Scary Book Volume 1: Reflections by Kazuo Umezu

Horror manga is generally not my thing. I do appreciate it when I stumble across it, but I’ve never felt the urge to collect all the volumes of a horror manga series. I am glad I tried out this volume of Scary Book, just because I haven’t read much Umezu before. This volume features two stories: “The Mirror” which shows what happens to a vain rich girl when the reflection she admires has a mind of her own and “The Demon of Vengeance” which has an almost inspiring story of revenge.

Emi lives in a mansion with an elaborate mirror. She loves standing in front of it, but as she grows older she starts to feel uneasy. She has a boyfriend, and is admired for her looks, but she’s old fashioned and affected in her mannerisms. When Emi’s boyfriend Mitsugu attempts to be physically affectionate with her she dumps him, then returns to her house where she keeps having horrible accidents, as if the mansion is trying to destroy her. Things get even worse when she has a dream about her reflection coming out of the mirror to strangle her only to wake up to see that her evil doppleganger is loose in the world, systematically destroying Emi’s life. The premise of an evil mirror twin might seem simple, but I was impressed by the way Umezu wrung every opportunity for psychological humiliation out of this story. Emi finds herself dating the class nerd, she fails at school for writing backwards, Mirror Emi takes her place with her family, and Emi finds herself wandering around town in shabby clothes only to find that no one is capable of recognizing her as a rich beautiful girl anymore. Even though Emi isn’t a particularly likeable character, I did like seeing that she starts taking action against Mirror Emi as the story progresses, she isn’t content to see her life taken over by a supernatural entity. Umezu’s illustrations are effective in portraying the creeping sense of menace that pervades the story as Emi finds herself fearful of mirrors or any reflective surface. He relies on stark black and white contrast often, saving details for when he is focusing on extra horrifying images, like Mirror Emi’s expressions of hatred.

“The Demon of Vengeance” is the story of a vassal who finds his life destroyed and manages to live in order to inflict the most horrible revenge on the lord who betrayed him, even when you might think that it might be physically impossible for him to do anything. I won’t say much because I don’t want to give anything away, but there were some moments in this story that were almost hilariously over the top in their deception of righteous anger. One of the things that is fun about Umezu is that people are fully committed to their emotions. No one is mildly afraid or angry, they are more scared than anyone ever has or ever will be again! Scary Book was a pleasant change of pace from my usual manga reading.

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