The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
What's It About?High school second-year Akira thinks things may finally be working in his favor. Not only is he finally getting off the bench to start a basketball game with his friend and rival Eichi, but his childhood crush Miku is back in town on a school trip.
Then, before he even gets to play in the game, everything goes horribly wrong – an earthquake hits while he's in the gym storage room, and when he gets out, he finds that monsters have overrun the school and killed almost everyone. Now with the president of his class, a girl he'd barely spoken to before now, Akira is trying to outrun the monsters, survive, and maybe see if Miku is still alive out there somewhere too.
Creature! is an original manga by Shingo Honda. In 2012 it got a live-action short adaptation that is not currently available in English. The manga is a digital-only release from Media Do and can be found on Comixology for $5.99, with five volumes currently available.
Is It Worth Reading?
Despite looking like an unassuming basketball manga for most of the first chapter, Creature! is actually a pretty gruesome survival horror piece wherein an earthquake (or possibly meteor strike) unleashes hideous monsters upon an unassuming Tokyo ward. It hits most of the checkpoints of the genre right off the bat: reasonably tragic hero, childhood crush in danger, hot girl he barely knows, class thug along for the ride, and massive amounts of carnage. While it wouldn't be fair to just call it a checkpoint series, it honestly feels a little hollow beyond those markers, although right now it seems reasonable to think that Honda is simply trying to start things off with a bang before taking a breath to explain.
The highlight of this volume is unquestionably the monsters themselves. They're some of the grossest I've seen, with my personal nightmare beast being the one that looks like it's entirely made up of festering pustules, claws, and jagged teeth. There's a monster for every fear, however, with one looking like a giant hairy centipede and another having more skeletal components, and all of them hungry for at least bits and pieces of human flesh. Or are they? We see down the gullet of one of them as the characters are fleeing, and the people are definitely not digesting or even all that chewed up. That does feel a bit Attack on Titan-y, but it's sufficiently scary that Honda does pull it off even without those associations.
The problem right now is that Creature doesn't have anything to stand on beyond horrible man-eating monsters of mysterious origin and Akira and Co. running for their lives. Given that the only character we have any sort of emotional stake in is Akira, and that was only for half a chapter of fairly typical shounen romance stuff, that's an issue, because we really do need to care if these people get eaten or not. If Miku is alive, that could up the stakes considerably, as could the discovery of her death, but most of all, what this series needs to do next is rest and regroup so that we can have a reason to want the characters to remain alive. Otherwise all the nightmare monsters in the world won't be able to keep this from being nothing more than a jog around decimated Tokyo.
Creature makes an impression on visuals alone, even if the story isn't particularly original or the characters anything more than surface-deep. While it's still too early for much to make sense, it's at least understandable that an earthquake leads to a vicious alien (?) creature invasion that quickly sees the vast majority of human life in the area at an end. Akira, our hero, had a frenemy relationship with Eiji over the fact that they both had a crush on Miku, who moved out of town a few years back—a girl who contrivedly messages them to say she's in town for the day. Eiji's quick (likely) death, right after they pledge to tell the girl how they felt feels more manufactured than moving, but the fact that Miku is in town and most likely caught up in this mess at least adds an extra layer to the proceedings, something for Akira to strive for other than survival. The students he teams up with as he flees the school have yet to show much depth, but at least Akira is experiencing the challenge of surviving with disparate types of people he barely knew beforehand.
Honda's art is the highlight of this manga, with every detail in the background meticulously laid bare, bringing a sense of danger to a real-world setting. The creatures themselves are terrifying, and there's plenty of gore to see in their rampage. The character designs are simple but also realistic enough to aid in the sense of danger the rest of the art conveys.
Creature volume 1 is hardly the first manga to throw an apocalyptic scenario at a bunch of high schoolers. While it deals with tropes and shallow characters thus far, it also manages to intrigue and entertain based on visuals alone. The dynamic reveal at the end of the volume is especially likely to get readers coming back for more.
Creature is a strange beast. It begins as a typical high school drama, and quickly transitions into gory, brutal monster-based horror. Surprisingly, the tone shift works to the manga's advantage, selling the shock and psychological impact of a sudden monster invasion through the upending of previously normal routines. At the start of the manga, it's almost like Slam Dunk. The main character has a Shonen rivalry with his best friend to become the best player on the basketball team, and in the opening scenes, it appears that this will be the core of Creature's story. But then an earthquake happens, and almost every character who we've come to know through our main is not only dead, but ripped apart into bloody chunks. This establishes that the character has motivations and desires outside of the central conflict, friends and goals and dreams, so when the twist comes where he has to abandon everything in order to simply stay alive, it hits all the harder. It's a really great bit of narrative economy; the prologue only takes place over about twenty pages, but the establishment of the status quo in that short amount of time is rock solid. working to make the horror even more palpable.
Other than that, Creature is mostly a thriller with insanely gorgeous artwork and an unrelenting pace. The monster designs in this book are incredible: Lush and ornate in their detail and dimension, but slimy and bulbous and utterly alien. The characterization isn't anything dynamic or complex, granted, and beyond the race to stay alive Creature doesn't seem to have much in the way of thematic goals beyond some extremely minor, background mysteries of sussing out why exactly the monsters have come to Earth. But Creature is just so earnest: It likes cool monsters, it likes gore and it likes scares and things that go bump in night. It's hard not to let that energy and affection rub off on you too.
I was enamored of Creature from the word go. I didn't put it down until I reached the final pages. If you're looking for a horror manga with great monster designs and a sadistic edge, it's an easy recommendation. I usually like my horror laced with a bit more allegory or social relevance, but Creature is so freakin' entertaining that I can't help but be excited for subsequent volumes.
Two childhood friends and rivals, Akira and Eiji decide to play a basketball game to decide who will be able to confess to the girl they both love. As Akira goes to get a ball from the utility closet, a strong earthquake shakes the whole school. After coming to, Akira finds himself in the wreckage of the earthquake. Once freeing himself, the horror has only begun. Akira walks out of the closet and discovers the only thing left of Eiji is a detached arm. The shaking wasn't caused by an earthquake, but a group of alien monsters! Now desperately trying to find answers and the girl he loves, Akira must survive this horrifying attack.
Creature! is part alien invasion manga, part kaiju manga. The monsters are as if dragons had their DNA mixed with Lovecraftian monsters. All slime and eyes, these creatures are terrifying (and good at their jobs).
From what I've discovered from working on the Fall Manga Guide is that it's incredibly hard to write good horror. Creature! is the perfect idea of a boring concept with excellent execution. So many times readers have seen sudden monster invasions where people must endure their crumbling city. Movies like Godzilla and more recently Cloverfield easily get the point across, while mangas like Gyo show that you can never truly escape from a large monster. Creature!'s plot itself is boring, but the monster design is grotesque, unappealing (in a good way), and mysterious. I love it when the monster is never truly revealed and Shingo Honda does an excellent job of concealing the true look of his monsters, only showing certain parts. The fear the students feel is realistic but struck me as naive and tiresome.
Creature! has the ability to become a strong manga, but if the first three chapters are any indication of how the rest of the manga will go, then it will fall into obscurity with the rest of the unimpressive horror manga of the world.
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