Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fuan no Tane by Nakayama Masaaki and the Weird

"A man awakes in the darkness and reaches over for his eyeglasses on the nightstand. The eyeglasses are placed in his hands." This is taken from the introduction of Noctuary by Thomas Ligotti and it tells a bare-bones weird story. It has a beginning, middle and an end and if read under the right circumstances--midnight, pitch black room, maybe a hefty wind going outside--it can scare you. And like most weird stories: it's short--this is shorter than most--and gives the reader a sense of unease; an unease of the unknown and the unexplainable. Fuan no Tane takes this structure and idea and runs with it.

But before I continue, let me tell you what Fuan no tone is about: Fuan no Tane explores Japanese urban legends, horror and weird tales. These are the weird short stories, in which reality is lifted away in a person's life and the bizarre enter.

Fuan no Tane, like our short story, uses that quick and short structure to tell its tales, each one weirder than the last; it's an interesting structure to work in. It's highly economical, leaving the fluff out the door and working with only the essential. The downside is that it leaves things like characterization, nuance, texture and the like that you can see/read in novellas, novels, and serial comics out-in-the-cold; it's a somewhat hefty trade-off.

 I don't think this is a bad thing for Fuan no Tane, due to the nature of the stories. We're not interested in the characters' past, but that moment of time in which they experience the unknown; to look at that moment, almost crystallize it and then move on. I think that works really well because experiences like that are fleeting and almost dreamlike. At that moment, reality has stopped working, or what we think of as reality and it feels like something has invaded and violated us. Those strong feelings hit you hard but only for a few minutes and you then come back, if you're lucky.

The structure also works in a way that a person would react and think in a situation like that. What I mean by that is, we may think of this a just a random experience; wrong place, wrong time. For us, there's no slow build up the horror--actually, let me go back on that. There might be, we could have done something that leads us to this path, but we're not going to be thinking of that at the time. We're not going to be having an introspective look at the situation, but we're going to be thinking "Why me?" That builds up or lack thereof leads me to something else.

Let me go back to that very short story from the beginning. "A man awakes in the darkness and reaches over for his eyeglasses on the nightstand. The eyeglasses are placed in his hands." There's more than meets the eye here. Yes, it's a bare bones story that can be a frightful, but there's something more underneath: fate and inevitability. It was fate that the person reaching for the eyeglasses would come to bump into the unknown. That this small moment was inevitable, there was nothing that people could do to change that meeting with the unknown. It doesn't matter how hard they worked or what they did or how they lived, this meeting was inevitable. That you were born to experience this weirdness and maybe even die by its hands. It's a frightening prospect to think about.

You can make the argument that, maybe it's not fate or inevitability but random chance. But that too also has frightening consequences. There's no rhythm or reason to life, you could work your hardest and be a great person, but if the dice roll the wrong way, you're screwed. Both things have their own frightening consequences and can make you read and experience horror in very different ways.

I bring these themes up because they also play heavily in Fuan no Tane or any weird story. And reading Fuan no Tane with this in mind, can change the way one reads these stories. Are they a product of a chance? Or was a person born and prepped to meet the unknown? I really have no answer and neither does Fuan no Tane nor does the Weird. But what makes them so great, is that they aren't afraid to engage in these ideas and accept them whole heartily. To take the sheet from the reader's eyes and show that the universe is a scarier place than they imagined.

You can read all three volumes here (remember right to left when reading manga):

There's also a Fuan no Tane plus but imo, it's not as good as these three volumes. But if you want to read here it is:


  1. I couldn't agree more with you. it's exactly as you said, the interesting part about Fuan no Tane is that it could happen to anyone! When I read the first story about the man with the straw bag on his head, I was immediately hooked up. The interesting part about these stories, is that there is no clear explanation to them, so you can think whatever you want about them, and that is creepy.

  2. I got super uncomfortable after reading this book. Not recommended for late night viewing.

  3. Insightful words, and very much how I view all of Masaaki's horror work.