seeds of anxiety

ISBN 13: 9784253104869

Fuan no tane (Seeds of Anxiety) Volume 1

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Screentone Nightmares: Seeds Of Anxiety

In this third edition of Screentone Nightmares, we’ll be taking a look at what is probably my favorite piece of Japanese horror. This is Seeds of Anxiety, more commonly known by its Japanese name Fuan No Tane. Fuan no Tane began publication in October of 2002 and ran until March of 2005 in the magazine Champion RED. It’s 72 short chapters were collected in three volumes and it was followed by a sequel Fuan No Tane+ in 2007 (Which I will definitely be covering in a future installment). I was also pleasantly surprised to see that a third series, titled Fuan No Tane*, started publication in 2019, although it doesn’t look like any translating has been done yet. I’m crossing my fingers that I can get my hands on the new series soon. Fuan No Tane was created by Masaaki Nakayama who also helms the current ongoing horror series PTSD Radio (on my list for coverage soon) and has handled art on several crime and drama series as well. Fuan No Tane was also adapted into a live action film in 2013 (referred to as Pet Peeve in the west for some reason) that I have not yet had the pleasure of viewing, although it does have moderate reviews so I’ll hope for the best until I see it for myself.

So what is Fuan No Tane? Well, it’s an anthology series made up of short, like, really short, horror vignettes. Some of these are only two pages. Just little snippets, little ideas and thoughts. Seeds. Unsettling scenes, glimpses of darkness that burrow into the back of your mind, waiting to sprout in the night as you walk to your car or reach to turn the light off before bed. Each chapter features a handful of these vignettes centered around a specific theme such as a place, a situation, or a type of supernatural motif. Examples of themes include “School”, “Those Who Call Out”, “In Your Home”, and “Something Strange…”. Some of these are obvious, others more vague. Vagueness is one of the strong points of this title. Ambiguity, subtlety, brevity, and a dash of the surreal all coalesce into a strong and lasting amalgam of horror. Uncanny is a word that comes to mind. Fuan No Tane takes the mundane and twists it, just a little, to make it unreal.

It gives a face to the unsettling sensation of walking down a dark hallway or glancing out a window at night. We tell ourselves that these little fears are just remnants of childhood, extensions of our insecurities, but Fuan No Tane posits that they could be real and offers tangible, though no less unexplainable causality. There is a thread of urban legend here, of “I heard from my friend about this thing that happened to their brother…” and so on. The breadth of the work ranges from the vile and immediately dangerous to the charming and harmless, wreathing the common person’s world with supernatural suggestion. Nakayama’s art is strong in its simplicity. Nothing is so stylized that it takes you out of the easy, commonplace settings, but his imagery is always satisfying in the payoff. Something here will stick with you, whittle away at your nerves the next time you find yourself alone. Shadows in dark alleys, ghastly faces pressed against windows, human forms distorted and twisted. The remarkable mastery of strange and supernatural form is top notch.

One of my favorite chapters is “The Stingy Buyer” where a second hand book repeatedly falls from a man’s bookshelf. He considers throwing it away, he didn’t pay much for the old paperback after all. On his way to the garbage he’s stopped by. what? The book’s previous owner? Maybe. But something is there, staring at him, pleading with it’s disembodied eyes from the darkness of another room. In another titled “Rainy Day” we follow the members of a family, all at work at different household chores on a rainy afternoon, plagued by hazy visions in the downpour. Is it a trick of the light or has the spring rain brought more than flowers out? There’s beauty and warmth in a lot of these tales. In “Message” a boy takes his sick sister’s teddy bear on a sightseeing tour around their town so it can whisper to her while she sleeps, tell her all about the things she’s too ill to go out and see herself. Others are sinister and mean spirited. In “Ear Slashing Monk” two children are followed by a strange figure, always hiding just out of sight. When the figure snaps the shears it holds. well, just read that one for yourself and find out what happens.

If you’re a fan of anthologies, quiet horror, urban legends, and the supernatural then check this out. I would also highly recommend it to fans of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark series. With its simplicity and memorable imagery, I drew an instant comparison upon my first reading to those books that stole so many peaceful hours of sleep from me as a child. Watch this space for upcoming discussions on Seeds of Anxiety+ and PTSD Radio.

In this third edition of Screentone Nightmares, we’ll be taking a look at what is probably my favorite piece of Japanese horror. This is Seeds of Anxiety, more commonly known by its Japanese name Fuan No Tane.