The scariest fiction when you’re an adult is the strange stuff; the type of content that doesn’t make sense that can take average everyday things and make them weird in a moment’s notice. This makes sense of course since the things that scare us as children do exactly the same thing, but as an adult monsters are no longer horrifying mysteries. Enter a new manga from Kodansha Comics called PTSD Radio, which I dove into already confused by the cover and description only to finish reading it perplexed in the best of ways.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
…ha…ir……hand hand and.. ..an..d……fire….. ….be…hin…d……blood……u… …sh…shadow………ahh……ow……ow…w……co…. ..bo…box……chil…dren… …straw………shears……s…sss.. ….sever…GROooOHH…. ..rah……O…gu…shi…sa….. ……….This is AERN-BBC, PTSD Radio. No tuning…necessary.
Why does this matter?
I have no idea who writer and artist Masaaki Nakayama is, but he understands how to unnerve. Just take a look at the summary above and try to make sense of it! Ever enter a dark room and have the hairs stand on end on the back of your neck? This book does that and then some.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This can’t be good…
This manga opens ominously with a little girl getting her hair cut by her grandmother in a serene field. Nothing is particularly weird or scary, but it does remind you of how children fear haircuts. It then cuts to two black pages with a bit of text running along the bottom which sets up the next vignette in a creepy sort of way. And so begins a repeating process of touching on the girl, hair, and vignettes. The story doesn’t quite make sense, but Nakayama seems to be telling a story that’s progressing in some way as it goes along. It’s only once you get two thirds through this work that you realize there’s a bigger story at play here. This further adds an ominous quality to the overall work and will make you want the next volume.
Thankfully there is some kind of bigger story, because at face value this manga reads like a collection of short vignettes which are creepy, but so short and quick it’s more bubblegum horror than anything else. That is if the bubblegum is poisoned and making you feel more and more ill as you chew it! Nakayama is very good at dropping a horrifying image unexpectedly as you turn the page. Like a jump scare in a book you’ll be calm but nervous, only to turn the page and be completely freaked out at what you’re seeing. It happens three or four times in this manga and it works every time.
The art is excellent with a hyper-realistic detail that is very aware of how the human form should and really shouldn’t look. I suspect Nakayama has studied the human face quite a bit as there are images in this book that will stay with you. Environments are very realistic too and that enhances the unnerving imagery in this manga.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Part of the ominous nature of this manga is due to the confusing bigger picture story, which can be frustrating. I honestly don’t know what is going on or how it comes together, but I have my suspicions. If you’re a reader who wants all the answers, or at least concrete hints, you might want to stay away from this.
Is It Good?
Unnerving, weird, and most of all scary, this manga will haunt you. I’m not one to be scared by the manga format, but there are images in this manga that will stay with you.