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Manga / Black Paradox

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The path to the afterlife may not be death.

Black Paradox is a six-chapter seinen manga by horror master Junji Ito (author of Tomie, Uzumaki, Gyo, and Remina), released in 2009.

When four individuals, using the pseudonyms "Maruso", "Taburo", "Pii-tan", and "Baracchi" gather to commit suicide after meeting on a website called Black Paradox, they plan to go quickly and painlessly. However their plans seriously derail, as their first trip... isn't assembled properly, and their second attempt accidentally leads to the discovery of a doorway to another world, a world hosting precious stones. These stones are incredibly valuable and strong, and the riches they bring do a lot of good for the four's lives. However, their true nature becomes a pressing issue as more and more doors to the other world start to open and the Black Paradox four are forced to retrieve them...

This manga contains examples of:

  • Apocalypse How: Maruso predicts that humanity will cause its own extinction by using up all of their own souls.
  • Arc Number: The four friends' reasons for committing suicide all circle around duality.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: It's implied to be the reason why those who enter the spirit realm through their personal portal can survive the deadly environment of the realm. When they enter the realm, their soul finds their body and they merge together. As humans are normally separated from their soul, by merging, those four become more than human. That's also not counting the fact that entering their personal portal in the first place is making them closer to death than most people, as the portals are made from things they wanted to commit suicide for.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Barrachi appears to die gruesomely before the climax, having ventured into the spirit world only to be melted alive. The dead Barrachi was only a robot, which the readers find out literally two pages later.
  • Bait-and-Switch Character Intro: The first chapter introduces the quartet, and ends with the revelation that three of the four are fakes - Taburo is a doppelganger, Pii-tan is a robot, and Barrachi is a sentient reflection that escaped the mirror universe. The one actual human, Maruso, then encounters the real counterparts shortly after escaping.
  • Balloon Belly: When the jewels build up in Pii-tan's stomach faster than he can vomit them up, his stomach distends grotesquely, which is played for horror rather than laughs. Especially when he explodes.
  • Barefoot Captives: Marisou is shoeless for the entire duration when she's Chained to a Bed by Dr. Suga.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Despite Maruso predicting that the harvesting of paradonite will stop before the human race goes extinct because of it, and that technology will be revolutionised by paradonite, many people will die from the exploitation of their own souls.
  • Body Horror:
    • On par with Ito's other mangas, as the paradonite jewels come out of various parts of the friends' bodies. Then Dr. Suka starts cultivating the tissues to keep the gateways open and allow them to expand.
    • When Baracchi goes into the portal cultivated from her birthmark, she comes back looking horribly rotted. She dies shortly after, but fortunately this was a robot double.
  • Bribing the Homeless: Dr. Suga, researching the Spiritual Portal where the Paradoxical Orbs are located while trying to keep a low profile, decides to pay a homeless man to take the plunge. The homeless guy, having nothing to lose, accepts without a second thought, and... the results aren't pretty, to say the least.
  • Cast from Lifespan: At the ending, it's revealed that this is what will happen to humanity as the cost of rapid technological advancement. As the paradonite stones are the souls of humans both dead and alive, using them as energy will burn out the life of the humans themselves to the point of extinction. Though, as Maruso's future sight has seen, humanity will survive this, only because they will realize this effect before too long.
  • Chained to a Bed: The state Marisou ends up in after she passes out in shock at the sight of Barrachi's face expelling orbs, where she regains consciousness and realize Dr. Suga had imprisoned her in his basement, her wrists and ankles shackled to the sides of a bed. She spends the remainder of the story until the final chapter all chained up and helpless to do anything when she starts having visions of Suga's experiments causing the apocalypse; there's a brief moment where Taburo, disgusted with Suga's actions, contemplates to release Marisou so that she can be his witness to expose Suga's plans to the public, but then Marisou starts ranting aloud that Suga will doom humanity, and Taburo promptly changes his mind.
  • The Chew Toy: Pii-tan and robot Pii-tan, where nothing goes right for either of them.
