One Missed Call 1 + 2
Original Story by Yasushi Akimoto, Manga Adaption by Mayumi Shihou
Dark Horse, 264 pp.
Rating: 16 +
One Missed Call 1 + 2 is a collection of adaption of the movie franchise. The original One Missed Call came out at the tail end of the J-Horror phase and was a hit in Japan, spawning several sequels, a TV series and a US remake. While the first movie wasn’t exactly spectacular, it was still an ok flick thanks in part to the direction by Takashi Miike. The manga on the other hand…
One of the weakest things about the original One Missed Call movie was the writing. The characters tended to feel a bit flat, one dimensional and seemed to move through the movie with little free will of their own. Takashi Miike was able to cover this up a bit with decent direction and a healthy dose of ambiance and mood. Sadly the manga has none of this. Scenes that were tension filled and unnerving thanks to Miike’s direction, appropriate sets, lighting, music and more become a muddled mess here and the characters are even flatter than ever, feeling like little more than mouth pieces wandering aimlessly from one scene to another. In addition there’s actually a moment within this volume where several pages from a later sequence appear randomly before hand and you end up with a rather awkward and confusing read. The translation, something that I usually don’t notice in most manga, also feels a bit awkward here. The dialogue is stiff, there’s an odd turn of phrase here and there and everyone seems to speak with the same voice. While I haven’t seen the second movie I can safely say that the manga adaption hasn’t done anything to encourage me to do.
One of the themes within both movies in child abuse. In the first the ghost is the spirit of a child who was seemingly desperate for attention, which in turn led to abuse and further neglect, which in turn led to her death. One of the main characters in the first story is herself a victim of child abuse as well. In his book J-Horror: The Definitive Guide to The Ring, The Grudge and Beyond, David Kalat talks a little about how One Missed Call can be viewed as a commentary on child abuse and how it’s a silent plague which eats away at the fabric of a society. He further states that it’s something Japan has long turned a blind eye to, pointing out that up until 1999 the Japanese government didn’t even try to collect statistic and data on incidents of child abuse. With that in mind it’s hard to read the second story, which shifts the origin of the curse from Japan to Taiwan, without seeing it as an attempt to claim that child abuse within Japan is not a natural occurrence, but is in fact a problem brought to Japan by foreigners. In addition to that reading, the second story also shares all the faults of the first one, bland characters, odd dialogue, a meandering plot, and tosses in even more convoluted twists and turns.
Mayumi Ito’s artwork does these stories absolutely no favor whatsoever. It’s sparse, many of the characters look alike and there are almost no backgrounds. To make things even worse there are sudden transitions in time and space that are difficult to follow due to the similarity of many characters and the lack of background. One minute characters are talking in a house, turn the page and they’re somewhere else. A black panel with a word bubble later and suddenly they’re in the middle of a conversation with a group of people on the street. The word bubbles are almost entirely without tails and often over lap panels or appear in all black or all white panels. This makes it difficult in places to attribute dialogue to a specific character. This is even further complicated by the fact that the word bubble may appear in a panel focusing on a shoe, leg or hand. The lack of sound and the way it was used in the movies was well done, with the eerie ring tone being a stand out example of this. Unfortunately within the sequential art medium there’s no sound and we’re stuck with sound effects and musical notes appearing on the page instead. Both lack the impact of the sound from the original movie and often times the significance may be missed or over looked. A good example of this is the use of the asthma inhaler in the first movie and the first manga. In the movie the sound really stood out and was clearly some sort of aerosol spray, but in the manga it’s merely a “shuuu” sound. While the Japanese may hear this and think moving air or spray, to my western mind it could have been anything from elevator doors opening, shoes shuffling across the ground and more.
While the original One Missed Call was a hit I wasn’t exactly blown away by it and the manga simply highlights everything that was wrong or weak with the movie and magnifies it. When you add in sloppy story telling and bland artwork you end up with an incredibly underwhelming read that will do nothing to encourage one to see the movie or explore the franchise further.
One Missed Call 1 + 2 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.