Shuzo Oshimi is a master of traumatic horror. It’s the kind of terror that showcases the psychological scarring that can be placed upon an individual. The inability to speak, the trouble with getting your thoughts together, and the feeling of being in a cage are all elements that make this kind of horror both unnerving and real. Blood on the Tracks has demonstrated this in its third volume, with an essence that makes you feel every page.
Seiichi’s life slowly starts to fall apart, as his mom continues to suffocate him. His cousin is still in the hospital, and school has gone back into session. Everyone wonders what is going with Seiichi, with even Fukiishi trying her best to get an answer out of him. Finally, after much struggling, Seiichi answers: “Mommy is why.”
Oshimi accomplishes more with pictures than he does with words. Over half of the time in Blood on the Tracks, not a word is spoken. Instead, we are greeted with unease and claustrophobic tension. It’s why seeing Seiichi struggle to speak, breathe, or even have a thought all of his own is more unnerving than even the best gory horror could ever conjure up. The reason behind this is simple: a person like Freddy Krueger is imaginary; people like Seiichi’s mom can be real!
A friendly-looking shopping day can be filled with much dread when you know of the stuff Seiichi’s mom has done. Buying clothes, ordering food, and taking just a little piece of octopus off one’s place is all the more frightening when you see the mindset of the person in control. In a big way, Oshimi has created this atmosphere in the same way that the Safdie Brothers did with Uncut Gems. You not only feel like you’re in the same room with Seiichi during these moments, but you’re also experiencing the same emotions he has.
Finally, with the aid of his father, Seiichi gets the chance to see his cousin in the hospital. Once you see the condition of the cousin, you realize what sort of life he has in store for the future. The guilt, the horror, and the trauma that Seiichi fills in this scene explodes silently, leading to a tiny standoff with his dear mother. These moments claw into your very soul, to the point where you’ll find yourself wanting to scream at your book for Seiichi to get out of there!
This is what Blood on the Tracks does to you. Its style of horror drags you into its narrative, as it makes you feel everything Seiichi is going through. Volume Three is where Oshimi reclaims his throne as the darkest and most unnerving storyteller around, to the point where you don’t know whether to love him or hate him for making you feel this way. In any case, once he pulls you in — especially with Blood on the Tracks — you’ll have no choice but to stick around to see what happens next!
Promotional consideration provided by Tomo Tran of Vertical Comics