Manga review, Halloween 2020 edition: Suicide Club

Another classic horror manga, though not quite as old as last year’s

Suicide Club (German: Der Selbstmordclub, Japanese: 自殺サークル jisatsu saakuru, lit. “suicide circle”)
Language: German (originally Japanese)
Author: Usamaru Furuya
Publisher: Schreiber & Leser / Shodoku (originally Ohta)
Year: 2006 (original run 2002)
Number of volumes: 1
Pages: 170
Price: € 9
ISBN: 978-3-937102-53-5

Loosely based on the eponymous film by Sion Sono, Suicide Club is about Saya, a high schooler who clearly has some severe mental issues which drive her into self-harm and prostitution. She feels out of touch with herself, and also withdraws from her best friend Kyōko from whose perspective the story is told. Then Saya meets the enigmatic schoolgirl Mitsuko and joins her cult in which disaffected misfits gather. Mitsuko’s control over her acolytes is absolute, and they eagerly do her bidding – up to, ultimately, collective suicide. But the story of Saya, Kyōko and Mitsuko doesn’t end there…

Furuya comes from a fine art and alternative manga background, and one can see traces of this in his drawing style, a certain deliberate crudeness and starkness. At the same time, the figures with their clear, thin outlines and little shading and the smooth page layouts with their almost always rectangular panels make for quite a matter-of-factly visual storytelling.

This art style complements the plot nicely. It is a horror story that almost entirely abstains from supernatural elements. Most events can be explained psychologically. For instance, Mitsuko’s seemingly hypnotic power over her devotees might be due to their unstable minds, and to the fact that she is the first one to listen to their troubles.

Of course, one could read Suicide Club as more than ‘just’ an entertaining horror manga. The social commentary is there: after all, suicide was and still is a major issue in Japan, the country with the highest suicide rate in the world. Likewise, the issue of child prostitution is pointed out precisely by the offhand way in which it is depicted. But the social criticism (if one can call it that) of Suicide Club appears almost as detached as its characters – it’s not the engaged Confidential Confessions type that wants to offer help to readers who might find themselves in similar situations.

Scariest moment: the first time we get to see Mitsuko. There is something creepy about her face, and you immediately get the feeling that it’s going to haunt you (as it does Kyōko).

Rating: ● ● ● ○ ○

Find the previous Halloween blogposts here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.