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'Gannibal' Vol. 1 review

Manga and Anime

‘Gannibal’ Vol. 1 review

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Masaaki Ninomiya’s horror manga is finally arriving in the west.

Originally serialized in Nihon Bungeisha’s Weekly Manga Goraku magazine from October 2018 to November 2021, Masaaki Ninomiya’s Gannibal was published in 13 volumes and has already gained a television adaptation that you can now watch on Disney+. As we wait for a second season, Ablaze Publishing launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for Ninomiya’s manga series to reach our western shores, introducing us to a dark story about a village’s secrets, namely cannibalism. 

While cannibalism is a common ecological interaction in the animal kingdom, human cannibalism has often been a favorite subject in the horror genre, whether it is Cannibal Holocaust or the entire Hannibal franchise. In the case of Gannibal, it centers on Officer Daigo Agawa, who finds the remote village quaint, and he looks forward to an easygoing post among the warm and welcoming citizenry. However, when a dead body is discovered, Agawa notices a human bite mark that has been left on the corpse, and any voiced suspicion of Agawa’s is met with a strange, sudden, and intense hostility. 

The author is obviously using a familiar horror narrative, in which an outsider cop is investigating a crime, only for suspicion towards the sinister nature of the location itself and its people. Wicker Man vibes you will find here as upon revealing the cannibal family early in the story, you see the villagers abiding to these old traditions. However, as much as these cannibals are illustrated as villainous figures, Ninomiya lays enough groundwork to see where the mystery goes, which is the disappearance of Agawa’s predecessor.

With Agawa as our outsider protagonist, the manga does a good job of establishing how much of he and his family are strangers to this new land. While he initially seems out of his depth with the odd behavior of the villagers, particularly a tense scene between him and a youngster who is suspiciously skilled with a shotgun, Agawa learns to adapt and starts to understand his surroundings and the people he will be living among. Though we don’t get much time with Agawa’s wife Yuki and daughter Mashiro, there is enough investment when they are on the verge of danger. It is also helpful that there is actual character development towards Yuki, who could have easily been an object of fan service, with the recurring joke that she has big breasts. 

What makes or breaks a horror comic is the quality of the art, which has to deliver on the visuals that will frighten you. Upon looking at the initial pages, Ninomiya’s art does take some adjustment, with nearly every panel looks overcrowded with the amount of detail being thrown at. However, taking cues from Junji Ito, Ninomiya is a master of illustrating facial expressions, some of which are used to comedic effect, but most of the characters look like they are on the edge of insanity, which is scarier than the chewed-up corpses.

'Gannibal' Vol. 1 review
‘Gannibal’ Vol. 1 review
Gannibal Vol. 1
The story may be all too familiar, but Masaaki Ninomiya does enough to create an unsettling atmosphere and a compelling mystery that makes you excited to see where Gannibal goes.
Reader Rating1 Votes
Despite its familiar horror premise, the story gets under your skin through its approach on cannibalism.
A compelling mystery, anchored by a cast of characters who are either monsters or slowly losing their morality.
An unsettling atmosphere that is defined by Ninomiya's art...
...though the murky illustrations and the busyness of the panels themselves can be initially distracting.

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