“Phantom Tales of the Night” written by Matsuri is a horror manga that takes place in modern Japan. It has four stories, with the first and last related. Murakumo Inn- where all the events happen - is a mysterious business open to people or spirits who are having issues with their life. The odd innkeeper does not desire money; instead, he wants your deepest, darkest secrets in order to let you stay.
Tokihito, the first story’s protagonist, had always seen butterflies following him, but he didn’t know why. One day, a giant and aggressive butterfly spirit was chasing him. Tokihito then runs into the Murakumo Inn and meets the unnamed and eccentric innkeeper. The innkeeper asks Tokihito for a secret, but he has none. The innkeeper reveals that the butterflies chasing him were actually one of the inn’s employees, Butterfly, but in a different form.
Tokihito soon realizes he’s forgotten how to get home and what his parents look like. He is startled when the innkeeper calls him a “spirit.” Tokihito starts to freak out when he’s told that he’s actually dead, and immediately his body begins to decay and his torso turns into skeleton. When he wakes up in a bedroom and sees the innkeeper behind him, he realizes that it wasn’t a dream. The innkeeper says, “This is a secret I made just for you.”
The next story follows Miho, a woman in her late 20s. She and her twin sister, Kaho, were always told how different they were. Miho felt jealousy towards Kaho and when she gets dumped by her boyfriend and loses her job, while Kaho gets a fiancé, these negative emotions are amplified. One day, Miho stumbles upon Butterfly in his human form and starts to talk to him. She tells him about Kaho and Butterfly says he has granted her wish. She doesn’t seem to know what this means and heads home to find her sister dead. For some reason, the only feeling that welled up inside her was joy. Miho starts her new life with a smile on her face only for it to turn into a frown when everybody starts calling her Kaho. Miho slowly goes mad and starts to melt into butterflies.
The third story introduces a new character, Spider. Like Butterfly, he can change into different forms. He also possesses the ability to use webs. Spider serves as one of the guards for the Murakumo Inn. A girl (who is mostly snake) shows up and tries to assassinate the innkeeper on her master’s order. Spider locks her in a cage and tells her she’s being used. The girl seems to believe that she’s the only one her master trusts to kill the innkeeper, and she starts flipping out when she realizes she has been lied to. The innkeeper ends up killing her, and Spider becomes bitter because he couldn’t save her.
The last story involves Tokihito again. He meets an odd man who wishes to kill the innkeeper. Tokihito brings him to the inn, and the innkeeper and this man start attacking each other. At one point, the innkeeper is presumed dead but starts to take the form of a demon-like creature with eyes all over his head. The man’s attempt fails, and he and Tokihito go home.
I personally really enjoyed this series, and have been dying for volume two to come out. This has a mix of traditional Japanese lore yet modern themes. Matsuri wrote this really well and portrayed the innkeeper as a sadistic in-human creature. The art is beautiful and quite expressive. I would definitely call this a horror series.
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5
“American Born Chinese” a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang is a winner of the Michael L. Printz Award and is a National Book Award finalist. The genre of this book is realistic fiction, and the recommended audience is 13 and up. This story follows three characters (Jin, The Monkey King, and Chin-Kee) as each of their stories become intertwined in a journey of learning to be happy with themselves.
Jin Wang is the son of immigrants who moved to America from China. When he is in third grade, his parents move to a new town. At this new school, Jin faces many challenges, one of these being discrimination. Teachers at his school can’t even say his name right, people assume because he’s Chinese he was born in China, and the other kids make racist comments. Jin feels very frustrated because he wants to just blend in with everyone else, but he can’t because people only see him as who they think he is based on his race. Eventually Jin becomes so obsessed with trying to be like everyone else he begins to change his appearance and pretends he is someone else until one day he actually changes into someone else named Danny. When this happens the character Chin-Kee is introduced.
Chin-Kee is supposed to be a living representation of all negative Asian stereotypes and makes life very difficult for his cousin Danny who thinks of him as a nuisance. Danny can’t stand to even be around Chin-Kee because all he sees when he looks at him are things that make him embarrassed. Chin-Kee’s character is supposed to be incredibly offensive, and I think the reason the author put his character in the story at all is to make a point. I think Yang is trying to show people the stereotypes they have subconsciously embraced, and I believe he is trying to make readers aware that anyone can have them, even those who should know better.
The Monkey King - based on one of the oldest Chinese fables - is the ruler of all monkeys and a master of the four heavenly disciplines of Buddhism. One day, the Monkey King starts to believe that he doesn’t want to be a monkey; he wants to be a god so that he will have the respect of everyone in the land. Like Jin, as he becomes someone he isn’t, the Monkey King forgets who he is and loses all his honor. SPOILER: Later on in the story, Jin discovers that Chin-Kee was actually the Monkey King in disguise, his purpose to remind Jin who he is.
An important theme in this story is self. All of the characters in American Born Chinese have some part of them that represents self or self-discovery. Jin’s character represents not liking yourself, Chin-Kee represents the part of yourself you don’t like, and the Monkey King represents learning to appreciate who you are in order to keep moving on in life. A quote early in the book captures this well. “It’s easy to become anything you wish… so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul” (Yang 29).
Overall, I found this story very intriguing. All of the messages were really interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction and anyone who likes complex stories or fables. The only thing I did find hard about this book is that some of the stories and parables within took me a while to understand and sometimes there was so much going that I got confused.
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