Whether you want to be frightened or chuckle a little, we’ve got some slightly scary manga minis this time! From outright comedies in a postapocalyptic setting to some death game psychological horror, check out these cool manga series!
One Operation Joker Volume 1 (Kodansha)
To start off our slightly scary manga minis column, I’ve been catching up with DC/Kodansha collaboration manga as they release. They’re not too bad, though Superman’s outing leaves me wanting something different. One Operation Joker feels like a better manga debut, featuring everyone’s favorite Clown Prince of Crime.
The thing with Joker is that you an write him in wildly absurd scenarios and it suits him perfectly. From Jason Fabok’s Three Jokers story to his Night Terrors tie-in where he lands an office job, he fits everywhere. Likewise, this manga has a fun premise: After a wild chase, Joker accidentally makes Batman fall into a pit of chemicals. However, instead of making Batman crazy (or dead), it de-ages the Dark Knight into a baby. Feeling lost without someone to oppose him, Joker decides to raise the baby as his own, trying everything to become a decent single father. Of course, as he’s a deranged maniac, antics ensue as he helps baby Batman grow.
I enjoyed reading this volume since the manga nails Joker’s deranged logic, but also his inner turmoil. It comes off as human (even if he wants to destroy Gotham). The art style feels a bit too exaggerated at times, but adapts the comic look better than the Superman manga. While I did like Joker’s characterization, the supporting cast is a bit undercooked; however, I can see it develop. Honestly, seeing baby Batman pout is adorable, and Joker having an existential crisis over diapers is hilarious. I’ll give this another volume to flesh out the journey, but it’s a solid start.
One Operation Joker is a serviceable manga with a hilarious premise and a good character study on Joker’s character. If you’re looking for a funny elseworld story, check this one out.
Rating: 3 out of 5 UwUs
The Summer Hikaru Died Volume 1 (Yen Press)
Sometimes the most horrific things aren’t explicitly scary. I have a fear of being forgotten by my close friends, and something about The Summer Hikaru Died intrigues me. This slow-burning mystery/horror manga is a refreshing tale that will have you on the edge on your seat.
In this manga, Yoshiki and his lifelong friend Hikaru are living school life in an idyllic town… except for one problem.
Hikaru died six months ago.
What remains is someone that isn’t quite like Hikaru, although he looks identical. After bringing it up, “Hikaru” threatens Yoshiki with death should he tell anyone else. Yoshiki grapples with the issue of his friend’s identity as the year continues, and a deeper mystery unfolds. Who is this person masquerading as Hikaru, and could the two stay close even if it’s a lie?
What I enjoy about this volume is how drastic the contrast between worlds it is. While it doesn’t pop up until near the end, there’s something not quite right with “Hikaru”, and only Yoshiki knows. It’s a compelling dynamic that I love to see explored in the next chapters. The tranquil school setting gets abruptly contrasted with some of the scarier elements, even if we don’t see much. This first collection does a great job of enticing the reader to continue with this tale, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs
Doomsday With My Dog Volume 3 (Yen Press)
Here we have another full-color volume full of post-apocalyptic antics with my favorite manga Shiba Inu. Haru and his master continue to have fun, philosophical slice-of-life adventures, this time exploring the supporting cast again.
The gang finds out the fate of Russian dog Laika (spoiler: She’s still alive in this continuity!) as well as a fountain of youth. I feel like there are fewer chapters this time around, with most of them following multiple strips. (I loved the horror-esque one where Haru, his master, and a bunch of other dogs need to survive genre cliches.) Most of the main adventures here aren’t confined to four-koma strips either, which helps the pacing for the longer stories.
Speaking of which, the end-of-volume story “Summer’s End With the Faithful You” is the best one so far. This one explores the duo’s discovery of a lost dog trying to find their owner. What follows is a mix of apocalyptic drama and flashbacks, alongside a legitimately heartrending conclusion. The way this story is structured made me teary-eyed, and does an excellent job with worldbuilding this universe. I wish the worldbuilding would be a bit more explicit in the main strips, but for now this is still a solid read.
Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs
Dead Company Volume 2 and 3 (Tokyopop)
This next review may be a little scarier than the slightly scary manga minis title might imply. I originally was going to review only volume 2 of Dead Company since I reviewed the first a while ago. However, with the third and final volume out now, I thought it was appropriate to lump them all together. I think it was best to do this, since both volumes complete the harrowing tale quite well.
Ryosuke Miyauchi continues to help his late girlfriend’s sister Kyo in surviving the death game she’s in. However, he covers up the fact that he murdered his supervisor to act as the operator in the game. Ryosuke also meets a new colleague, Sakura, who wants to help him. However, his motives seem insincere, but Ryosuke needs all the help he can get to escape the EDC. As the clock ticks and the players dwindle, will Kyo be able to get out alive?
And if she does, will that be in Ryosuke’s best interest?
While the length of the series means a lot needs to be cut for time, I think what’s shown is horrifying. We see bits and pieces of the game Kyo is in while Ryosuke works behind the scenes to assist her. In a way, it feels refreshing to see what goes behind the sadistic company creating these death games.
Due to the sudden ending, it feels like this work is more of a continuation of Yoshiki Tonogai other titles. This isn’t a bad thing, but it feels like Dead Company is less of a standalone work and more of an explicit spinoff. The sudden tonal shift near the end of the third volume makes me want to explore this world more than 18 chapters and an epilogue. I’m hopeful that there will be future works that explore the ramifications of this series, because it’s ripe for explanations.
Rating: 4 out of 5 UwUs
The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Battle for Pumpkin King (Tokyopop)
To wrap up our slightly scary manga minis column, we’ve got The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Battle for Pumpkin King. This movie is no stranger to graphic novel adaptations (with a couple manga releases from Tokyopop). However, this is a prequel that details the past relationship between the film’s protagonist and antagonist with a unique perspective.
In The Battle for Pumpkin King, the story takes place when Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie are best friends. (Fans of the movie know this won’t stick, unfortunately.) After the Pumpkin King announces his retirement, Halloween Town tries to find a candidate for his successor. Both Jack and Oogie Boogie are nominated, and a competition begins: Whoever is the winner will be crowned The Pumpkin King. Friendships are tested as the story continues, and we finally get to see why Oogie Boogie detests Jack.
As a prequel, this adaptation works competently. It collects the all-ages comic (which was recently released in five issues) with full color. The art style works well (the 2D drawings are always different from the original 3D stop-motion style). The full-color pages are nice and gloomy (again, perfect for a Halloween story like this). However, the plot follows simple beats and is pretty straightforward. For those looking for deeper lore into The Nightmare Before Christmas, you may be disappointed. I would recommend this adaptation to younger children since it feels lighter and softer than the film itself.
Rating: 3 out of 5 UwUs
We hope you aren’t too frightened at our slightly scary manga minis! If you’re looking for more lighthearted reviews, you can check out our earlier column here. Stay tuned for more manga reviews here on Miso!