Horror is a fascinating genre in manga because you never quite know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s about a twisted killing game innocent people are forced into. Sometimes it’s a tale of survival during the spread/outbreak of a deadly virus. Sometimes it’s a ghost story come to life. Whatever it is, it’s supposed to scare you or at least make you ask, “What would I do if that happened to me?” Ibitsu does just that.
Ibitsu, by Haruto Ryo, is a fleshed-out tale of the urban legend about the Demon Lolita. It goes like this: A girl wearing a Lolita outfit appears near a garbage drop and asks, “Would you have a little sister?” If you answer, “No,” she kills you on the spot. If you answer, “Yes,” she tries to kill your real sister so she can become your little sister. The only safe response is to not answer at all.
Our story focuses on Kazuki Itou, a design school student who’s living on his own. One night, after being nagged by his little sister, Hikari, he takes the garbage out and encounters a dirty, smelly girl in a Lolita outfit holding a stuffed animal. As he tries to go past, she asks, “Would you have a little sister?” He answers that he does and she disappears. Unknowingly, he has already sealed his fate, and the fate of his little sister.
The strongest point of the manga is its story. Ibitsu is intriguing and well-developed, taking the reader in thoughtful directions. A manga with this urban legend premise could set up a short, fast-paced story and move on, but Ibitsu takes a different approach. Rather than cut to the chase, Ibitsu gives a slow but satisfying buildup as the Demon Lolita forces her way into Kazuki’s life, making the growing danger all the more thrilling.
Part of this suspense is created through the art. Like the cover art, many of the scenes with the Demon Lolita use thin lines and dark shadows, distorting shapes and creating an eerie, uncomfortable feeling. These scenes contrast with times when Kazuki is by himself or with friends, which throws in a bit of normalcy and gives the reader a moment to breath. This effectively leaves an opening for something to break that calm. The scenes meant to frighten come from the opening left by the normalcy. The characters’ reactions of terror are incredibly realistic, making you feel a connection to their situation. The Demon Lolita becomes a more aggressive presence by filling the whole panel, appearing larger and threatening to come out of the page.
One thing that might cross the line just a little bit is the gore. Violence and pain are shown explicitly, and many of the Demon Lolita’s scenes can be uncomfortable to read. However, this never went too far to disgust or disturb me, and some of the violence was offscreen and left to the imagination.
Another small thing that bothered me was the lack of depth in regards to the other characters. Aside from Kazuki, we meet his sister Hikari and a few of his friends. Yet we never learn that much about any of these characters aside from a few little personal details and how they react in the various situations.
Unfortunately, this is a common problem in horror manga when a bunch of the characters are going to be killed. Fleshing out the character too much makes it feel unfair when they’re killed off, but not fleshing them out enough makes it hard for the reader to care about who survives. Of the characters, Hikari was the most interesting to watch, and it would have added more to the story to learn more about her.
The Very Good
Interestingly enough, the character with the most depth was the Demon Lolita. While frightening, she wasn’t all bad. One interesting side to her character was her sister complex. When she tried to become Kazuki’s little sister, she tried to be the perfect little sister, cleaning up after him and treating him kindly. However, that conflicted with her crazier side that wanted to keep all the other girls away from Kazuki, a side which she considers as “confused.” Ibitsu also gives us a look into the Demon Lolita’s background. This adds another layer to her character, leaving us to wonder if she’s truly evil, or just a twisted victim of her own situation.
Ibitsu was a truly enjoyable page-turner and a welcome addition to horror manga. Stretching out an urban legend for so long was a bit unexpected, but Ryo executed the story well, throwing in plenty of twists to keep the reader entertained. Along with the main story, there were also two separate side stories that were just as interesting, making the entire volume a blast to read and reread. Ibitsu is bound to be an entertaining, scary read for horror fans, and I highly recommend it!
Special thank you to Yen Press for giving us the opportunity to review this manga.