Book Club Nominees

6 Mangas That’ll Have Your Brain in a Spiral

by @Miskatonika, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for June’s “đź‘ą Picturing the Unimaginable: Horror Manga” category

Manga is often imagined as just for kids, but there are a handful of artists working in Japan who have mastered the art of portraying horror. They offer a variety of scares—from gross out body horror to existential living nightmares. I hope this list introduces you to a new medium to explore, and that you see something that can’t be unseen (even if Lovecraft originally described it as unimaginable)!

Cover of Pet Shop of Horrors Series by Matsuri Akino. Cover shows a human wearing black hugging a creature with pale skin, blue fins, and green hair.

Pet Shop of Horrors Series by Matsuri Akino

A smoke-filled alley in Chinatown harbors Count D’s Pet Shop. The pets sold here aren’s your everyday variety and the Count prides himself on selling Love and Dreams in the form of magical creatures that come with an exclusive contract. But buyers beware. If the contract is broken the Count cannot be held accountable for whatever may happen. A fascinating and macabre look into the very soul of human nature. (Goodreads)

Each volume is packed with creatures, monsters, and mythological beings, all deliciously illustrated in Akino’s delicate style. Similar to Creepshow, the tales include a morality lesson for those who don’t listen to Count D’s careful instructions on taking care of these unusual pets. If you are a fan of international folk and fairy tales, this series is for you.

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Tomie by Junji ItoCover shows a drawing of a girl in tones of grey and black. There is a red, dripping smear of blood covering the center of the image where her throat is.

Tomie by Junji Ito

Tomie Kawakami is a femme fatale with long black hair and a beauty mark just under her left eye. She can seduce nearly any man, and drive them to murder as well, even though the victim is often Tomie herself. While one lover seeks to keep her for himself, another grows terrified of the immortal succubus. But soon they realize that no matter how many times they kill her, the world will never be free of Tomie. (Goodreads)

Tomie was my first introduction to Ito’s strange world, and will always be my first love. Tomie is so captivatingly beautiful that it drives men mad, and stirs up insane jealousy in other women. While the images are gory, and the stories cruel, they are more than cheap scares. Tomie sheds a glaring light on how women and men suffer under the weight of toxic masculinity. Ito’s ability to draw Tomie as both a beautiful young woman, and a hideous monster thing are reasons enough alone to pick this manga!

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Mountains of Madness Vol 1 & 2 by Gou Tanabe. Cover shows a pencil drawing containing a scene of mountains, a scene of many men walking in a field at the base of the mountains, and a man's face in the sky.

Mountains of Madness Vol 1 & 2 by Gou Tanabe

January 25, 1931: an expedition team arrives at a campsite in Antarctica…to find its crew of men and sled dogs strewn and dead. Some are hideously mangled, as if in rage–some have been dissected in a curious and cold-blooded manner. Some are missing. But a still more horrific sight is the star-shaped mound of snow nearby…for under its five points is a grave–and what lies beneath is not human! (Goodreads)

Tanabe has rendered Lovecraft’s “the unimaginable” in full black and white detail. His interpretations of the alien creatures are spot on, and let’s just say there are a lot of tentacles. I’ve read multiple graphic novel versions of this particular story, but the Americans never get it right. Tanabe’s version is compact, but packed with unnerving imagery and dread.

Volume 1: 
Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Volume 2: 
Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Goodnight PunPun Series by Inio Asano. Cover shows a drawing in tones of yellow and green of a scene in a subway car. In between two anonymous people is a small white ghost like creature with a beak.

Goodnight PunPun Series by Inio Asano

Meet Punpun Punyama. He’s an average kid in an average town.

He wants to win a Nobel Prize and save the world.

He wants to go far away with his true love.

He wants to find some porn.

But Punpun’s life is about to unravel…


This one is not quite horror, but bear with me. PunPun (rendered as a little duck creature in an otherwise normal world as a reflection of how he sees himself), is a jaded teen growing up in cruel surroundings. Things become worse and worse as PunPun deals with depression, his neglectful family, a girlfriend with an abusive mother, and zero desire to be a good citizen. 

Omnibus Volume 1: 
Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Parasyte Series by Hitoshi Iwaaki. Cover shows a hand with an open palm and fingers spread wide. There are eyes on the palm. The background is red and black.

Parasyte Series by Hitoshi Iwaaki

They arrive in silence and darkness. They descend from the skies. They have a hunger for human flesh. They are everywhere. They are parasites, alien creatures who must invade – and take control of – a human host to survive. And once they have infected their victims, they can assume any deadly form they choose: monsters with giant teeth, winged demons, creatures with blades for hands. But most have chosen to conceal their lethal purpose behind ordinary human faces. So no one knows their secret – except an ordinary high school student. Shin is battling for control of his own body against an alien parasite, but can he find a way to warn humanity of the horrors to come?  (Goodreads)

Body horror and aliens from outer space! This manga focuses on Shin, a teenager who avoids full body possession, and the Parasyte only takes control of his hand. Yes, it talks to him. Together they attempt to take down the rest of the aliens who are trying to invade Earth. There are crazy body transformations, sick kills, and gore galore!

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Gyo by Junji Ito.  Cover shows a blood splatter against a black background. In the black background we see s drawing of a fish with legs in tones of grey and black.

Gyo by Junji Ito

The floating smell of death hangs over the island. What is it? A strange, legged fish appears on the scene… So begins Tadashi and Kaori’s spiral into the horror and stench of the sea. Here is the creepiest masterpiece of horror manga ever from the creator of Uzumaki, Junji Ito. Hold your breath until all is revealed. (Goodreads)

Gyo will make you nauseous, just a warning. Parasitic creatures use living creatures as hosts, everything from whales to dogs to humans, by filling them up with gas and walking around. It’s super gross. As the remaining humans try to figure out what the hell is going on and how to stop it, feast your eyes on this sick manga!

Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read Mountains of Madness Vol 1 & 2 by Gou Tanabe. Join HOWL Society on Monday, June 6, 2022 to begin discussion!

Rachel Searcey is a filmmaker and writer living in the Florida panhandle, with her husband, two daughters, and two black cats. She’s been making short films for over 20 years, and has recently started writing prose. Rachel loves horror, and that’s what she wants to write, read, and watch all day every day. Visit her website or YouTube channel.

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