Sadako at the End of the World by Koma Natsumi and Koji Suzuki
Yen Press (November 17, 2020)
146 pages; $15 paperback, $6.99 e-book
Reviewed by Danica Davidson
Sadako, the vengeful ghost villain from The Ring franchise, gets a new twist to her story in the manga Sadako at the End of the World.
The Ring started out as a 1991 novel written by Koji Suzuki (and is available in America from the publisher Vertical), and that spawned off into more books and then movies. Japan made two movie adaptations and South Korea made one before the franchise made its way to America with a 2002 Hollywood movie adaptation starring Naomi Watts. In America, “Sadako” was changed to “Samara Morgan.” The obsession with Sadako and The Ring franchise continues in Japan, where their most recent movie in the franchise (called Sadako) came out in 2019.
Are there still ways to tell Sadako’s story? Sadako at the End of the World says yes, and it gives us quite a quirky experience. The manga opens with Sadako gruesomely crawling out of a TV screen, as anyone who’s seen one of the movies can picture. But instead of crawling out to screaming, terrified people, she finds herself in front of two cute little girls who are thrilled to see her. The little girls have no idea that Sadako is a ghost and plans to kill them in a week. They just think she’s another person and she’ll hang out with them for seven days. The manga takes place in a postapocalyptic world where these girls have apparently been living by themselves for some time and they got the VCR working again for something to do.
Now that they have their new murderous friend, the cute little girls take Sadako with them in a search for more people, not realizing that Sadako plans to murder them all. The first person they run into is a beautician who insists on fixing Sadako’s ratty hair that falls all over her face.
Sadako at the End of the World is full of warped humor, but that doesn’t mean it gets rid of the horror. There are still terrifying images, and implications like when Sadako walks off and then returns all bloody. It also gets a bit into Japanese ghost folklore, like when it references the morbid story of “The Dish Mansion at Banchou,” where a vengeful spirit is created.
It’s a short manga, contained in a single volume. After the story is over, the mangaka has an extra little bit about her experiences being on the set of the latest Ring franchise movie, a timeline for Sadako is revealed, and a short extra story about Sadako is given in the manga style. Koma Natsumi is the person who wrote and illustrated the book, but the whole thing was supervised by Koji Suzuki, the original novelist.
While the manga might not be the most terrifying part of The Ring franchise, it holds its own and shows a unique and often offbeat way of looking at the character. It would be good for fans of manga who also like The Ring stories and don’t mind if the mangaka gets a little creative with the laughs. (And if you want more of manga comedy about Sadako, they actually have that, too — check out Sadako-san and Sadako-chan published by Seven Seas Entertainment.)