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Manga / Blood on the Tracks

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Blood on the Tracks (Chi no Wadachi / 血の轍, lit. "Blood on the Trail") is a Psychological Horror-thriller manga by Shuzo Oshimi, creator of The Flowers of Evil, Happiness, and Inside Mari. Beginning its run in February 2017, the series is published in Shogakukan's Big Comic Superior magazine, while the English translation is published by Vertical.

Seichi Osabe is a young boy living in a rural Japanese town. He lives a normal life — friends at school, a Precocious Crush, and a loving mother and father that care for him. In particular, he has a very strong relationship with his mother Seiko, who dotes on him excessively and is very overprotective.

Perhaps a little bit too much.

After a hiking trip gone wrong in which Seiko pushes her nephew off of a cliff in the middle of the woods, simply for playing a prank on his cousin, Seichi slowly becomes horrified of his mother's dangerously overprotective nature, and seeks to branch out from her. Unfortunately for him, she has other plans, and wants to keep her son under her thumb forever...

The Bob Dylan album of the same name helped inspire the title of the manga (and would later be used as the title of the official English translation), but the works are otherwise unrelated.

Provides examples of:

  • The '90s: The plot takes place in 1994. It skips ahead 23 years to 2017 in chapter 109.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Seiko quickly begins emotionally abusing Seichi the minute he starts behaving independently, and starts using classic gaslighting techniques to convince him that Shigeru tripped off the cliff. She later abandons Seichi entirely during his trial, leading to him suffering a mental breakdown that consumes him well in to his adult life.
    • In vol. 15, Seiko reveals to Seichi that her parents doted on her sickly younger sister while verbally and emotionally abusing her, which became worse after her mother discovered that her father was having an affair.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Seiko's descent into senility and eventual death by starvation is very hard to read, even in light of all the horrible things she's done. Seiichi can't bring himself to hate her anymore, despite all the abuse he suffered at her hands, and takes care of her in the weeks leading up to her death.
  • Alone with the Psycho: And the psycho is your own mother.
  • Asshole Victim: The Osabes' relatives aren't the most pleasant people to be around, with the aunt being kind of pushy and rude to Seiko and Shigeru is annoyingly close to Seiichi. However, their being obnoxious doesn't warrant Seiko ruining their family forever by harming Shigeru.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Seiko is portrayed as eerily, emotionlessly beautiful to make her more terrifying. Notably, when Seichi sees the incident on the cliff through her eyes, Seiko is drawn a little older and more realistic, indicating that even outside of fantasy, Seichi's perception of his mother is distorted.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Seiko presents herself as a classic loving mother, but the things she does for Seichi's sake show that she wants him for herself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Leaning on the bitter end. Seichi overcomes his trauma after Seiko finally dies of old age, but only after he's already lost everything and has spent 23 years of his life as an Empty Shell. The final chapter time skips to Seichi as an old man living a solitary but content life, with him realizing in the final page that he hasn't thought about Seiko for so long that he's forgotten what she looks like.
  • Bookworm: Seiichi's father was one of these in his youth, and Seiichi himself becomes a voracious reader in his old age.
  • Broken Smile: Seiichi's aunt gives one of these when she comes across her son on the trail after he was pushed off the cliff. She keeps smiling a creepy smile while assuring herself and those around her that the injuries will heal.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Just before Seiko pushes Shigeru off the cliff, in several panels butterflies are shown flying around, when none were previously evident.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Seichi makes good on his ideals and decides not to contact Seiko when given the opportunity by his father. However, he is later contacted by authorities and learns that his mother is not only alive, but senile and has stopped paying for her own rent entirely.
  • Central Theme:
    • How far will you go for your own mother once she's done something absolutely awful?
    • Is a child their own person, or an extension of their parents?
  • Death by Despair: Towards the end of the story, an elderly and senile Seiko suffers a minor fall that leaves her with a mild concussion. As she falls, she has a vision of her sister-in-law and nephew, which brings back the memory of pushing him off the cliff. Horrified by what she has done, she refuses to eat, drink or leave her bed, leaving Seiichi to feed her and bathe her when she soils herself. Eventually, she stops swallowing the food he gives her and wastes away, dying in her sleep.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Yuiko is married with children by the time Seiichi sees her again after the time-skip. While they both recognize each other, they choose not to interact, though Yuiko later thinks back on the encounter and hopes Seiichi is doing well.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Shigeru seems to have been a brat who made fun of Seiichi, but did he really deserve being pushed off a cliff?
  • Dissonant Serenity: Despite her generally muted demeanor, repeated episodes of this hint at there being something severely wrong with Seiko. Seiichi slipping into the same detached state as he recounts his "dream" signals his transformation into a monster like his mother.
