Orochi is a horror and supernatural thriller manga that was originally published in Japan between 1969 and 1970.

Orochi Perfect Edition Volume One
Written by: Kazuo Umezz
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: March 15, 2022

The series features a mysterious young woman named Orochi. She possesses supernatural powers and observes people’s lives and the consequences of their hidden actions. This first volume of Perfect Edition of Orochi is 320 pages long, but it only contains two stories.

The first story is titled, “Sisters,” and it’s the shorter of the two stories, coming in at 92 pages in length. In this story, Orochi takes on the job of serving as a maid for two sisters. One is 16 years old, while the other is 17 years old. It turns out their family has a curse: the females are born beautiful, but as soon as they turn 18, they start to become ugly. The older sister is obsessing over this, because her 18th birthday isn’t terribly far away. During the story, it’s revealed that the girls’ mother is locked in an upstairs room. Right before the mother passes away, she tells a secret to the 16-year-old that shocks her. When the older sister hears what the secret is, she is driven to madness. Orochi witnesses a lot of what happens, but she is made to leave before the final twist is revealed for the story. But it turns out Orochi has a way to see what ultimately happens even though she’s no longer in the house.

As I read this volume, I hadn’t realized how old this series truly was. As I read through this story, I was very much reminded of the type of storytelling that Junji Ito uses for his horror stories. Now knowing that Umezz’s work precedes Ito’s, I was left wondering if Umezz had been an inspiration for Ito and his works. Also, now knowing how old this manga is, I can tell a lot easier from the art that this isn’t a modern manga. When I read this volume, something felt a little different about the art, but I hadn’t picked up on the fact that the art style looked like it came out of the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s.

When it comes to the story itself, though, I have to admit that I didn’t realize the twist at the end until it was revealed to the reader. But the build up to the end is very strong, and I was riveted the entire time I was reading it. 92 pages sounds like a lot to read, but for me, it actually went by a lot faster than I thought it would.

The second story, “Bones,” runs for 213 pages. However, the story actually needed that many pages to be told. It focuses on Chie, a woman who was born into terrible circumstances and had an unhappy childhood. She grew into a beautiful young woman, and her family received a marriage proposal and was paid a hefty sum for the man to take Chie. Even though the man was average in many ways, he was gentle and kind to Chie. Her life improved, until he was a victim of a hit and run accident. He survived but was hurt enough that it was expected for him to take three years to fully recover. Orochi becomes involved with this story because she is the nurse working on his case. Chie takes her husband home to care for him, but Orochi uses her power to keep up with them. When Chie’s husband seems to recover, he goes out for a walk and falls from a cliff to his death. Chie is devastated, and Orochi tries to use her power to resurrect Chie’s husband in the hopes to making Chie happy. Orochi uses a technique she knows to animate a doll. Her experiment seems to fail because the doll doesn’t come to life… but it turns out she’s resurrected the actual man… but because his body has already started decomposing, there are issues with his resurrection. When Orochi realizes what happened, she goes to see Chie, only to discover that she’s moved and gotten remarried. The story sees Chie’s resurrected husband kidnapping Chie’s son, and the story builds up to a twist involving Chie and ending in tragedy.

“Bones” was a very intense read, and it was actually a faster read than I thought it would be for a 213-page story. The art for both this story, as well as “Sisters,” helps to emphasize the horror atmosphere that helps to make these stories succeed in making the reader think and to experience the stories in the way that Umezz intended.

One thing that really fascinated me about this volume is that while Orochi is the thread that joins the stories together, these ultimately aren’t her stories. As a reader, I was so invested in the characters that were actually experiencing the events that took place that I would almost forget that Orochi existed until she showed up again. This was especially true in “Bones.” It’s mentioned in the stories that Orochi doesn’t stay in one place long and moves on (although she can keep an eye on the people she encounters from a distance), and the way Umezz depicts Orochi when she appears in the stories almost makes her disappear to the reader as well.

With these two stories, I can tell that Umezz likely helped to pave the path for horror manga and horror manga storytelling that is now being utilized by authors such as Junji Ito. Even though the stories in this volume were written over 50 years ago, the characters and their stories are still relatable to audiences today.

If you’re a fan of Junji Ito and his brand of horror, then I believe you’ll also enjoy Orochi Perfect Edition Volume One.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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