Junji Ito's Black Paradox Manga Review
Junji Ito may have been known as the father of horror manga in Japan because of his incredible artwork that is definitely not for the faint-hearted while delivering a great storyline.
I'll review his works in no particular order and decided to start with the not-so-popular manga series Black Paradox. It's quite a short manga consisting of only six chapters but is packed with questions than answers.
So the story premise goes like this. We follow four characters: Maruso, a young woman who works as a nurse and is stricken by visions of the future and anxiety, Pii-tan, a lonely man who was used as a model for a humanoid robot and became insecure because people seem to forget his existence, Taburo, a greedy young man who is haunted by his doppelganger, and Barachi, a beautiful woman with a horrifying and disfigured scar on her face. The four meet together to commit a group suicide in a faraway place so their bodies won't be discovered. However, a bizarre phenomenon made them aware on what's the future of the world.
Right off the bat, we are introduced to 4 incredibly standard characters so let's discuss those in more detail.
Maruso - A young female nurse who, for some reason, has the ability to see the future. The reason why she wants to commit suicide is due to her increasing anxiety about her premonitions that she doesn't want to be a part of. I like to view her character as the main out of the four characters we are introduced to. She sometimes gets annoying but establishes her character for me right near the end. Unlike the other three, she does not want to commit suicide because she saw or had an interaction with her other self. Her reason is more deeply connected to her character.
Taburo - A rich and greedy guy who gets more annoying as the story goes by. The reason why he wants to commit suicide is due to his doppelganger always stalking him. He believes that since he sees his other self, he will die anyway, so he wants to take his own than wait for it to happen. I really don't like him as a character. He is annoying, especially during the Paradonite or Paradoxical Night jewels chapter.
Baracchi - A beautiful woman who has a disfigured birthmark on her face. She wanted to commit suicide because her reflection seemed to move whenever she saw herself in the mirror. She thinks that her reflection tells her that she will die. During the Paradonite or Paradoxical Night chapter, she and Taburo seemed like a greedy bunch who got blinded by their greediness and desire. The problem with her character, as reflected in the story, is that she is easily fooled. But her personality also gives meaning to the story when she gets incredibly annoyed by Maruso.
Pii-tan - A lonely man who was used as a model for a robot. He wanted to commit suicide because he believed the robot was perfect and his existence was no longer needed. For the most part in the story, his human self perishes, and the android replaces him. The paradonites started because of him, so he is an essential character in the story. I like how he is structured in the story. He is the one that balances the good and the bad.
I initially thought that Black Paradox was a slasher kind of story. Well, since this is my first Junji Ito manga, I won't be surprised if it turns out the other way. At least the plot doesn't go astray on being a typical horror flick.
What you cannot take away from the story is that it is intelligently conceptualized. It's not something like an out-of-the-box horror story that gets quite boring because of its predictability,
I think the story is just okay. It's very well-structured. Its message is direct. But the key to the plot is that you ask more questions than answers. Even after the manga ends, you are still asking questions. I like that it kept being mysterious at the end. I want to view the ending as the "beginning of the end" and not the finale. Maybe that's why the title has a paradox in it.
I like to extend the story more, though. I think the pacing was a little fast, and sometimes I need to backread a few pages to see what's really happening.
The plot also tells you that there are no good or bad characters. Everything depends on your perception. I mean, who would think that the four people who want to commit suicide as good ones anyway.
The Scare Factor
For someone like me who hates horror stories because I sometimes get terrible dreams. I think this is a nice change. Though I still don't believe that Black Paradox is scary. It is entertaining and brings different viewpoints to the horror genre. The actual horror here is humanity's decisions when presented with blinding gifts. It shows the greediness and lust of humankind as they desire things that are beyond them. It's pretty similar today.
There's also not much gore. If I dig deep into other Junji Ito stories, I might see those that would turn my stomach upside down. But for Black Paradox, it is still quite an easy read. It's still not close to the squeamish level of the Saw franchise.
However, if you are easily triggered by several things like anxiety, suicide, depression, etc., don't try to read this one even if it piques your interest.
The Scare Rating
For the most part, I find this manga incredibly entertaining. I think for someone like me who is totally unfamiliar with Junji Ito's works, Black Paradox is an excellent start. So, I will give it a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars.