Hey, kid. Kid. Hey. Hey, you like a little story with a twist in the tale? You like a last-minute swerve? You like all that sweet tension ramped up in one final reveal that not only makes everything worse, but the whole story … better? Hey, kid, hey. Who would you kill to get that, huh? Who’d you kill for the chance at that?
Murder Incarnation is a series of short stories, each in several chapters, readable in English on Crunchyroll. As with many classic horror anthologies, there are women who occur around the beginning and end of each unconnected short — mascots, effectively, hostesses — but who are also integral to the premise of the comic: if you were recently bereaved, and you had the chance to get your lost love back, would you do it?
Would you do it if you had to kill three people? Our chosen protagonists, of course, would. Eventually.
Each story takes them on a journey of grief and desire, stacking their morals against their need for solace. Both are established during the time it takes to explain who died, and how, and whether or not the protagonist believes the offer they’ve been given.
Artist Inamitsu Shinji has plenty of comics credits, outside of the abortive (only ten chapters!) Murder Incarnation. At least three are hentai — schoolgirl hentai, with additional kink. Murder Incarnation‘s three witches (death goddesses? whatever they are) comprise of three sisters of basic beauty; the youngest is seen wearing a school uniform with regularity but in this title at least the art avoids codifying lechery — no upskirt angles, no bulging, etc. The art, in fact, is strange. It appears to have been modelled in three dimensions, digitally, and then reduced to high-contrast black and white. Cel shaded, effectively, and after that arranged in traditionally divided panels on the page. It heightens the uncanny sense of improperness, the vertigo of horror.
Sugawara Keita, scripter, has fewer books to his name, but both his two previous releases are high-concept horror with a strong focus on reputation: emotional connection to one’s image of oneself, or others’ emotional connections to their image of you. Soumatou Kabushikigaisha allows individuals to view their lives from the outside; Tetsumin disrupts the “normal, pleasant” life of a girl with (the cover image suggests) revelation of her inhumanity. This thematic devotion resurfaces in Murder Incarnation, where nobody’s motivations are initially apparent. They seem to be, of course.
As in all the best speculative fiction, Murder Incarnation takes it’s ridiculous, frivolous premise seriously. Deadly seriously! The psychological toll that it takes to justify killing, the state of investment that one enters during and after a murder: these are given weight and time that allows the idea to take root in the reader, emotionally. With real dedication to what if, Murder Incarnation is a thought experiment comic that can stand alone as a dark, enjoyable journey, or mould with ease to structures in the reader, and become the allegory one may find themselves needing in real life. Murder Incarnation’s stories don’t end happily. They do end interestingly, with enough panache and structural integrity that the ol’ “and on the end … WAS A HOOK!” style of last-minute twist cheese is neatly avoided.
If you’re a fan of horror shorts, these are extremely well formed.