  • Climate Change Allegory: The ending could be interpreted this way. The protagonists discover a seemingly miraculous power source with an invisible but nevertheless deadly side effect, and they decide that the only way to save humanity is to warn them of how dangerous it is before the entire human species is killed off by overusing this power source.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The stone Taburo randomly found lying on the ground and hit, re-energizing the Pii-tan robot turns out to have been the original Pii-tan's soul all along—this is how Pii-tan's robot survived entering Paradise and the Baracchi-bot didn't.
  • Doppelgänger: Taburo keeps seeing his, and believes that seeing it means that he's going to die. It eventually manifests as a shadow that serves as his gateway to the other side
  • The Eeyore: The downbeat, frowning Pii-tan and robo-Pii-tan.
  • Existential Horror: The manga's horror mostly comes from this. It comes from the horror of merely existing at all.
  • Eye Scream: When Baracchi starts producing paradonite jewels from her birthmark, her eye is pushed aside.
  • Facial Horror: Baracchi pulls aside her hair to reveal a cluster of jewels crowding out of her birthmark.
  • Four Is Death: Four strangers decide to kill themselves in a suicide pact, and their antics inevitably brought forth the apocalypse.
  • Five-Man Band: A strange, dark, and not exactly heroic example of this basically shapes the five main character interactions with the Paradoxial Night.
    • The Leader: Dr. Suga. While arriving in the plot later than the other 4, he nevertheless has the most contribution toward the plot, finding the function of paradonite, making the gateway toward the spirit plane, and being the public face about the matter. It's exactly because he's the most conspicuous that humanity will hate him immensely when they realize the effect of using paradonite as an energy source.
    • The Lancer: Baracchi. She collaborates separately with Taburo and Dr. Suga to use the paradonite. She's well-connected, suave, and intelligent, and only when her fellow schemers work with her does the plot go smoothly. The moment when they abandon and betray her, the plot goes south, even when it doesn't seem like that at first.
    • The Smart Guy: Taburo. He's the main brain of the first scheme in using paradonite as a precious stone. He's also the first one who knows about the main power of stones, the one who suggests the get-rich-quick scheme, and is savvy enough to quickly see that something is wrong with the plot and pulls a Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
    • The Big Guy: Pii-tan. His contribution to the plot is being the gateway and continuing to enlarge it. He's the go-to guy to throw into something strange or unknown to see what's happening, and he's the main guy to get the stones for most of the story. Being a robot is a plus.
    • The Heart: Maruso. A seer and possibly the only unambiguously good character, she's soft-hearted and empathic, tries her best to save Piitan when his condition gets worse, and is the one who keeps the others alive and united.
  • Foreshadowing: After being exposed to the power released by paradonite, the unconscious Baracchi dreams of numerous alternate lives. This foreshadows the fact that paradonite isn't just some stone that shows up in the spirit world—it's human souls in physical form.
  • Gasoline Dousing: An enraged Barrachi tries incinerating her own bio-portal after catching Dr. Suga forcing himself on Maruso, by drenching the portal's surface with contents of a jerry-can and threatening to drop a lit lighter when Dr. Suka catches her. In the ensuing struggle to stop her from destroying everything Dr. Suga unintentionally pushes Baracchi into her own portal.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: It is predicted by Maruso that Suga will at first be deemed as a revolutionary figure for discovering the uses for paradonite...only to then be shunned and tortured for leading humanity on a road to extiction.
  • Lighter and Softer: While still contain a lot of Ito's trademark, the story actually is much lighter on the scare and is more plot oriented.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Early in the story when Maruso is attacked by Robo-Pii-tan and Reflection-Barachi (whose true identity she is oblivious about, believing them to be the real deal), Maruso instinctively grabs a nearby rock and hurls it at the latter. Cue Reflection-Baracchi smashing into bits.
  • Living Shadow: Taburo is haunted by his own shadow. When he turns especially paranoid, he hides in complete darkness so his shadow can not exist. As such, the shadow starts to glow and becomes his door into the other world.
  • Mad Oracle: After Dr. Suga chains poor Maruso to her bed, her psychic intuition goes into overdrive, and takes her sanity with it, until the tumor is removed from her brain..
