Review: Ibitsu by Haruto Ryo

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cover of Ibitsu by Haturo Ryo

Ibitsu by Haruto Ryo
Yen Press (July 2018)
416 pages; $20 hardcover, $9.99 ebook
Reviewed by Danica Davidson

Ibitsu comes from the Japanese word for “twisted,” and it follows a creepy urban legend. The main character Kazuki is walking along at night when he sees someone dressed in Gothic Lolita style sitting in the garbage. Lolita is a fashion style in Japan with lots of frills and Victorian influences that has multiple substyles. One of those substyles is Gothic Lolita, where the frills and little girl look is also strongly influenced by gothic, morbid and dark imagery.

Kazuki thinks she’s creepy, especially because it looks as if blood might be seeping from her, and it looks as if her arm had been ripped open and then sewn back together. She asks him, “Would you . . . have a little sister?”

It seems like an odd question. He answers yes, because he has a sister. He keeps walking. And he can’t escape from the Gothic Lolita after that.

She stalks him. She appears in his place. Then Kazuki hears about an urban legend about a “demon Lolita.”

In the dead of night . . . .a girl in a Lolita outfit appears and asks you some kinda question. Well, they say you can’t answer her back. If you do, she’ll come for you! To become your little sister! ‘I found you, onii-chan!’ she says. . . . and you meet a twisted death!

Onii-chan is an endearing Japanese term for an older brother. As you can tell, this manga likes to twist things: it twists a little girl’s frilly outfit into something spooky, it twists a brother/sister relationship into something deadly, and it twists what should be innocent into something sinister. The whole manga is made to make the reader uncomfortable on purpose, especially as it gets gorier in the second half.

But the second half of the manga is also where it gets more interesting, and we get more back story about the Gothic Lolita and her urban legend. Ibitsu never really gets sophisticated, and characters aren’t that fleshed out. Kazuki seems like a pretty average guy, his friends are idiots, and his younger sister (who is now in danger because the Gothic Lolita wants to usurp her position) is just your generic little sister. In that way, Ibitsu kind of feels like the manga equivalent of a B horror movie. It’s not the best out there, but it’ll keep you entertained, and the more squeamish might find it disturbing. It does an effective job being creepy, that’s for sure, and it’s never slow or boring. Sometimes the artwork feels as if it might be trying too hard, while at other times it very effectively creates a chilling atmosphere that’s easy to get sucked into.

It’s a simple horror story, and while some manga series will go on for books and books, this whole story is contained in a single 416-page manga. That might sound like a lot, but manga tend to be pretty quick reads. It’s probably best for horror fans who want a little escapism on the twisted side.

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