Manga Answerman - Why is Summer the Season for Spooky Stories in Manga?

by Deb Aoki,

Why is Summer considered the season for spooky stories in manga, not Autumn / October like it is in North America?

Much as Halloween at the end of October is the holiday that anchors the season for spooks and ghouls in North America, the season for ghost stories in Japan is also tied to a holiday related to other-worldly affairs: Obon.

Obon, held annually in mid-August is part of a Buddhist tradition where people return to their homes to pay tribute to deceased ancestors. It's a time to visit gravesites to clean them, and to pay tribute to those who have passed on. It's also a time for festivities, as many temples have Bon dances where there's dancing and festive music played, and those ever-present festivals with fireworks, food, carnival games and even haunted houses like you see in a lot of manga and anime. In some areas, there's also a toro-nagashi festival, where floating lanterns are sent down the river or out to sea, with wishes of remembrance too.

So what does that have to do with spooky stories in the summer? Well, besides the connection to this season devoted to honoring deceased relatives and friends, the thinking is that telling and hearing spooky stories will make you shiver, and help you beat the heat in the notoriously hot and humid Japanese summers.

Coincidentally, Obon is traditional holiday season when things kind of shut down a bit in Japan, so people can travel back to their various hometowns. This is why some weekly manga magazines take a break for a week (as Weekly Shonen Jump did recently), and why Comic Market (a.k.a. Comiket) in Tokyo is scheduled for mid-August, because it coincides with a time when a lot of people can take time off from school and work.

Halloween is a relatively new holiday in Japan, and it's catching on, as more people wear costumes and use it as an excuse to party in late October. But summer will always be the #1 season for scary stuff in Japan, because, well… traditions.

Just for fun, check out Demizu Posuka's (co-creator of The Promised Neverland) recent Summer watermelon jack-o-lantern illustrations posted on Twitter!

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Deb Aoki was the founding editor for Manga, and now writes about manga for Anime News Network and Publishers Weekly. She is also a comics creator/illustrator, and has been a life-long reader of manga (even before it was readily available in English). You can follow her on Twitter at @debaoki.

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