Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Suicide Forest

Written by El Torres
Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

I'd enjoyed El Torres and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's earlier horror comic, The Veil, and so thought I'd give this one a try, but was not prepared for the growth in the two gentlemen's storytelling between that project and this one.

The Suicide Forest is set in Tokyo and in Aokigahara Forest, the vast and dark forest near Mount Fuji which is known as a place where people commit suicide.  The story works along two parallel lines for a while, until everything converges in an ending that is disturbing and kind of sweet.  Ryoko is a young woman who works as a forest ranger in Aokigahara, the same job her father had before he disappeared.  She is a deeply spiritual person who adheres to a number of Shinto beliefs that are now considered outdated or mere superstition.  She works in the forest as a way of helping the spirits of the suicides find some peace.

In Tokyo, we meet Alan, an American who has a Japanese girlfriend, Masami, who is more than a little clingy.  Every time he's tried to break up with her, they've ended up back together, but as the book opens, he leaves her for good, and she assaults him before descending into a terrible depression.

After Masami goes to Aokigahara, two of Alan's friends turn up dead.  It's not long before Alan and Ryoko run into each other in the forest, and have to deal with angry spirits and other creepy things.

This book is very well written, with the characters feeling nuanced and complicated.  Gabriel Hernandez Walta's art is dark and suggestive, an interesting cross between mid-career Frank Miller and a toned down Ben Templesmith.  His forest is a foreboding, menacing place.

The Suicide Forest makes me think of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service series of manga, which begins in the same place, but this is a much darker read.

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