Black Paradox, written by Junji Ito with translation by Jocelyne Allen and lettering by Eric Erbes is Ito’s latest horror manga from Viz Media. It is existential crises wrapped in man-made crises and greed with body horror to boot. The story is fantastical, with its roots entrenched in the possible. Uncomfortable moments, as only Ito delivers, with the immersive sensation that you in an inescapable Twilight Zone episode.
As far as manga, there are few in touch with the darker human elements than Junji Ito. Black Paradox is comedic, morbid, and by the end, fatalistic, but though entertaining, knowing nothing about the characters makes it hard to invest in them. Trigger warning: there are talks of suicide.
Black Paradox’s Morbid Road Trip to Paradise
Rather than a compilation of stories, this is one story told in six chapters. A quartet of strangers meets up to commit suicide together. As I started Black Paradox, this moment reminded me of the Paranoia Agent episode with the two guys and little girl meeting to commit suicide. It is always striking how some skillfully depict dark moments with side-splitting hilarity. In this, the moment feels offbeat comedy, with a creep factor that inches closer. To maintain anonymity, they go by there online handles; Taburo, Pii-tan, Baracchi, and Maruso. They believe after death, they will journey to paradise.
But on their road trip to find a peaceful location to die, they start to discuss their reasons. With the exception of Maruso, the rest have a doppleganger. Baracchi’s is in the mirror, Taburo’s follows him around and Pii-tan’s is a robot built identical to him. Maruso’s motivation is anxiety and she can see a future coming she fears.
As they are riding, Maruso realizes she is riding with the copies, not the originals. When she flees from robot Pii-tan, she stumbles on a car with the originals trying to die. They plan to try again later and when the real Pii-tan dies, he comes back throwing up circular gems filled with massive energy. So they again hold off on their plans to try and make money from these gems.
Black Paradox Shows A Bleak Look At Humanity
The story in Black Paradox gets wilder, but the underlying tie is people destroy themselves. Throughout the body horror grows grotesque which freaked me out, especially as Baracchi’s scar on her face had all these gems mushed against her eyeball. Junji Ito is a master at creating stories that most could not imagine, yet fusing it with reality. Ito inspires the philosopher’s “if” logic statement. If this world was real, would people act this way? The real horror is how people sell their souls for money, power, and notoriety. The characters in Black Paradox do not matter, what happens to them does and I wonder if this was a conscious choice.
Wonderland-esque But Darker
Black Paradox is a cautionary tale; engrossing if you enjoy body horror. While its look at humanity is bleak, I love a well-done fantasy, horror story without a happy ending. After all, happy endings are rare. Yet, by the end, you think “wtf did I just read.” Though I enjoyed Black Paradox it is not my favorite because, again, body horror disturbs me and makes my skin crawl. I kept rubbing my arms to make certain my flesh was intact. If body horror is your joy with a desolate glare at humanity, give this a read.