Ever read something and had no idea what was going on and yet you couldn’t put it down? That’s how I felt reading PTSD Radio Vol. 1, although it still left me uncustomarily annoyed. I dig into volume 2 to find meaning to the madness.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
…gragh……lau…gh……pu…ll…pull……gu…shi……ma……..here…la…ss? ….ww….Oww………the dream……Who……are……Agh…ah…Aaa…aAH!…..geh…?… Grblrrblbrr…rgh……SHICK……AaaAHhh……ha…ir?…….No….eye…look……days… …..th…….this is AERN-BBC, PTSD Radio. No tuning nec…essary.
Why does this matter?
The summary above doesn’t help you much, but it does convey the eclectic nature and weirdness of this manga. There is the main story so to speak, but it’s also checking in and out of stories throughout this and the last volume. If you want to enjoy horror that takes you off guard this is for you.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This totem is so strange. Give me answers!
My main gripe with the first volume was the confusing nature of the story, but this volume begins to add some clarity to what is going on. The format is short vignettes that drop you into stories with new characters and new horrors only to jump to another after two to ten pages. This creates a sense of confusion and constant rediscovery even when recurring characters pop back up. Masaaki Nakayama’s horror is the type that involves jump scares, but since characters (and creatures!) come back you start to gain an understanding of the rules of these stories.
What appears to be the main story involves a strange totem that is creepy and incredibly phallic. People pray to it and offer it hair (as we saw in the first volume) and it seems to have some kind of connection to crows. Crows end up being one of the main monsters in a story that pops in and out in this volume and their connection to the totem is fascinating even if it doesn’t entirely make sense. Like the show Twin Peaks you’ll be weirded out, but always intrigued as to what is really going on. Considering Nakayama is piecing things together and bringing back strange creatures there must be some kind of meaning to it all.
This volume may have the most self-contained horror story yet focusing on the man in old Japan who witness a strange drawing on a door. As they contemplate the door at night they tell stories of a courtesan whose heart was broken. Each story is tragic and leads down a dark road that helps ramp up to a horrible murder.
The art continues to be haunting. Nakayama loves to smash cut to extreme close-ups of gross faces and creepy features. There are images in this work that will stick with you due to their haunting qualities. It’s also interesting to see how Nakayama transitions between stories sometimes using extreme close-ups of things we’ve seen in the story to confuse. The fascination with hair is an interesting element–surely it’s something that creeps Nakayama out–and it ties into many of these stories in subtle ways. In one story for example, Nakayama draws a single hair around a man’s finger in a sex scene where your focus may not even notice it. This leads to the woman in the scene getting a tug on her hair and a terrible ending to her life.
Frightening faces await you.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Due to the episodic nature of the stories, it’s tricky to remember who is who and whether or not we’ve seen characters before. Take for instance a scene where men attempt to destroy the totem. As a man’s head explodes you’ll be wondering why or how this is even happening and then a man we may or may not know dies suddenly. Who was this man? This is a work that may require a reread or two to gather the deeper meaning. That said, it’s not obvious there is any meaning at all, which can add frustration to an otherwise striking manga.
Is It Good?
Volume two carries forward characters and themes from the first volume in a rewarding way. If you were on the fence with volume one I highly recommend giving volume two a read. It not only enriches the first volume but has exceptional horror vignettes that are well-written and darkly original.