Monday, November 26, 2007

Manga Monday 53: Portus

Portus
Jun Abe

Portus is a single-volume horror manga that follows a young student, Asami, whose best friend begins to act uncharacteristically after playing the video game Portus. When her friend ends up committing suicide, Asami begins to investigate the events that led to the tragedy, and hears rumblings of an urban legend surrounding the game, and a hidden game within it.
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The art on Portus is pretty fantastic, I'd say. Particularly when something really creepy is happening, Jun Abe knows how to depict a freaky floating head or a figure blinking from a computer screen. Unfortunately, that's about the end of the positive aspects of this book. While it's visually appealing overall, a lot of events that take place are things that are too reminiscent of The Grudge or any other generic Japanese ghost story you've ever read to make it interesting in its own right. And the story just kept getting sillier as it proceeded, and in turn, became less and less frightening, killing any mood intended to keep the audience in suspense.
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The characters of the book, Asami and a pair of teachers that take it into their own hands to uncover the awful truth behind Portus to help their pupil, are as flat as characters can get. Portus focuses primarily on the action, which went by very quickly as it was, and left little room for characterization, which would be fine if the events were intriguing enough to overlook this. As it stands, however, the characters are completely forgettable and the story is too generic to make up for this shortcoming.
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The latter half of the book is filled with flashback sequences that give motive to the angry unmerciful spirit that haunts the players of Portus' hidden game. The scenes are pretty brutal and bloody and serve to fill the reader and the protagonists on the backstory of the curse that caused all of the chaos in the first place, and to tie all of the events up nicely in the end as to how things are resolved. The short concluding sequence serves to undo that tidiness with three confusing panels that may hint that things aren't as resolved as they appear. But by the end, I didn't really care much either way. D+

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