Shuzo Oshimi is one of the most unique creators working in manga today. His works aren’t afraid to make readers uncomfortable and he is able to create feelings of unease and fear with seemingly mundane situations. This is once again demonstrated in his latest series Blood on the Tracks from Vertical. Seiichi’s mother loves him very much, and his days pass with placid regularity. School, friends, even the attention of his attractive classmate Fukiishi. Until one terrible summer day, that all changes…
If you’ve read any of Oshimi’s previous works (particularly Flowers of Evil or Happiness), you’ll be aware of the inherent creepiness that lies in his artwork. Whether it is a supernatural based work or one based in reality, he always manages to extract feelings of discomfort from the reader. Blood on the Tracks from the opening pages accomplishes exactly that. Those who follow Oshimi on Twitter will be aware of the haunting quality his painted works possess, and the painted opening pages showing an unhappy memory from Seiichi’s childhood do a superb job of setting the tone of the series.
Being more grounded than his most recent works, most of the events in this opening volume appear to represent an everyday and – at times –mundane world. But there is an underlying tension brought on largely through Oshimi’s artistic skill. Right from the get-go, it is clear that Seiichi’s mother is not exactly of sound mind and has some attachment issues with her son. There is a level of subtlety in how this achieved that you don’t often see in manga – which typically relies on over-the-top actions and expressions. Seichii’s mother’s disturbing smile and stare are far more effective than most conventional examples of horror you see in manga, and even a simple act of asking what her son wants for breakfast is far more unsettling than it should be.
Beyond the artwork, there is a skilful layer of storytelling on display as well. We get snapshots of a seemingly normal family life and Seiichi going having everyday experiences at school. These are all undermined though by the presence of Seiichi’s mother who seems to linger even when she’s not in a scene. When she is with her son, we see the degree of her possessiveness and jealousy when it comes to sharing her son with other people (friends, a girl he is interested in and even his cousin). Oshimi never beats the reader over the head with this though and we get a subtle build up before the rather shocking events of the closing chapter.
Blood on the Tracks is another example of why Shuzo Oshimi is one of the top names working in psychological horror manga today. A strong recommendation to fans of his previous work and anyone who likes a more subtle approach in their manga.
Blood On The Tracks, Volume 1 is out now from Vertical
9781949980134 – P/B – £10.99
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