Story and art by Shingo Honda
Original Publisher Bessatsu Manga Goraku (2014)
Length: 1 Volume (5 Chapters)
My manga-themed horror binge has led to me two conclusions. The first is that the medium can be used to create many terrifying experiences with the right use of balance. The second is that many horror sub-genres underutilise aspects of storytelling, which lessens the fear they are able to instil in their readers. Kirko, leaning towards the gory side of horror, mirrors these issues. The highly developed antagonist her history were intriguing, but when placed inside a paper-thin environment it causes everything to crumble.
This manga revolves around a group of young adults who have been invited to a high school reunion to remember the loss of their beloved classmate Kiriko. After discovering that “K.”, who sent the invitations, was not among them, they must find out who brought them there, which may require them to uncover the mystery surrounding Kiriko’s death.
Slasher-revenge manga like “Kiriko” take a big risk, that is, under-developing almost every aspect of themselves. Character refinement, story progression and even writing are sacrificed to focus on two parts; the creation and manifestation of a “monster”, and the reason behind their revenge. You wouldn’t read this manga because you enjoyed the characters or the time period it was set in; it’s to witness the mental and physical torture the antagonist puts them through, and slowly discover what traumatic circumstances led up to these events. I’ve been pretty vocal about this in previous reviews, but to remove any subtlety the could have muddied my opinion, these types of manga don’t work well. Ultimately, imbalances lead to inconsistencies, inconsistencies lead to confusion, confusion leads to a less immersive experience, and that leaves the reader turned off. This manga led to an experience all too familiar, as I had to power through a couple (of only five!) chapters in order to reach the ending, where I hoped to find any semblance of quality. It’s very much a situation where there is good stuff in here, and the author is saying “here me out, just wait until this bit!”, and I do, and it is good. But all the undeveloped content in between these bits needed to be utilised in order to make the more emotive scenes as terrifying as the creator wanted them to be.
In saying that, Kiriko was one of the better manga of this genre I have read. The mystery behind the events were somewhat worth toiling through the mud, and the introduction of insanity added a flexibility in the way horror could be portrayed. I enjoyed the various manifestations Kiriko took in order to torture her classmates, and its unpredictability added an element of intrigue. The helplessness of the characters also reflected the constricting feeling of guilt, many of which due to immoral acts suppressed long ago. It was enjoyable watching the initial realisation of the characters that they were in danger, but after that it slowly fizzled out. Undeveloped characters made the gruesome deaths… just gruesome. Inferring that this would be the fate for most, if not all characters, the audience disconnects from these paper-thin people so that their deaths mean nothing. At this stage, all that kept me going was most likely the focus of the creator’s efforts, Kiriko and her past.
The artistry in this manga is disturbingly exceptional. The way in which the monster is portrayed only heightens the sense of horror, which heightens the sense of mystery, as something so terrifying could only have been created under very intense circumstances. While the deaths meant nothing to me emotionally, the creatively envisioned deaths did evoke a visceral reaction. The artist was able to utilise comic panels effectively also. For example, there is a scene where two characters are arguing in front of a window. Watching this slender figure in the background slowly creep closer was a great way to fill the reader with anxiety without having to be blunt. When the creature’s backstory was revealed, I wasn’t “shook”, but I was surprised, and ultimately satisfied with. It added an element of psychosis to the tragedy, and its ending reinforced this. The idea that the monster represented something more than a physical threat added an element of realism, but also longevity. While the monster may make the occasional appearance in my nightmares, what it represented is something that could consume my thoughts.
Kiriko isn’t a bad manga, but the gamble it took with its direction did not pay off. It was so short, and if it had taken the time to flesh everything out, its story and characters could have been more compelling. I have a feeling the creator had the idea for this monster, and haphazardly created a backdrop to place it in, but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to create a immersive story.
Art – 8
Story – 5
Writing – 6
Overall – 6.5