Cat-Eyed Boy 1

October 31, 2008

Kazuo Umezu – Viz – 2008 – 2 volumes

How could I not post a review for this series on Halloween?  I would say that this is an indispensable piece of Halloween manga.  It’s probably not as good as Drifting Classroom, but with the protagonist, the mix of physical and psychological horror, and the frequent run-ins with monsters, it’s hard not to recommend it for the holiday.

It broke my heart to read this alongside the Hino Horror stories I have been going through recently.  I’ve always favored Hino over Umezu just because I prefer Hino’s physical horror and comic violence to Umezu’s psychological stories.  But these stories were far superior to the Hino Horror stories.  To be fair, I think the Hino stories I’ve been reading lately lean more towards the side of humor, but they are short and not as well-developed, and the ideas are not as good as these Cat-Eyed Boy stories.

The stories start out short and get progressively longer.  Earlier on, the themes are mostly Cat-Eyed Boy observing the miseries of other people.  But the later stories in the volume, the longest and most well-developed, are also about Cat-Eyed Boy himself and have a variety of monsters that drag Cat-Eyed Boy into the story.  We also get an origin story for Cat-Eyed Boy.

My favorite story in the volume involved a local one-legged demon that was trying to stop a boy from repeatedly killing insects.  It had a lot of the elements I liked from some of the things I read in Scary Books, which included the protagonist who was willfully ignorant of the things going on around him (bonus for being a little kid), a demon, demon possession, mutations, and elaborate comeuppance.  It even had a nice anti-moral, when after Cat-Eyed Boy sort of condemns the demon for what it did, he mentions the little kid probably had his eye for an eye-style punishment coming to him, and he was glad since the kid would have grown up to be a murderer anyway.  I had to laugh at that.  The story develops slowly, with an item being pulled from a tree, and the demon appearing more and more to the horrible little kid, who takes increasingly greater pleasure in impaling insects alive, emptying his trays, then collecting identical specimens.  The demon tangles with Cat-Eyed Boy first, who winds up with the demon’s nail in his body.  He enlists the help of local cats to find him a cooperative doctor, and while at the kindly doctor’s residence, he is fully possessed and does things like transform himself into a normal boy to blend in with the evil kid, etc.  There’s a bug transformation somewhere along the way.  It’s great, I promise.

One of the other stories dealt with a local legend about stones washing up on shore that came to life and summoned tsunamis if they got to higher ground.  The local evil-looking deity statue protected the people from them until… well, it was vanquished, and then the rocks are given free reign to summon tsunamis.  Cat-Eyed Boy is cared for by a very young-looking spinster who has to keep him in the above-mentioned deity’s shrine for fear the locals would kill him for being a goblin.  It’s kind of a weird story, but I liked the number of abrupt twists and turns it took.

The last story is extremely lengthy, and even carries over into the next volume.  One hundred demons show up to rough up all the rich, successful people they can find.  Cat-Eyed Boy feels obligated to stop them, and then they start tangling with him too as he tries to intercept all the victims before the demons can.  The first victim was a manga artist, and I couldn’t figure out if he was supposed to be a parody of someone or not.  I think he was, and I’m just not familiar enough with 60’s horror manga.  I’ll talk more about this story in the second volume review.

With the fantastically drawn monsters, the screams, the eyes peeking through knotholes, the veiled intentions, the tsunami summoners… it’s hard not to recommend this as a perfect Halloween read.  I was particularly surprised by how absorbed I got with the stories, I thought they would be more antiquated than they actually were.  Plus, it’s like a 500-page volume, so you’re getting a lot of story for your buck.  Enjoy.

3 Responses to “Cat-Eyed Boy 1”

  1. […] files a heap of reviews at Slightly Biased Manga: vol. 2 of Category: Freaks, vol. 1 of Suihelibe, vol. 1 of Cat-Eyed Boy, vol. 8 of Monster, vol. 2 of Cipher, vol. 6 of Crayon Shinchan, vol. 1 of Venus in Love, and vol. 2 […]

  2. Pirkaf Says:

    Nice review. I think I will buy it.. ^_^

  3. Connie Says:

    Ah, I just realized I never posted the review of the second volume! I’m going to have to re-read it now.

    They are really, really cool books. I like the stories and presentation in Cat-Eyed Boy best, but you may also want to check out Reptilia, which is the same sort of thing. I like Reptilia for pulling a twist at the end that makes the end of the last short story run into the first short story in the volume.

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