How can one not be drawn in by the vague title and a colorful cover art showing a smiling girl surrounded by blood alongside cute items? Honestly, sometimes it is just simple as this when looking for the next horror manga to do a deep dive into.
Admittedly, I knew nothing about mangaka Miu Miura and a quick browse of synopsis demonstrated the graphic nature of the work – notably violence towards children. Honestly, this kind of warning always piques my interest and guarantees I take a gander to see if the work has merit or is merely edgy nonsense. So, judging off the colorful cover and promise of potentially f***ed up s***! I decided to check out what the kids are up to these days.
What Is It About?
Tohru Igarashi, a college student, takes a 6 month part-time job at a childcare facility nestled deeply in the rural mountains, responsible for assisting the care of children there. However, the remote area is less a childcare facility and more a slaughterhouse – a processing plant that kills, cuts up and cremates adults. Helplessly finding himself stuck in this nightmarish scenario, Tohuru’s begins to play along in the hopes planning an escape with the children who want to also leave.
The subject matter makes the release understandably tense, which instantly pulled me into the story – exploited orphans disposing of bodies is pretty impactful narrative and visual. However, it is important to note that these themes are explored with a degree of humanity (comparable to Misumisou (Hepatica Nobilis) by Rensuke Oshikiri in its approach) for some dignity. Essentially, although the violence is crudely extreme, reasons exist to invest in the kids’ plight and unravel the mystery that forced their innocence into grim servitude – the work is not as mean-spirited or nihilistic as the violent ideas may implicate.
Best described as tragic, Children has a cast of kids between 4 and 16 – each having their own role and reason they chose the morbid task of processing corpses. Despite being unrealistic and not justifying the actions, one can suspend belief to explore the cast as individuals instead of just victims or collateral.
The work visually reflects all subjects with a cute aesthetic – more commonplace with kawaii titles geared towards humor or slice-of-life. Understandably, seeing this aesthetic drenched in blood and harsh visuals (eye-gouging, beheading, etc) will conjure a peculiar unease from the reader – purposely evoked and well executed. Overall, the disturbing narrative and stomach churning aesthetic works perfectly to instil horror in the reader – fear and disgust in equal measure.
What Did Not Work
The story is too short and rather rushed, easily forming the weakest aspect of this release. Consequently, it is a world that kind of teases a dark conspiracy and curses which are not adequately developed to reach meaningful conclusion. A notable example, the last few chapters introduce a plot twist that does not land as well as it should have – if it was given more room to ruminate, it could have been glorious. Essentially, Children presents a lot of opportunities narratively and leaves too early for capitalizing on these ghastly scenarios.
Children does a lot right and the indulgence in ultra-violence to create a sense of unease will appeal those who enjoy challenging material. However, there are other titles that do just the same, yet better results in the process. To complicate matters, the short nature of the release is both a blessing and a curse – rushed narrative but the perfect bite-sized experience to indulge in over the course of a single sitting (this was a wonderful title to follow up my review of Soil at 11 volumes).
Of important note, all my positives can easily transform into negatives with those of a sensitive disposition. Graphic violence can be tough for some to stomach, and all the worse when children are involved – it is okay to hate every moment of this work just as much as it is okay to love the indulgent nature of it.
Would I recommend this title? Certainly, especially with it being a quick venture that does not f*** around – unapologetic and readily willing to indulge in graphic horror. However, the book falls a bit flat in rushed presentation to leave a profound impact on readers – perhaps think of it as the equivalent of a popcorn flick, fun yet disposable.
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