Some of my favorite stories involve elements of what made classic fables so enthralling to me. Some aspects are easy to see, like the fantasy setting, but I also enjoy the darker world that’s mixed with a child-like innocence which tinges each story, allowing us to take in the horror aspects a little easier. Fairies and other creatures of myth are no joke, and the original stories attest to how devious they can be. However, we always see their pranks rather than their murderous rampages when we read those stories of old. Fables historically were made to teach a lesson and help to educate children on the dangers of life. So the palatability of a darker world that we only catch a glimpse of has always intrigued me.
Shadow House is very much a story like this. The story follows Emilyko, a “living doll” in a very dark and mysterious mansion, who serves Kate, a member of the Shadow Family, who owns the property. Emilyko spends most of her time taking care of Kate but also ponders on the behavior of the Shadows. The Shadows are creatures seemingly made up of some dark material that creates soot, as everything they touch is dirtied with it, along with their negative emotions causing them to release a black smoke that can cover the room in the same material. Added to this is the odd behavior that they have some physical control over the soot they produce and leave behind.
Starting the year off right with two of my favorite types of stories: Romance and Representation! I’m a sucker for a fun, no major bummers or big drama, kinda romance where two people can comfortably get to know each other. This is also the perfect way to positively represent various issues and types of lives while being respectful to both, so it becomes a great way to experience another person’s perspective while also getting all those warm feelings about people in love. Love and empathy! Great combo.
This manga is this perfect little cap off to the day for me. Mado Kara Madoka-chan is a cute little series about a office worker who walks the same path to work every day outside of a woman’s house, who loves to play games and roleplay with him as he passes by. Every time that our protagonist comes by, Madoka-chan begins a different kind of game with him to keep both of their lives fun, dramatically changing the layout and look of her home.
Each chapter is a different strange experience with the eccentric Madoka-chan as she performs something within her four walls either for the salaryman passing by, or seemingly to entertain herself. However, her eccentric nature and the dramatic transformations of her place, sometimes in a matter of minutes, makes me feel as if there’s a hint of Magical Realism in this series. Like, there are some chapters where she closes her shutters and not five seconds later, they slam back open to reveal a restaurant. It’s insane but also always fun, especially because as magical as she may seem, Madoka-chan doesn’t always get everything right and so interactions between the two characters can become dynamic and sometimes downright hilarious.
Mousou Telepathy is a story that takes a look at what having a super power most consider cool would really be like of it came with no off button. Ayako Nakano is a student in high school who ever since she could remember has been able to see other people’s thoughts. However, after being called creepy by her mother when she was very little, she’s always kept this to herself. Unfortunately, this becomes harder to hide when a seemingly stoic popular boy in her class with a very overactive imagination falls madly in love with her, constantly thinking about her throughout the school day.
This is genuinely one of the most heart-warming things I’ve read in awhile. My Brother’s Husband is a multiple award-winning story about a single father, Yaichi, living in Japan. His twin brother Ryoji, had moved to Canada and there found love and legally married his fiancé. However, after ten years living abroad, Ryoji suddenly died. Now, a month has passed and suddenly, Ryoji’s husband, Mike, has decided to come to visit Japan to learn more about his husband and his family that he never got a chance to meet. While living with them, Mike helps to change the lives of our main character Yaichi and his daughter, helping them to not only come to terms with his brother’s passing, but also his own biases that didn’t allow Yaichi to fully accept his brother.
I feel Gokushufudou works for the same reason of why I love Leslie Nelson’s brand of comedic movies. It’s a very serious character in a completely out of tone situation. Our main character, Tatsu, is an ex-yakuza who left all of the gang violence behind to completely support his wife in her work by taking care of their house. However, even with the smallest chores of cleaning the bath or doing the dishes, he treats it with the same horrifying and meticulous seriousness of a gang-sanctioned killing.
If it’s not obvious from the title, this is 100% an isekai light novel story. Rather than your typical one, though, this one caught my attention because it wanted to go for a different approach, which will always catch my eye. The manga (as it’s the version I ended up reading) follows our main lead Azusa Aizawa who is a businesswoman that literally works herself to death. A god or being of some sort takes pity on her and sets her up in a new life as a young mage with eternal youth/life. Azusa decides that this will be her retirement and begins a life in another world doing… absolutely nothing. Having worked all her life since she was old enough to, she doesn’t want to do anything at all related to work. She gets by killing the “lowest level” (the world has MMO logic but it’s a fantasy realm) creatures she can find, slimes, and selling the gems they drop for the various food and resources she needs. Being immortal, she ends up doing this for so long that she’s become quite a powerful being and even a well-respected individual in her small town thanks to her healing potions she makes in her free time. However, after Azusa finds out how truly godly powerful she’s really become, she does everything she possibly can to avoid interrupting her streak of 300 peaceful years as a hermit. Too bad someone leaked how powerful she was to the world and now creatures far and wide have come to test her might…