  • Distant Finale: The final chapter is of Seiichi as an old man living a normal life, showing that he was eventually able to overcome his trauma to the point that he has largely forgotten his mother.
  • Driven to Suicide: After the Time Skip and his father's death, Seichi resolves to kill himself to escape from the miserable existence his life has become. He can't go through with it.
  • Elective Mute:
    • For several chapters, Seichi suffers from psychogenic mutism stemming from trauma after having been kissed by his own mother and forced to tear up a love confession from his crush because of her jealousy. His mutism is cured when he finally enters into a relationship with Fukiichi but periodically returns in the form of a severe stutter in certain dramatic moments. This is a trait that tends to be exhibited by real life victims of child molestation and abuse.
    • Seiko ceases to speak shortly after her fall. As per her doctor's examination, she suffered only a mild concussion, so her muteness seems to be induced by the trauma of remembering she tried to kill Shigeru and Seiichi.
  • Empty Shell: The trauma of the events of 1994 has left Seichi as one by 2017, admitting to a hallucination of the long-dead Shigeru that he died inside a long time ago and is just waiting for his body to die as well.
  • Enemy Within: A hallucination of Shigeru follows Seiichi around and encourages him to kill himself so they can "play together" again, becoming impatient and angry when he starts putting it off. When Seiichi reconciles with his mother and stops considering suicide, Shigeru visits him in a dream and fondly bids him farewell, and the hallucinations cease.
  • Faux Affably Evil: While Seiko is very obviously mentally unwell, she's incredibly charismatic and everyone in the family still loves her. She's so good at hiding her dangerous nature that the only one who knows about her insanity is Seichi himself, and that's only because he was there to witness her going off the deep end.
  • Gaslighting: Seiko does this to Seichi repeatedly to convince him that she tried to help Shigeru, instead of being the one to push him over the cliff.
  • Good Parents: Seiichi's father is a little weak-willed, but is shown to be supportive and caring once he is free of Seiko's domineering personality. After Seiichi is released from prison, his father takes him in without complaint, and once he moves out he visits him regularly. These visits are some of the few bright spots in Seiichi's life, and once his father dies, he almost immediately attempts to kill himself.
  • Freudian Excuse: Not exactly being Mother of the Year herself, it's eventually revealed that Seiko's own parents despised her, blaming her for their own miserable lives and the death of her sister. On the way to her sister's funeral, Seiko's mother told her "You drained up everyone's happiness and took it for yourself.", which instilled in Seiko a tendency to try and please everyone around her at the expense of her own well-being. This led to her crippling loneliness later in life which in turn lead to her domineering behaviour toward Seiichi, as her son was the only person she could impose her will upon without feeling like she was draining someone's happiness.
  • Genre Shift: Pre-Time Skip: Psychological Horror about dealing with immediate danger of abusive and unstable mother who's also an attempted murderer. Post-Time Skip: Psychological Thriller about growing up and dealing with the aftermath of emotional trauma inflicted by said abuse.
  • Genre Throwback: To "possessive psycho" movies like Misery and Audition that were popular in the 90's.
  • Hope Spot: There is hope that Seichi will recover from the trauma inflicted by his mother after she is taken into custody. That hope comes crashing down hard when Seichi himself succumbs to madness and pushes Shigeru off of the same cliff, this time resulting in Shigeru's death.
  • Incest Subtext: Oh boy. While Aku No Hana had quite a lot of subtext around the Interplay of Sex and Violence, this story instead has a lot of it based around Seiko's over-protectiveness of her son. Seiko gets really up close and personal with Seichi numerous times throughout the story, and one chapter has her choke Seichi while straddling him in a pose that looks very suggestive. It gets even worse as the manga goes on with one chapter revealing Seiko and Seichi laughing and cuddling with each other while the father looks on in horror. All the while, the living room is covered in filth. They also kiss each other on the lips multiple times, and some of the seminal imagery depicted in Seiichi's encounter with Fukiishi is repeated during one of his cuddling sessions with his mother.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: When Fukiishi kisses Seichii, Seichii wakes up to find "stuff" in his pants the next morning. To further drive the point home, in the panel where they kiss, Seichii appears to have the "stuff" explode out of his body to symbolize the intense feelings he felt.
  • Kick the Dog: When Seiko shows up for Seichi's court appearance and is asked to make a statement, she matter-of-factly tells everyone that she never really wanted to be a mother, tells the judge that she "quits" being a parent and regrets not aborting her son, and thanks Seichi "for becoming a murderer" because it gives her an excuse to walk away. When a devestated Seiichi attacks her in a rage, she refuses to give him any closure or satisfaction, just coldly stating "Oh, I see." and nonchalantly asking the judge if she can leave when the bailiffs pull him off of her.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Brain damage for Shigeru doesn't mean he's unable to recognize his own attempted killer, subverting the usual amnesia by injury drama expectations.
