A ghost story set in Japan, Animus delivers a clever and creepy story.
Publisher First Second delivers Antoine Revoy’s new graphic novel.
From the publisher:
The residents of a quiet Japanese neighborhood have slowly come to realize that inauspicious, paranormal forces are at play in the most unlikely of places: the local playground. Two friends, a young boy and girl, resolve to exorcise the evil that inhabit it, including a snaggle-toothed monster.
I didn’t know what to expect from Animus when I first picked it up, aside from the fact there was a creepy kid in a fox mask in the story, judging by the cover. This is author Revoy’s first graphic novel, so there was nothing to base an opinion on in that direction, either. I found that a perfect way to start this book — since I didn’t know how far he would push the horror element, I didn’t have to play the plot against my expectations. Even though it’s labeled as “young adult,” that covers a lot of ground these days.
What I found was a manga-influenced ghost tale that leaned more towards creepiness and open-ended questions than outright scares or gore. The story follows two Japanese children, Hisao and Sayuri, who happen to pick the wrong playground. Hisao dreams of being a soccer star and juggles the ball endlessly, while Hisao is more into reading her book and looking forward to the day her braces come off than plans for the future. We soon find they aren’t alone as they notice another little boy who is wearing an animal mask. They discover he isn’t the only strange thing in the playground, as they have encountered with one of the more terrifying aspects of the place, which amuses the new boy named “Toothless.”
Like most children, curiosity wins out over common sense and they end up visiting the strange playground and Toothless again and again. The story unfolds as they learn about the special things in the playground and the circumstances of Toothless. Running parallel is a plot following a lead detective from the police force who is investigating the disappearance of over 40 children. Their paths ultimately tie together, but it was refreshing to see that the story didn’t play out like I thought it would. I do have to say that the ending is very open-ended and I suppose it was written with the intent that you come to your own conclusion based off various clues and references made earlier in the book. Without giving too much away, it was a little frustrating as I could see what the author was going for, but I don’t necessarily agree that one character’s motivation was developed enough to make the choice they did at the end.
The artwork is outstanding. Much like an anime or manga, the characters are drawn with a more “cartoony” style, while the backgrounds are detailed and more realistic. The characters’ styles aren’t so overly cartoonish that it pulls you out of the story, and seem to fit with the protagonists being young children. It’s a pleasure to look at, as the talented Revoy is able to pull off nice landscapes and decomposing zombies without there being a clash in style.
Is It Good?
I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it if for no other reason than to have someone to discuss the ending with. I still feel I may have missed something in that regard, even after re-reading it for the second time and knowing what to look for. Rather than be frustrated, though, I appreciate the author’s ability to keep me thinking about the story long after I finished it.