Wonder House of Horrors is a horror anthology consisting of ten short stories: “Ugly Face,” “The Amazing Dismembered Girl,” “Monologue,” “Severance,” “Speed Girl,” “Wonder Valentine,” “Chocolate Man,” “Mission School,” “The Hut in the Mountains” and “The Mansion of Sweet Mystery.”
The main characters in these self-contained stories are usually adolescent and usually female. It often deals with fears schoolgirls this age might have (concern over their looks, concern over boys), but then mixes in horror, curses, hauntings and more. It’s hard to say very much without giving up any plot points or twists.
There’s often a theme of beauty versus ugliness, and this can also be seen in the artwork. Cojima uses a beautiful drawing style, reminiscent of Kazuo [Umezu] Umezz’s characters who can look angelically beautiful, and also reminiscent of the sparkly-eyed girls in shojo comics. And then these girls get murdered — or are murderers — and there’s blood and intestines and plenty of brain matter. There are some gruesome scenes, but there are also so many pretty scenes, and it makes for an interesting atmosphere.
These are fun, quick, escapist horror stories that touch on taboos. They never get too scary or too complex, so they’re more like horror lite treats. Some of them also take on the absurd and even the darkly humorous (like “Severance”). A few times Japanese puns are important parts of the stories, but these get explained to readers.
Cojima offers an interesting afterword talking about the manga horror scene in Japan, and about how her comics here were published during one of Japan’s horror boons in the 1990s, but how the boon was short-lived. These days, she says, there are no horror manga magazines left, and she is intrigued that people outside of Japan are interested in horror manga. This manga would be best enjoyed by fans of horror, especially female-led horror, and particularly if they enjoy short horror stories.
Story & Art: Miyako Cojima
Publisher: Star Fruit Books
Translator: Dan Luffey
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.