fuannotane“One trick pony” is usually used in a disparaging way, but really, it depends on how good the trick is. Drugs are a one trick pony, but based on various after school specials I’ve seen, they’re certainly worth doing, and are probably the only thing worth doing.

Fuan no Tane is the ultimate one trick manga. It’s a barrage of ghost tales and urban legends, 3-4 pages each, with no characters, no stories, and sometimes hardly any text. Like snowflakes, none have much effect on their own, but when they come at you as a blizzard, you soon feel very cold. And addicted. It’s hard to stop reading Fuan no Tane, but I recommend it in only small doses. You can’t exactly marathon this stuff, it’s like too many dances with China White, you overdose at a certain point and your brain shuts down.

If you were raised on urban legends about men with hooks for hands and killer toilet seat spiders, you’ll feel right at home here. Some are brutal and gory, with “The Ear-Slashing Monk” being the most memorable in this category. Others have a strong element of camp. Still others bypass camp completely, and enter a Daliesque world of postmodern absurdism. “The Eyes that Seek”, for example, involves an army of detached eyeballs rolling down the highway.

Japanese humor notoriously inaccessible to Westerners. I don’t know if these ghost stories are Japanese in origin, or if Nakayama has adapted western material, but the terror impulse is probably far more universal than laughter. A lot of these are definitely creepy – although some of the cartoony ones do take the edge off the proceedings a little. It’s a great formula from a quality assurance standpoint, too. It doesn’t matter that some of the chapters fall flat, because there’s another one straight away to take the taste away.

Nakayama followed this up with Fuan no Tane Plus (aka, More of the Same™), and more recently Kouishu Radio, (aka, More of the Same™: The Samening, Electric Boogaloo). I think this might be the only trick he’s capable of.

None of which matters to an addict, of course.

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