  • Mama Bear: Deconstructed with Seiko. She really is way too overprotective - her response to Shigeru faking tripping her son off of a cliff is to toss him off said cliff for real, which results in the poor boy suffering permanent brain damage. It's also shown numerous times that while she loves Seichi, she's far too clingy for her own good, and her violation of his personal space makes him very uncomfortable. Seichi later comes to believe she was trying to kill him, seeing his face in Shigeru and decides to similarly discard his past self...who also seems to be Shigeru in reality.
    • The manga seems to later imply that Seiko sees herself above her son, and that she will react violently if he attempts to subvert her in any way. In particular, upon being pressed as to why exactly she shoved Shigeru off the cliff, Seiko seems to momentarily snap and begins to strangle her son. Thus, it seems less that Seiko "loves her son and will do anything for him" and more "loves her son because he belongs to her".
    • This becomes subverted even further later on, first when Seichi remembers Seiko throwing him off a steep hillside when he was a toddler, and then when she shows up at his court appearance, says that she "quits" being his mother, and plainly states that she only ever had Seiichi for her own emotional gratification.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Sometimes Seiko does this to Seiichi. It tends to be more disturbing than most examples.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: On the night Seiko dies, Seichi has a dream about himself and her sitting together at a table as they were in the beginning of the series. They lay out their true feelings for one another and finally laugh about their horrible relationship, allowing themselves some closure before the end. By the time Seichi wakes up, Seiko's already gone. It's kept ambiguous whether it was a shared dream the two had that night or it was just Seichi's, since he could never air out his resentment for his mother while she was his mentally deteriorating ward.
  • Mess of Woe: Seiichi's apartment is revolting, with at least half of the available space being taken up by empty food boxes, beer cans and other assorted trash. His father helps him tidy up a bit when he visits, but the trash quickly accumulates again. It takes finally reconciling with his mother for Seiichi to get into enough of a positive mental headspace to finally clean up his house and keep it clean.
  • My Beloved Smother: The series.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • Despite her face never contorting into anything physically hideous, Seiko gets a lot of these thanks to the manga's uncanny shading.
    • Seiichi gets this treatment increasingly often as the story unfolds and his life unravels; his expressions of silent horror are exaggerated until his face becomes a sunken-eyed mask.
      • In Chapter 107, after Seiko coldly disowns Seiichi and begins walking away he completely snaps and attacks her, throwing her to the floor and straddling her. There's two pages where his face is scratched out by shadows as he begins strangling Seiko before Seiichi's expression is finally revealed, a face twisted in pain and rage. There's good reason this chapter is named Hate.
  • Oh, Crap!: Seiko's nephew, despite the brain damage, still has enough energy to non-verbally reveal to his mother that his own aunt is the one who pushed him off the cliff. Naturally, his mother is horrified and Seiko immediately becomes afraid. The mother becomes even more horrified when Seichi defends her!
  • Parental Incest: Downplayed, but not in a way that detracts at all from the horror of the situation. While it's unclear whether her intentions are sexual, Seiko does seem to have a confused romantic interest in her son, kissing him on the lips twice over the course of the series and becoming horrified when she discovers a girl his age has a crush on him. She tends to delusionally view Seiichi as a small child just as much as she views him as a lover, however, so ultimately her intentions are confusing.
  • The Sociopath: Definitely seems to be at least part of Seiko's problems.
  • Speech Impediment: Seichi develops a bad one after he and his mother tear up the love letter his classmate gave him.
  • Stepford Smiler: The majority of the smiles in this manga are creepy, but Seiko wins first prize as she smiles throughout all the horror.
  • Time Skip: Between vols. 12 and 13, there's a 20-year gap. Seiichi, after leaving juvenile detention, moved to Tokyo and works a menial line job at a bakery, basically just existing and not really living.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Helping the police reenact the incident with Shigeru causes Seiichi to discover a repressed memory where she did the same thing to him — as in she threw him off a steep hillside — when he was a toddler.
    • A few chapters later, you realise that not only did she try to kill Seiichi as a toddler, but the reason why she had thrown Shigeru off of the cliff was because she saw Seiichi's face instead of Shigeru's and that was why she had shoved him.
    • Then a few chapters after that, Seichi follows a not-all-there Shigeru back to the cliff, where he has a vision of his mother which causes him to repeat her actions and shove him off the cliff again. And this time, as we eventually learn, Shigeru dies.
  • Wham Line: Chapter 105: "I quit being a mother."
  • Wham Shot:
    • Seiko tossing her own nephew off the cliff, before turning around with a pleased smile on her face, as if to say "I did this for you".
    • Seiko kissing Seichi on the lips after tearing up the love letter is a major wakeup call that there's more screwed up stuff than murder going on in this story.
  • Yandere: Much, much worse than the usual fare, because here the yandere is the main character's mother.