Story and Art by: Kazuo Umezu
My very first time reading manga! Within just a few pages, I was comfortable reading right to left (back to front) and figured out without instructions that even the bubbles within the panels flowed right to left. But not bottom to top? Hmm, oh well. I also figured out that Japanese manga translated into English sometimes puts the reader on the outside of an inside joke, with unusual cultural references and dialog styles.
Cat Eyed Boy Volume One is a 532-page collection of 5 stories: The Immortal Man, The Ugly Demon, The Tsunami Summoners, The One-legged Monster of Oudai, and The Band of One Hundred Monsters.
The Immortal Man begins with the Cat Eyed Boy living in the attic of a mansion. He entertains himself by spying on the family and he soon learns the family is being terrorized by the immortal man. The Cat Eyed Boy decides to help the family by trying to rid them of the immortal man, first by spitting on him, then by peeing on him, and finally by forcing him to drink sake. Bonsai? No, epic fail. In the end, the Cat Eyed Boy manages to rescue the family from the burning mansion and mend the relationship between the father and the son.
If it sounds a little all over the place, that’s because it is. In fact, if I weren’t reviewing the book, I wouldn’t have read any further. Cat Eyed Boy is a minor character in the development of the plot and spends an annoying amount of time (and panels) narrating what is blatantly obvious and saying “hee, hee, hee” to things that aren’t funny (except maybe in Japan). Aside from that, the story has nice horror monster elements like amputated legs that grow teeth and run through the mansion attacking the occupants. (1.5)
The Ugly Demon is about a father who sacrifices himself in order to give his horribly disfigured son a better life. There is gut-wrenching love, soul-consuming hate, and ugly monsters all wrapped up with a neat little lesson about how it’s what’s inside that really matters. (8)
The Tsunami Summoners and The One-legged Monster of Oudai both reminded me of folk stories that might be told to youngsters to teach regional history or cultural traditions, but with monsters. (7, each)
The Band of One Hundred Monsters made me glad I didn’t stop reading after The Immortal Man. It is the most creative and entertaining story of the volume by far and takes up more than one third of the book. It’s a story about a famous horror manga artist whose monsters come to life and band together to seek revenge against all non-monsters. Adventures that follow introduce the reader to each monster in the band. Cat Eyed Boy becomes more integral to the story line and less of a narrator. Unfortunately, you have to wait for Cat Eyed Boy Volume Two to get the conclusion of The Band of One Hundred Monsters. (9.5)
The book has a T+ parental advisory, and is recommended for ages 16 and up for containing disturbing images. I think the dialog, the story lines, and the Cat Eyed Boy character would appeal more to a younger audience of 8-12 year olds. But some of the images are indeed disturbing. While all the humans in each story look mostly the same, the monsters are varied and gruesome. True to the horror genre, the art is dramatic and highly detailed. It is the detail of each panel that makes the Cat Eyed Boy’s narration completely superfluous and often annoying. Many horror books are visually predominantly dark but Cat Eyed Boy Volume One has a nice balance of black ink and white space that I found fresh and appealing.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Story 6.5/10
The Artwork 9/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10