Dark, a nice-guy swordsman who sometimes transforms into an evil psycho with angel wings, wanders a vaguely Chinese/Central Asian landscape of desert wastelands, encountering people who try to kill him (and his flying fairy companion) for no reason. Dark Angel demonstrates why explosions and fireballs are so popular in manga fight scenes: they’re the first resort of artists who can’t even draw people hitting one another. The backgrounds are gray smears that exist to be blown up, the characters come and go apparently as Asamiya grows tired of them, and the battles all involve people throwing their big final explosive attack at their opponent and then realizing their opponent is actually standing behind them! The series ends abruptly with no resolution, but the plot is so weak that you could open up any random volume and it’d make just as much sense. Dragon marked war god
A retelling of Dark Angel drawn specifically for the American superhero comics market, colored by J. D. Smith. Asamiya’s processed artwork works well with Image-style computer coloring, but the story is as vapid as the original, and stopped in midstory due to low sales. After being published in America, the book was later reprinted in two volumes in Japan.
When they stay after dark at Yotsuji Private High School, a group of students discovers the terror that lies within its walls: zombies and monsters controlled by a mysterious faculty of vampire teachers. Dark Edge combines the gothic visual shocks of a “survival horror” video game with the teenagers-versus-monsters plot of a movie such as The Faculty or Fright Night (together with a horror movie’s illogical behavior; after barely surviving their first night at the school, the surviving students attend their classes as usual the next day). The art is unexceptional, despite a few memorable images, but the story is tense. Genius Doctor: Black Belly Miss
An unfinished, surreal science fiction horror tale. In the future, the family-owned Persona Corporation owns 90 percent of the world, monitoring past, present, and future under the ominous sign of the spider. Suddenly, a gothic figure of rebellion appears: the mysterious Darkside, a gentleman with inhumanly piercing eyes, who drives a horse-drawn carriage out of a black mirror and sets up shop in the Mansion of Illusions in Shinjuku’s slums. A group of rebels and street urchins (dressed in embarrassing 1980s fashions) courts Darkside’s help in the battle against the Persona Corporation. If Kikuchi’s Demon City Hunter flirts with weird imagery in the context of a formulaic action manga, Darkside Blues is almost undiluted surrealism. Some of the vignettes are reminiscent of writers such as Ray Bradbury, Grant Morrison, or China Miéville: a miniature factory is shoved into a person’s wound, causing them to turn to gold; an “appetite enhancer for inanimate objects” causes a house to come to life and eat the occupants. Unfortunately, the story has no buildup, ending, or resolution, and ultimately is little more than glimpses of a kind of anime opium dream. Yuho Ashibe’s 1970s shôjo artwork is the perfect counterpart to Kikuchi’s strange but specific concepts.