Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Halloween School Girl Spirits: Pumpkin Night (Part 1) (2016-2020)

Pumpkin Night ("パンプキンナイト") (2016-2020, Part 1 of an ongoing manga series)
Rating: **1/2
Author: Seima Taniguchi
Artist: Masaya Hokazono
Number of Issues: 4 Volumes

So I found out about this manga series after watching a video about it in Youtube, described as your run-in-the-mill cheesy 80s slasher in Japanese comic book format. At least as a start. 

In the first arc of this gory saga (dubbed "Part 1", spanning over a total of 33 chapters plus a side chapter and an epilogue), it follows Naoko Kirino, a heavily disfigured girl who escaped a mental hospital by slaughtering countless patients and staffs. As the now Jack-o-Lantern headed slasher "Pumpkin Night", she methodically stalks, tortures and kills five of her former classmates, bullies who broke her body and damaged her mind after they pulled the one prank that went too far during one Halloween party.

For nineteen chapters, Pumpkin Night (Part 1) is your ultra-violent revenge slasher horror that borderlines into torture porn and splatter flick territory for the gruesome details put to each kill drawn, courtesy of artist Masaya Hokazono. At times, the kills can get pretty disturbing for the amount of brutality subjected to the targets, whether they're alive or already dead, but there are occasions wherein it can get too silly to be taken seriously, particularly on the matter of how some of these deaths can get too cartoonish to be even considered possible. (Like how a pumpkin scooper will be strong enough to scoop off a good chunk of skull!) 

The story accompanying this violence is cheesy and simple enough; it's your classic Slaughter High (1986)-type plot where a bullied teen returns as an insane and utterly sadistic slasher, done in a way that the story goes through loops of cliched characters and plot developments, often ringing in one or two genius moments (Naoko pulling off the ole' switcheroo on a body of a murdered classmate at a hospital, so she could listen in to her victims discussing what to do about the killings), as well as its share of creepiness. (One of the teens finding Naoko, without her mask, all scarred up and grinning, inside a crowded elevator with them) Most of the chapters tend to focus on the build-up of a murder, setting the scene up for a torture porn-esque death trap that, at times, tends to go on forever if not side-stepping into flashbacks that detail what lead to all of this, which more often than not involves Naoko's bullying. 

Around the second half of the story is when Pumpkin Night (Part 1) lags around the idea of political power play and re-introduce side characters as the new main ones. Without spoiling much, one of the major players got seemingly killed off in a gutsy move on the author's behalf around these parts, so the Pumpkin Mask persona evolves from a killer straight out of a bad slasher movie to something like the titular character from The Phantom of Paradise (1974) if Tim Burton had his way designing it. Not a bad turn, admittedly, as these last chapters did still play around the identity of being a slasher film-inspired manga, but it felt rather empty and drags the story away from a quicker and more satisfyingly simple conclusion for the sake of adding more bodies to the count. I mean, I get it, the author probably didn't want Pumpkin Night to always get the upperhand as she's practically slaying people like a kid crushing ants with their thumbs, but its needlessly complicated and prolonged, especially if the end result is still the same overpowered killer knifing and burning armed muscle-bound thugs left and right with ease.

For our trouble's worth, at least this arc's ending has this hilariously over-the-top final kill, with promises of a possibly more supernaturally-inclined (?) continuation at its epilogue. Pumpkin Night, from what it is offering, is no great manga in regards to its cheap and messy story but, so far, it has the B-grade charms of a violent horror movie whose main purpose is to dish out as many graphic (and juicy) kills as possible, regardless the plausibility of it all. If you love slashers like Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness (1986) or, Heaven help you, The Summer of Massacre (2011), then give this cheesy trash reading a try! 

1 female seen nearly decapitated (chapter 1)
1 male seen with a missing jaw (chapter 1)
1 male seen impaled and disemboweled with a wooden plank (chapter 1)
9 victims seen slaughtered (chapter 1)
1 male found with his skull sliced open, brain scooped out (chapter 1)
1 female had her eyes torn out with a pumpkin scooper, ran over and mangled by a truck (chapter 1)
1 male gets a knife through the head (chapter 2)
1 male gets a metal pole skewered through his nose (chapter 4)
1 female knifed through the head (chapter 5)
1 female gets a metal pipe shoved through her mouth, impaled through head (chapter 5)
1 female knifed in the eye (chapter 6)
1 male has his head slaughtered with a bonesaw (chapter 6)
1 male and 1 female gets thrown surgical tools to the backs, slaughtered (chapter 6)
1 female electrocuted with a live wire (chapter 6)
1 female repeatedly stabbed in the eyes with a syringe, head crushed with a folding chair (chapter 10)
1 male gets his throat sliced with broken syringes (chapter 10)
1 female knifed through the head (chapter 15)
1 male knifed, had his jaw broken off with a claw hammer (chapter 19 bonus comic)
1 male found murdered, body left in a canal (chapter 20)
1 male repeatedly assaulted with a knife, smothered with a pillow (chapter 25)
3 males set ablaze (chapter 28)
1 male flipped unto the pavement, skull cracked (chapter 29)
1 male knifed in the groin (chapter 29)
1 male caught inside an immolated car, burned to death (chapter 30)
1 male had his head cracked with a knife handle and gets a bottle of acid shoved into the wound, decapitated (chapter 33)
Total: 35

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