Black Paradox is a six-chapter horror manga that tells a tale of the lengths people will go to because of greed.
Written by: Junji Ito
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: October 25, 2022
The story opens with four strangers who have interacted online on a suicide site called Black Paradox: Taburo, Pii-tan, Baracchi, and Maruso. They’re meeting up in person in order to commit suicide together.
As they travel to their destination, they talk about their reasons for wanting to die. Maruso feels that a series of disasters lies in her future and she can’t bear it. Taburo says he’s seen his doppelganger and he cites the belief that if you see your doppelganger, you’re going to die soon. He has decided to kill himself first before death comes for him. Pii-tan explains that he specialized in robotics at his university, and they wanted to build the world’s most advanced humanoid. It was decided to model the humanoid after Pii-tan, and he came to believe his mechanical twin was superior to him. An announcement will be made to the media soon, and Pii-tan wants to disappear before then. Baracchi has a disfiguring birthmark on one side of her face, and she feels the reflection of her in the mirror is telling her to die. It’s interesting to note that Maruso is the only one who doesn’t have a reason to die that involves another version of herself. After realizing this, I thought that this fact would have to be important for the story.
After this conversation, Maruso sees a car pass by, with three occupants who look exactly like her traveling companions. Maruso then notices something about Baracchi that makes her think there’s something off. After they stop, Maruso and Taburo realize that every time Pii-tan moves, they can hear the sound of motors. The two of them try to flee but are chased by the other two. But it turns out that the Taburo that is with Maruso isn’t what he seems, either, when the robotic Pii-tan attacks him.
Maruso flees, and she ends up finding the vehicle that passed them. It turns out this was the group she was supposed to meet with, but she encountered the other versions of them instead. In the wake of what happened, this group decides to hold off on their suicide until another time. However, after what happened the previous time, most of the group doesn’t trust each other and pretend to swallow pills. However, Pii-tan went through with it… but he doesn’t stay dead. Instead, he comes back to life and vomits up a glowing stone. When Pii-tan is able to speak, he says that while he was dead, he saw a dazzling world full of light.
Baracchi used to work in jewelry, and she wants to have a friend examine the strange stone. It turns out to be a strange new mineral that’s extremely valuable. It’s also revealed that Pii-tan’s stomach is a doorway between this world and the afterlife, and that inside the stone is a soul. Pii-tan keeps vomiting up the stones, and Baracchi and Taburo decide to live in order to make money off of these mysterious stones.
If the setup for this story seems strange enough, the story only gets stranger from here. Which is reasonable, since this is a horror story after all. As I stated in the introduction to this review, this story does touch on the greed of humans and the lengths that they will go to in order to achieve their goals. And as you can imagine, no one has a happy ending by the end of this story.
After reading Black Paradox, I can say that this is the type of story I’ve come to expect from Junji Ito. Maybe it’s because I’m not an avid consumer of horror, but to me, at least, it felt like most of the twists and turns that appeared in this story weren’t predictable. The one twist I felt was on the predictable side happened early on, when Maruso sees the other car go by with the three people who look exactly like her traveling companions.
When I saw the initial setup for Black Paradox, with the four people meeting up from the suicide site, it made me think of an episode of the Paranoia Agent anime. However, the tone of that episode and this manga are completely different. But were suicide sites and people meeting up to die together something that was a thing in Japan in the mid-to-late 2000’s, or was Ito inspired by that episode of Paranoia Agent?
There’s a very short story at the end of this volume titled, “Strange Pavilion.” It’s four pages long, and it takes place at the World Fair in 2105. A woman goes to an exhibit and something surprising happens. To be honest, I was kind of “meh” about this short story. After reading a story like Black Paradox, this short just felt a little flat.
To be honest, Black Paradox is one of the stronger Junji Ito works I’ve read for a while. Admittedly, I’d been a little underwhelmed with some of the Junji Ito works I’ve reviewed over the past year, so this was a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, one thing I do have to point out is that Maruso’s character design just looks too similar to some of the female characters from his other works. Taburo has a similar look to some of the male characters in Ito’s other works, but his design was tweaked just enough to not look as noticeably close.
If you’re a fan of Junji Ito or of horror manga, then you’ll likely appreciate Black Paradox. This manga might also work as a title to introduce readers to Junji Ito and his work, but I think that titles like Venus in the Blind Spot or Remina might work better for this purpose.
The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media
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