Drip Drip

Whenever Mako Higari comes in contact with something she perceives as dirty, she gets a massive nosebleed. Brought on by severe childhood trauma from her mother’s distrust of men and fear of germs, Mako grows into an adult desperate to find a partner who will not trigger her violently excessive nosebleeds. However, her obsession with being accepted is confused with wanting to be the object of sexual desire, drawing in men who only want to use her and then flee when the blood begins to flow.

Paru Itagaki’s (of Beastars fame) horror manga Drip Drip is an intriguing entry into the genre as both the object of horror and the rather exploitative themes of the story make for a challenging, yet rewarding read. As a strict horror title, it contains certain elements that make it fit well into the genre, notable blood in excess, yet the underlying themes of paranoia and the sexually explicit nature of the book make the object of terror not as tangible as just the amount of ichor splashed across the pages.

It is in the themes of paranoia and sexuality that the book thrives, and Itagaki paints a tragic portrait of a young woman so obsessed with love that she is willing to debase herself in that quest. Mako balances a precarious line between extreme mania and a sincere desire to overcome her condition and settle down with a partner. It makes her a peculiar object of fear as men unwittingly think they have found an easy lay, only to be smothered by an intense persona and soaked in her blood.

Consequently, the book exudes ‘crazy girlfriend’ vibes that make Mako a challenging character to approach when looking at the potential sexualization of mental health. The morality of the book is murky and certain readers may find the ambiguous approach of whether Mako is a force of chaotic energy or the victim of childhood abuse. Whether her neurotic behavior is a means to manipulate those around her or a byproduct of her upbringing is never made explicitly clear, though it is likely a mix of both. 

In addition, it will be difficult for some to pin down a defining characteristic of Mako that makes her actions empathetic or sympathetic, as her personality is constantly fluctuating between a few different extremes. Closely mimicking the symptoms of borderline personality disorder, Mako’s internal dialogue and the way she approaches others are completely sporadic. There is also a severe dependency on others made turbulent by black-and-white thinking where love and betrayal are only separated by a small instance. In fact, Mako is in many ways the textbook definition of BPD with only the sensationalist gore pushing it away from a more sincere realism. This furthers the complicated relationship that the reader will feel with Mako and those who are particular about the portrayal of mental health may find themselves lost in the details or lack thereof. Personally, in analyzing characters I often take the route that proves to be more entertaining, and Drip Drip is certainly that, but the title might not hold up to those who are unable to bypass deeper implications and are able to appreciate it for entertainment value alone.

The art has a rather westernized aesthetic, and Mako soaked in blood and constantly naked gives the visage of a perverse Disney princess. As a stylistic choice for the horror genre, the initial reaction is unfavorable, yet as the book continues it begins to blend well with the story and Mako’s constant quest for a ‘prince charming’. The climax of the novel, where the pages become soaked in blood, offers a wonderfully macabre portrait of Mako that will appease fans of horror-lite content that is more about goth-chic than trying to terrify its audience. Admittedly, I have found Itagaki’s artwork to be rather ugly in its aesthetic, but in the context of a story of this ilk gained a deeper appreciation for his visual approach—the excess of blood spurts that drench both Mako and those surrounding her evokes a giddiness that you only find within absurd horror media.

Drip Drip is a challenging title, which could easily trip up some readers, as well as cause concern in the way it approaches mental health and sexuality. That said, for those who can dive in deep and kind of push deeper commentary aside, Drip Drip is nightmarish and uncomfortable in the most complimentary sense. Ultimately, Paru Itagaki has crafted a rather absurd and over-the-top horror story with Drip Drip that certain audiences will adore—certainly worth giving a chance for both new and established fans of the mangaka.

Drip Drip is Available from Viz Media

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