I was excited to hear that DC’s CMX imprint was doing a mature line and was eager to read its horror offerings. I’m pretty much a chicken, but I’ll risk nightmares for well-written horror stories. Unfortunately I was disappointed in Inuki’s horror manga anthology, not so much because it wasn’t creepy, but more because it wasn’t really spooky. Nothing kept me from peaceful sleep the night after I read it and, as I was on vacation in a cabin in the woods, that’s saying something.
All of Inuki’s stories follow a similar format: a greedy, not-very-nice person gets what’s coming to them through the gifts given them by a mysterious young girl. The girl is Kurumi and she has never aged because she never received any presents as a child. The stories are fairly interesting, but in the end they come off as an evil “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Only the final story, “Konotori”, stands out and it is not a horror tale. Set in modern day Japan, with birthrates plummeting and infertility on the rise, many children are only children and have never seen large families until a mysterious family moves into one neighborhood. The friendship that a neighborhood boy develops with the oldest boy in the large clan will affect his family, both now and in the future. It is a well-done story, sweet and full of affection for family, making it an awkward fit with the rest of the anthology, though it is the strongest of the stories.
One aspect of Inuki’s work that is creepy, however, is his art. His characters, especially the villains are portrayed with bulging eyes, and his use of children as the main focus of his stories ups the ick factor when combined with violence. Presents is an older title, published in Japan in 1993, but the art actually feels older than that.