Reviewby Lissa Pattillo, Sep 19th 2010
Tale of a White Night
A demonic young girl collecting the limbs of corpses to create the perfect figure; a boarded up storehouse that hides a dozen violent secrets from the childhood of several men doomed to die along with them; a girl whose offerings of lunch will do little to persuade the aid of a group of fox spirits and an incorporeal pale-hand that seeks to lure those who can see it to their deaths.
Tale of a White Night is a one-shot collection of short stories – a compilation of tales connected by their elements of the supernatural and suspense, as well as a favoured choice of locale in the forest-covered mountains of Japan. These stories aren't likely to make readers lose any sleep but there's a high likelihood of being left wary of what could linger in the shadows.
The goal of each chapter, like many a good ghost story, isn't so much to scare you while you read, per say. Instead they stir up some suspense, toy with the maybes-and-what-ifs of reader's guesses and leave you with that sought-after unsettling feeling when you're done. The first story follows a young man staying up in the hills of a mountain said to be haunted by an oni in the guise of a beautiful girl. Rumors and legend say she collects corpses and uses them to create dolls. When the young man becomes a guest in that very girl's home, he learns what the collecting has truly been for and finds himself bound to be part of the assemblage. The build-up falls on the predictable side but the climatic execution still has its own surprises. Interestingly it doesn't end in the way one expects, though sort of feels like the author may've just changed their mind at the last minute and opted for a different kind of finish.
The following story is one of the book's best at suspense, though it doesn't necessarily equate to the most satisfying of endings. Or one that makes the most sense. Sure it's a little hair-raising but the journey itself is definitely the worthwhile portion of this trip – a story of young men dying one by one, connected by a storehouse in their childhood where they committed considerably more and more disturbing violent acts. What lays in that storehouse that's driven them to death? One man with vague memories of his childhood returns to find out.
Much more satisfying ending-wise is the next story where a young girl wanders a mountain trying to find her way to school. Fox spirits repeatedly try to inform her of the situation's futility while the girl nonetheless keeps wandering in hopes of finding the way out. The reason for her cycle is likely to become apparent to readers fairly early on yet the ending is more than poignant enough to make up for any predictability.
It's then that one must beware… the claw! Or not. The curse of choice in this story is that of a disembodied white hand that gestures to lead the unfortunate to their untimely ends at an equally cursed pond. The twist of sorts is the manner of which people die at the pond, specifics not divulged in leui of the importance of the by-whom over the by-what. A young man returns to this place, in part compelled by memories of the death of his cousin when he was a child. The physical similarities of her to his surviving cousin – sister to the deceased – brings about a nice and spine-chilling resolve, or at least as ‘resolved’ as a good ghost story is expected to be.
Suiting to the stories, but perhaps not to some readers' tastes, is the art style, a distinctly shoujo affair littered with lithe characters, carefully chosen details and wispy, wistful eyes gazing this way and that. It's a very beautiful style, one that compliments the mood of the stories greatly. It could prove however an earnest turn-off to horror-specific fans looking for a fix. Granted, the book itself isn't really specifically tailored to that particular crowd in the first place, maintaining a vibe reminiscent more closely to that of horror manga Pet Shop of Horrors than the classic genre-works of Kazuo Umezu or Kanako Inuki.
The last book in the story unfortunately leaves a far less positive lingering feeling than those before it. By all appearances it looks to be a much older work of the artist though there's such a stark difference in the art style (excluding for some reason one handful of pages in the middle of it) that it could easily be assumed an entirely different artist. The story is also notably different from those before it, a semi-political/racial story about a girl looking for another of her race and seeking the help of someone from her family's past. It proves neither suspenseful nor remarkable; too wordy and with little of interest to show for it. It's also almost a third of the book, the longest of the shorts present, which is unfortunate considering it's easily the weakest. The bulk of the stories in this collection would've been better served released in a smaller page-count book with a cheaper price than a full-length graphic novel bogged down by a story that reads so distinctly out of place.
Tale of a White Night is a recommended read for fans of suspense and light horror, though the lackluster read at the end is a soiling finish to this otherwise eerie compilation. Though perhaps a tad predictable to fans of the tropes at times, the bulk of these ethereally paranormal stories are generally successful at their intended creepy factor – an enjoyable one-shot read that should make the tree shadows on your window look a tad more unnerving tonight.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Successfully haunting stories; an attractive shoujo art-style that helps set the enigmatic air of the curse-centric chapters
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