. It was a slightly different story to previous chapters and didn’t lean on much body horror at all, save for the ending. But even that felt to me like the lovers welcomed their destiny. It was their dream to be together; to become one with each other through sickness and in health. They got their wish.

    For once in Uzumaki, amongst the death, horror and gore, the Spiral actually helped two people in need. And not only that, but it did so of their own free will too.


  • πŸ“‚

    Suspiria may be the single most evil film I’ve ever seen. The colours; the music; the suspense throughout. Just stunning.


  • πŸ“‚

    Resident Evil : Project Resistance CLOSED BETA — my thoughts

    I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to open my email two weeks ago and find an invitation to the upcoming multiplayer game Resident Evil: Project Resistance. I had heard it referred to as “Resident Evil but done like Dead by Daylight”. But I’m here to tell you that it is so much more than that.

    I’ve always loved the classic Resident Evil games (from the original through to Code: Veronica – I haven’t played any more till Resident Evil 7: Biohazard). Resident Evil 7 rekindled my love of horror games and the Resident Evil 2 Remake rekindled my love of Raccoon City specifically. So when I had heard about an upcoming multiplayer game set in this world I jumped at the chance to enter into the closed BETA access ballot.

    I still can’t believe I got in.

    What is the aim of Project Resistance?

    You choose from one of two sides when entering into a game β€” you can be either one of four survivors, each with their own unique traits, or the Mastermind, who is trying to stop them from escaping. I found both sides fun in their own way, but the clear winner for me was playing as the Mastermind β€” especially when I got to jump into the skin of the Tyrant twice in each game (more on that later).

    Survivor goals

    As one of the four survivors your goal is to make it out of the match with your allies. This means fighting your way across three separate areas of the game map and out of the exit gate, all while the Mastermind throws everything at you from Lickers to Zombie Dogs.

    Each time you deal damage or complete objectives you get additional seconds added on to your team’s time to escape. And believe me when I say that every second counts. Each area has a simple puzzle to solve, which essentially involves exploring the environment for each part of a puzzle to unlock the next door.

    The survivors enter the last area

    Each area has a safe room where you can buy extra weapons, ammo and herbs with credits found within the map. These safe rooms can also be used as breathing spaces β€” The Mastermind is unable to send enemies in there after you.

    Mastermind goals

    As the lone Mastermind, your job is to stop the four survivors from making it through those three areas and out of the exit. You can throw anything at them that you have at your disposal, but there is a slight caveat.

    The Mastermind builds up a points gauge, about 1 point per five seconds I think. Those points can then be spent to play “enemy cards”. You see, each enemy you can place down in the map is represented by a card within your “deck”. Decks can be chosen before the match but the BETA was limited to a single selection. Those cards then become available on a rotation, allowing you to build up a good varied selection of enemies for the survivors to fight through.

    A Zombie dog for example takes 2 points to place down. It is a weaker enemy, but more can be placed down in succession. A Licker on the other hand is worth 7 points but is much stronger. So it will take slightly longer to build up to the points to place one of those down. So it’s all a bit of give and take.

    Downtown map view

    Another power gauge that builds up over time, separate from the card points gauge, is the ultimate weapon metre. The only Mastermind that was available to play in the BETA was “Daniel”, whose ultimate weapon is The Tyrant from the Resident Evil 2: Remake. The Tyrant card pops up once its metre is filled, after which you can place it for free. Once placed, you actually take control of the trench-coat-wearing machine!

    If you manage to keep the survivors occupied enough through the match, and their timer runs to zero, a gas will be released killing them all. If this happens then you have won the match.

    What I liked about Project Resistance

    I have to say that I pretty much liked everything about this game. Even though it was a BETA test, it felt really polished and I noticed absolutely zero bugs whilst playing. Capcom are one of the leaders of the pack when it comes to video games right now, at least in my opinion. I think a lot of what made this game feel so polished for me, was the use of their proprietary engine introduced in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and continued in Resident Evil 2 Remake β€” the “RE Engine”.

    I felt there was a good push and pull between the survivors and the Mastermind. Some games I would absolutely destroy the survivors, whilst in others they would escape with 8 minutes or so remaining. It will be interesting to see how this game gets altered, if at all, after they have sifted through all of the feedback from the testing weekend.

    An example of the cards to put enemies down

    What I disliked about Project Resistance

    As I said above, I pretty much like everything in this game. If I’m honest the only thing I found slightly frustrating, albeit only occasionally, was the enemy intelligence. I would sometimes see enemies just standing there whilst survivors ran around ahead of them. This happened rarely, but I assume it is one of those things that will get reviewed after testing. That’s what BETA testing is for, right?

    What I’d like to see in the Full Release of Project Resistance

    This was one of the questions on the feedback form and it really got me thinking about what I’d love to see in the final game. The DLC options here are almost limitless, but here are a few things I’d love to experience:

    Lots of maps.

    I’d love to be able to play through a bunch of locations from the Resident Evil universe. Even the Baker House would be a cool one for me. I think you could probably get about five or six maps from each Resident Evil Game.

    Some of my absolute dream maps would be:

    • The Baker’s Guest House from Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
    • Raccoon City Police Station from Resident Evil 2 (both versions? :))
    • Different areas of the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil Remake
    • The Guest House from Resident Evil Remake
    Mr X watches as the dog attacks a survivor

    Lots of enemies

    Different enemies from across Resident Evil’s history would be so awesome. I could imagine putting a bee hive in the corner of a room, with the lights turned off, to be very annoying to survivors. πŸ˜€

    Some enemies I’d love to be able to place down:

    • Bee Hives from Resident Evil Remake
    • Moulded from Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
    • Giant Spiders from Resident Evil Remake
    • “Possessed” Mia Winters from Resident Evil 7: Biohazard as an ultimate weapon
    • Jack Baker from Resident Evil 7: Biohazard as an ultimate weapon
    • Maybe the ability to place enemies outside of windows that would burst through when passed?

    Different Skins

    I think the idea of each survivor player having to choose a different character is an interesting one. But what I’d love to see would be for players to earn, or maybe purchase?, skins. So they still play the roles as either tank, damage, hacker etc but each person can go in looking like characters from the Resident Evil universe.

    Some characters I’d be super hyped to play as:

    • Leon Kennedy
    • Jill Valentine
    • Chief Irons? LOL
    • William Birkin (Imagine having a team comprised of the whole Birkin family :D)
    • Mia Winters

    In Conclusion

    I absolutely loved playing this game over the testing weekend and can not wait for it to be released in full. I will be buying it on its day of release.

    My first thoughts when hearing about its asymmetrical structure was that it would basically be Dead By Daylight but in the Resident Evil universe. But I am happy to say that this is not the case. Project Resistance is a game that sits on its own, taking interesting elements from different games. It has the puzzle solving aspect from its own world, it then takes the asymmetrical nature of other multiplayer games whilst putting its own spin on it. Mix those with the card point system from games like Clash Royale and you’ve got an interesting game that I’ll be playing the hell out of when it’s released.

    I’d like to also take this opportunity to thank Capcom for accepting me on to the BETA testing weekend. I managed to make a few friends jealous, as well as having some of the most fun moments I’ve had on the PS4 for a while.

    Gameplay footage β€” playing as Mastermind

    Me playing as Mastermind