  • Meaningful Name: The mysterious soul jewels from the afterlife are designated "paradonite". Most people take the name to mean they are from "paradise" given their origin in a glowing spirit realm and energy power, but they actually represent a "paradox"—these stones which can save humanity with their energy simultaneously destroy it by being the souls of the people who populate the world.
  • Missing Reflection: In chapter 1, Maruso eventually realizes that Baracchi has no reflection in the mirror. Because this Baracchi is the reflection.
  • Necessarily Evil: Paradonite will cause a massive energy and technological revolution that will aid humanity, yet will also slowly drive humanity extinct due to being their souls. When the others suggest simply not harvesting the stones, Maruso explains that if they do so, Suga will simply find/make more openings to Paradise. But, she notes, Suga will eventually be destroyed by his own breakthrough and they can protect their own souls (and also obtain and hold on to enough to keep humanity extant as well), as long as they're the ones doing the harvesting.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: What did the doctor see of Pii-tan's pylorus that freaked him out so bad? We never see. Presumably, he saw the afterlife.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Tabaru and Baracchi goes on the run after realizing they're fugitives, bringing robo Pii-tan along with them. To avoid suspicion, the latter rides in the trunk of Tabaru's car, and somehow remains in there for over a month.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Pii-tan.
  • Prophet Eyes: The main four gain them as a result of entering their gates.
  • Replacement Goldfish: The Pii-tan everyone else interacts with in most of the story is his robot double; the real Pii-tan dies when his portal explodes out of his belly. Given that Pii-tan's soul is moving the robot, it's more Body Backup Drive.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Robo-Pii-tan and robo-Baracchi.
  • Robot Me: Pii-tan helps to design and build a robot modeled after himself. Ironically, when Piitan's own paradonite gets whacked by Taborou with a hammer, this trope becomes all the more apt.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Marisou attempts to flee from Dr. Suga after realizing his intentions to harvest the paradoxical orbs by recreating Pii-tan's stomach in his underground lab, making a break for it the moment she heard someone ringing the doorbell outside Suga's mansion. Alas, that someone happens to be Barrachi, whose face is currently expelling large quantities of paradoxical orbs. Cue Marisou fainting on the spot.
  • Seers: Maruso has a limited ability to see the future. It seems to come from the tumor in her brain. When Dr. Suga removes her tumor from her brain, the operation instead 'clicks' her brain into place and empowers her further into The Omniscient.
  • Suicide Pact: The four friends, which kicks off the strange events.
  • Team Power Walk: At the ending. The four main characters, after witnessing personally the spirit plane and gaining understanding of the paradonite's true nature, listening to Maruso's foresight of humanity's destruction and Dr. Suga's inevitable bad reputation in the future. They're then called to do their job of taking more paradonite. Keeping the knowledge to themselves, they stoically walk out of their room to exact their revenge by proxy toward Dr. Suga.
    • The final scene also offers another perspective; the four characters are actually seen walking toward the window, not toward Dr. Suga, perhaps implying that they will jump out the window and finally end their lives, saving humanity before it becomes destroyed—both fulfilling their original suicide plan and finding purpose in their lives together in the very end.
  • Two-Faced: Baracchi, who hides the birthmark on one side of her face behind her long hair.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: After returning from the other side for the first time, Baracchi coolly produces the first paradonite stone she retrieves from inside the chest of her robe and flips it to the spectators.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Whenever Pii-tan vomits up one (or more) of the jewels.
  • Xanatos Gambit: At the end of the story, Maruso hatches the plan for her and the other Black Paradox members to keep serving Dr. Suga, while also unaffiliating themselves with the paradonite project, realizing that no matter what they try to do to stop him, he will still make doorways into the Spirit World, and see himself as righteous for doing so. Plus, even if people do discover what paradonite really is, they'll still use it anyway due to its effectiveness as an energy source, and because of it already being used on a widespread scale. Maruso realizes that the best course of action is to collect the parodonite, and stockpile a good fraction of it to prevent total extinction, whilst also locating and protecting their own paradonite so their survival is guaranteed. In the end, humanity will find out the truth. Dr. Suga will still be exposed publicly and meet a grisly end, regardless of if everything entirely goes to plan.