One night, Hiroshi is bothered by incessant knocking coming from the hall outside his door. He sees a large, stringy-haired woman pounding on his neighbor's apartment door, though she leaves soon after. However, the next day the woman returns, and this time she seems to have her cold, frightening sights set on Hiroshi...
Layout. Zashiki Onna is a masterclass in how layout can carry an otherwise straightforward manga. While I found the story a traditional urban legend with a distinctly Japanese flavor, the suspense that Mochizuki injects into the work through clever scripting and shot composition pulls the viewer into Hiroshi's plight.While initially put off by the otherwise ugly artwork, I found the tight plotting and grim end worth the ride. Any fans of horror and suspense should check out this quick little number if merely to see how powerful suspense can be developed in a comic book. Just be sure to read this one as slowly as you can bring yourself to consume it. Speeding through each page won't give you enough time to let the atmosphere sink in.
I don't care for the switching between detailed artwork and basic lines. The faces really suck. And compared to the better drawn backgrounds, it really stands out how much they suck. The smiles don't look happy, the clothes often don't look quite right, and the way people stand looks stiff. On the plus side, it can look kinda creepy, which fits the mood of this story. You see, this manga's all about the creepiness of having someone stalking you, trying to insert themselves into your life. The nature and identity of this woman is largely left a mystery. Is she delusional or otherwise mentally impaired? Is she even human or is she a spirit of some sort? And towards the end, we start wondering whether Hiroshi himself is delusional or not, or what the actual sequence of events were involving Yamamoto.
Story: The story was pretty addicting, and set to the right pace of the length of the manga. Aside from the predictable fact of knowing that the woman will always be in the most unfortunate places at the most unfortunate times for the main character. However, about halfway through the manga, because of the sudden involvement of other characters and the initiative to rid the main character and co. from the stalker, you don't know how the story will end. Rather than being a teenage scare, this 1993 thriller manga has a somewhat vague and unhappy ending, which makes the story better. Art: The art was horrid, to say the least. I understand that the style was supposed to be more realistic, and I think it was. But it wasn't very appealing. The art only really worked for the stalker character and the ugly smile she pulled off towards the end. The story easily makes up for the eyesores, though. Characters: The characters had typical personalities. Though they weren't all that developed. I feel like the main character had reasons for the why he did some of the things he did, but we never see those reasons. So you're left to chalk it up that he's just an idiot. The mystery behind the stalker woman and lack of background is a good choice. Even though the characters weren't really all that outstanding, it just worked for Zahiki Onna. I think that this is a good, quick read if you're in the mood to get creeped out. But if you're someone who looks at art as a vital part of the manga and you can't stand reading something unless it has good character development, then you might want to look elsewhere. Definitely something to try out, though.
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