Fuan no Tane is a unique entry into the horror genre. The manga is comprised of a series of vignettes featuring regular people coming into contact with the paranormal. All of the stories are extremely short, some comprising of no more than two pages. The books are divided into small sections with a cluster of stories relating to a central theme. A few examples include invasion, being followed, and shadows spied from the corner of your eye.
It is clear that the stories are based off of urban legends and local folklore and definitely have a very Japanese feel to them. Readers will have to keep this caveat in mind while reading. A person that is unfamiliar with the folklore might find that the collection has less of an impact compared to a person that grew up hearing whispers of these stories throughout their life, which was probably the case for me.
“Sometimes, there is some truth hidden in an urban legend.”
Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll be direct in saying that this collection, initially, seemed lackluster to me. While many of the concepts are very good it felt like the execution could have been better. As I was reading I kept thinking that this brand of jump scare horror is held back by the medium particularly in the first volume. Many of the stories ended the same way and it got to be incredibly repetitive. I think that the eerie chills presented in this manga would have been better suited to either film or a video game, something that would give it motion.
Nakayama’s art style is quite clean, and instead of gore readers are presented with a distortion of what’s normal. I wouldn’t consider the things in the stories to be scary per say, but it’s more just the idea of them, the uncanny valley. Things that take human shapes but clearly don’t know what a human looks like, so instead you get a mockery of one. This style of artwork can be extremely hit or miss, with some of the things looking cartoonish and ridiculous, breaking the tension built by the story.
As I read, I felt pretty neutral the entire time. There was the occasional story that had a really great panel that unsettled me, but overall I was pretty meh about things. I didn’t realize the effect of the manga until much later, when I found myself standing in my kitchen during the small hours of the night, the unease that settled over me when I was surrounded by the dark. It was then that the intended effect of this manga hit me. For a week I felt just a little more skittish walking alone in the dark, so in a way the manga was successful.
The horror in this series is subtle, and on it’s surface it doesn’t seem all that scary. It is an atmospheric collection that doesn’t leave you feeling shocked or horrified, but instead instills a sense of dread that isn’t easy to shake off. Fuan no Tane roughly translates to Seeds of Anxiety and it is a perfect explanation of the stories. Each story is a snippet that comes quickly and leaves you with an ellipses, planting that small seedling of worry as to what would have happened next. The dreadful feeling of catching the attention of something that you really don’t want.
It is also very easy to see the way that Nakayama develops his premise over the course of the three volumes with each volume getting progressively better than the one before. Story pacing improves, more variety between the stories, and sometimes the occasional “after” panel that shows a person’s reaction. Some of these were actually funny and helped to ease the tension. It is an exploration into a different kind of horror, one that doesn’t rely on extreme gore to incite a visceral reaction from readers. Instead, Fuan no Tane presents an interesting sort of horror that plays on paranoia, on a fear of the dark and the unknown. While this hasn’t been a scare fest I can appreciate the way that this manga was crafted.
Title: Fuan no Tane
Author: Masaaki Nakayama
Publisher: Akita Shoten
Publication Date: 2004–2005
A collection of very short and mostly atmospheric stories dealing with urban legends, ghosts, and superstitions all organized around a specific theme.