Horror & Monsters

Horror & Monsters is a anime/manga concept
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A common theme in several anime and manga.

The earliest chills in anime came from ghost stories and scary fairy tales, such as Noburo Ofuji's Kujira (1927) and Ghost Ship (1956), but it was a children's medium, and as such didn't initially attempt anything designed to give anyone goosebumps. Osamu Tezuka's Dororo (1968), made as the creator's Mushi Production began to spiral into bankruptcy, was one of the first anime to be genuinely disturbing, filled with ghosts, nightmares, and bloodshed, and with a central character whose father's pact with devils leaves him scarred, eyeless, and maimed. That didn't stop some kids' cartoons from being downright disturbing anyway, with the lamb-turned-killer of Sanrio's Ringing Bell (1978) reputedly giving a number of adult fans nightmares.

Children's entertainment often recognized the appeal of the horrific. Spooky Kitaro (1968) suggested that cutting class to hang out with zombies was a fun thing to do, while Devilman (1972) dressed up the traditions of a superhero show with the accoutrements of demonology. But not even Devilman was "horror" as we know it; that was a foreign concept, and arguably its first appearance was Minoru Okazaki's TV movie Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned (1980), based on the Marvel comic.

True horror reached Japan by an unexpected route, in the depictions of radiation burns and traumatized war victims of Barefoot Gen (1983). The 1980s saw the widespread arrival of the home video player, permitting anime producers to make shows for an older audience. Horror met science fiction in Vampire Hunter D (1985), but it was the Madhouse studio that appeared to perfect its use in modern animation. Wicked City (1987) and Demon City Shinjuku (1988) established Madhouse and director Yoshiaki Kawajiri as the kings of urban gothic. A slew of imitators followed, in which demons broke through into our everyday world, and fought on the streets of Tokyo. But everyone's thunder was stolen by Urotsukidoji (1987), the first in a series of "erotic-horror" stories based on the work of Toshio Maeda that, while it might not have scared its audience, certainly shocked them with its scenes of depravity and excess-its monsters externalized the chaos in the pubescent mind, to devastating effect.

Ultimately, horror usually scares us by persuading us that something terrible really might happen-both Perfect Blue (1997) and Monster (2004) successfully instill fear with their application of reality, not the fantastic. Anime, by its nature, is already one step from reality, making it harder to scare a cartoon audience. Modern day incarnations of anime "horror" continue to coquettishly avoid making an audience scream in terror. Instead they hope to titillate, amuse, or otherwise behave in a non-horrific way. Vampire Princess Miyu (1988) preferred mood and imagery to actual scares-style over substance, if you like. Western horror is often concerned with subtexts, but erotic-horror anime like Dark Shell (2003) or Oni Tensei (2001) can put all the subtext right in the foreground. No sublimated desires here, no Victorian prudery repressing thoughts of sex with stories of men who drink virgins' blood-horror is a permanent feature of anime erotica, but whether such shows are scary because of their horror content is open to debate.

Japanese folklore has a rich tradition of monsters, some of which have built successful second careers in animation. In 1955's Piggyback Ghost, a green-eyed elemental befriends a village blacksmith and his neighbors. Golden Bat (1967) was a skeletal superhero from ancient Atlantis who fought monsters and robots at the request of Japanese schoolgirl Mari. Spooky Kitaro (1968) gave supporting roles, as friends or adversaries of the young hero, to a host of traditional ghouls like the one-legged, one-eyed Umbrella Man and the ghostly Piece of Paper, a tradition which continued in shows like Dororon Enma (1973) with its Japanese Monster Patrol, Ghosts (1981), and Ushio & Tora (1992). Oni, Japan's native ogres, are generally represented as powerful but stupid, extremely violent, and with nasty eating habits. They feature in anime such as Ogre Slayer and Shutendoji, and have inspired many other creations like Rumiko Takahashi's alien Oni in Urusei Yatsura.

American TV's fascination with the supernatural in the 1960s inspired a number of monstrous tales, like the 1968 Korean coproduction Monster Man Bem in which a trio from the world of monsters strive to bring good to the Dark Realm in the hope that this will enable them to become human. The generic Western vampire became a popular stock character from 1968, when Mushi Production mixed live-action and anime in Vampire. Little Goblin (1968), the story of a monster prince sent to live on Earth, gave supporting roles to the Hollywood stars who inspired Forrest J. Ackerman's long-running magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland: Dracula, the Wolfman, and a young Frankenstein's monster. All three also featured in the Spooky Kitaro movie Great Ghost Wars (1986).

Mary Shelley's tragic creation Frankenstein (mystifyingly relocated to North Wales for the Toei TV special) has also influenced a long line of anime dealing with the dangers of genetic experiment, from thoughtful works like Tezuka's Baghi (1981) to 1998's Pokémon movie and Blue Submarine No. Six. The Wolfman's descendants have starred in shows including Wolf Guy (1992), alongside other were-creatures in Midnight Panther (1998). Strangely, the Mummy has yet to star in his own anime; bit-part appearances in shows like 1971's Lupin III have reduced him to the level of an extra in Scooby-Doo. The King Kong Show (1966) was made specifically for the American market. The elemental ape became a small child's friend in a TV movie and series of eight-minute adventures. Japan's own giant monster, Godzilla, appeared as a comical parody of himself in 1967's Gazula the Amicable Monster, a gentle but clumsy creature invading the life of a typical Japanese family.

Gross, misshapen monsters that would equally be at home in medieval Buddhist or Western Hells are found in anime such as 1985's Iczer-One and 1991's Silent Möbius where they are the shock troops of alien forces bent on world domination. In most Japanese movies humanity tries to fight monsters with iron determination and heavy weaponry, but many anime play with the idea that to beat monsters you must join them, by taking on some of their physical or magical powers, as in Devilman (1972) and later pastiches such as Hellsing. Nagai's series suggests that ordinary-looking people can be possessed by or transformed into monsters, simply by unleashing their own inner demons. Some of the most magnificently silly monsters ever to grace an enduring franchise threaten mankind in Ultraman (1979), an animation spun off the live-action hit of the same name. To defeat them, our hero must achieve monstrous size and strength by borrowing the magical-girl technique of assisted transformation. Another series where humans must coexist with the enemy in order to beat them is Parasyte, where the protagonists right arm is devoured and possesed by a parasite from space who now has to kill the remaining parasites on the planet.

Other monstrous transformations in anime range from the comical-but-threatening to the stomach churning. When neglected pet dog Papadoll is changed to a monster in Catnapped (1995), he still drools and looks amiably stupid, but he can eat people. Akira (1988) transforms all its protagonists, but Tetsuo's shifts from scrawny runt to drug-crazed god to overflowing river of flesh are truly monstrous, giving visceral impact to his final moment of self-awareness and self-acceptance, and hope of redemption for all monsters, even the human kind.
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Concept Name Horror & Monsters
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Aliases Horror and Monsters
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