Anomal, offered by indie publisher Gen Manga, is a good light read for the horror aficionado and fans of the weird. Only 160 pages in length, the book contains seven stories, some only a few pages long. The subjects of these brief narratives live up to the name Anomal—they can be anomalous or irregular, as well as another interpretation of the word: uneven. The debut publication from creator Nukuharu, Anomal‘s stories reflect the mangaka’s experimentation with subject matter, pacing, paneling, and artistic niche.
Yokai are featured heavily in Anomal; the first entry tells the tale of a boy who has been given eyes by a yokai. He now resides in its temple in order to repay the being for its kindness, but he experiences a revelation about his situation when a drawing in the temple comes to life. It is one of the strongest stories in the collection, despite badly-placed internal dialogue boxes that can be confusing to the reader. In another standout storyline, a girl learns that she has been recruited to be an ayakashi-nushi, or master of yokai. She must pass tests from the yokai around her or she won’t be approved, but she only wants to hug them—even the dangerous ones. This setup could lead to various storylines, uncovering the histories of yokai while exploring the girl’s personal development and burgeoning friendship with a possessed transfer student. In other entries, yokai are love interests or stand-ins for dead children. In contrast, some plotlines are concerned with things that aren’t as specifically paranormal, like socially awkward detectives and aliens running away from unwanted engagements.
As the book progresses, the artwork loosens up and Nukuharu’s lines become assured and comfortable; hands lose their worried-over look while body positions become more natural-looking and less posed. Occasional floating monsters are an imaginative delight, and the yokai are generally on the cuter side without losing their mysterious edge. Stories are easy to follow as they unfold, as the mangaka makes full use of the space, keeping the action flowing and the eye entertained.
For lovers of deeply-plotted books, Anomal might be unsatisfying, but it functions very well as a showcase for an emerging talent. Readers as young as middle school students could enjoy these tales, especially those who want a light romp through stories with an equal amount of the strange and the emotional.
Gen Manga, 2013