Otaku USA Magazine

Publisher: IDW
Story and Art: Kazuo Umezu

I just can’t get enough of Kazuo Umezu and, thankfully, publishers like IDW are doing their darndest to make sure US fans of the eccentric, red-striped sweater sporting manga-ka don’t remain empty handed for too long. Enter their late 2007 release of Reptilia, a 300+ page story of slithering horror that first began serialization in 1965. As is the case with pretty much anything you’ll read from the man, time has no weathering effect on his work, serving only as a numerical, capsule-like preservative.

One of the chief lessons you can take away from Reptilia-one that should be scribbled in your notebook and underlined twice-is if someone is acting suspicious or strange in any way whatsoever, then they were probably possessed by the vile Snake Lady at some point. Similar to this example is the plight of Yumiko, a young girl that’s the first to meet this creature while visiting her mother in the hospital. In a solitary cell somewhere deep in this facility waits a deceptive woman with a taste for the finer things in life, things like frogs and… YOU!

Using her sinister pseudo-charms, the Snake Lady caged therein manages to escape and imitate Yumiko’s mother, entering the girl’s life as a slithering plague. Soon, as Yumiko’s story moves from her home to her aunt’s in Midoro village, the strange curse seems to spread further, its ability to “infect” others swaying the odds heavily in favor of the snakes. Like the opening panel of the book says: “Occasionally in modern times there are strange phenomenons which even human beings can’t explain.”

Per usual, one should expect a lot of raging delirium and paranoia from this Kaz story. The freakout moments, presented via gruesome splashes immediately after a slow turn of the page, are rendered with Umezu’s typical attention to all the nasty details. Curled and wrinkled snake lips give way to venomous teeth that are ready to jump out at the reader, with the next page reverting to his eerily cute style that somehow makes horror that much more horrifying.

Any release by this legend is a welcome one, and Reptilia is certainly no exception. IDW obviously put a lot of care into this one, a fine presentation topped off with a gorgeously dark cover by comic illustrator Ashley Wood (Metal Gear Solid, Automatic Kafka). Umezu’s translated bibliography continues to grow and grow, and with any luck, fans will continue to support it, as well.