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Manga / Voices in the Dark

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Whispers of stories to keep you up at night.

Junji Ito's second anthology serial of short stories, comprised of original material not seen previously. The entire anthology was later compiled in Viz Media's Smashed collection, with the exception of "Greased", published earlier in their Shiver book.

The stories included are as follows:

  • "Blood Sucking Darkness": A girl with an eating disorder meets a boy with an unusual connection to bats.
  • "Ghosts of Prime Time": Two painfully unfunny comedians have their audiences rolling in the aisles with laughter.
  • "Roar": A mysterious flood carries images of the past, so close you could almost touch them.
  • "Greased": A restaurant soaked in oil struggles to remain in business.
  • "Death Row Doorbell": A condemned criminal's presence haunts his victims.
  • "Earthbound": People become frozen in place with no explanation.
  • "The Mystery of the Haunted House": A dapper man with nails in his mouth runs a haunted house that may be all too real...

A follow-up serial, New Voices in the Dark, was released later, with a chapter continuing the plot of the first volume's story "The Mystery of the Haunted House" among its new tales.

These stories are just as varied:

  • "Smashed": A delicious exotic nectar places any who consume it at great risk. Called Splatter Film in some translations.
  • "Splendid Shadow Song": A song gets stuck in people's heads to frightening degrees.
  • "Library Vision:" A man's library starts to drive him mad with memories of his childhood.
  • "I Don't Want to Be a Ghost": A man finds a blood-soaked girl on the side of the road, and discovers her unusual diet.
  • "In Mirror Valley": Two rival towns exchange powerfully malicious glares across a river.
  • "The Mystery of the Haunted House-Souichi's Version": Souichi's cousin tracks down the haunted house, chasing the "Souichi front" of children who have begun to imitate him.
  • "Souichi's Beloved Pet": Supernatural brat Souichi tries to turn his family's new cat against them.

Tropes in Voices in the Dark and New Voices in the Dark:

  • Abusive Parents: The father in "Greased" is willing to force-feed his daughter cooking oil in order to make her greasy enough to serve in his restaurant after disposing of his son in this way.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: Koko in the animated adaptation of Library Vision is still Goro's concerned wife, but she's also one of book-borne ghosts that's haunting him.
  • All Just a Dream: The events of "The Mystery of the Haunted House: Souichi's Version", and by extension, "The Mystery of the Haunted House". This is largely because the later stories involving the Tsujii family are mostly Lighter and Softer Black Comedies focusing on Souichi as a child, in contrast to the outright horror and gorn of "Haunted House", where he is an adult.
  • And I Must Scream: In "Earthbound", a mysterious illness afflicts adults and children alike. They stand in place in uncomfortable positions, unable to move. They also cannot eat food or drink water. Minoru's family begs him to come home, and let them help him with the condition. Experts theorize if it is a contagious condition, and if so then how does one quarantine it.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: In "Library Vision", the protagonist's fiancé starts to hallucinate figures resembling caricatured perceptions of his parents, who recite the books they loved and read to him as a child, and he refers to them as the spirits of the books themselves.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The Earthbound victims in the story of the same name are revealed to be trapped by guilt over crimes they have committed.
    • Pretty much every character in "Smashed", save for Ogi, who obtained the honey as a gift and had presumably been consuming it for years safely before the other characters interfered.
    • Goro from "Greased" brutally tormented his little sister Yui to make himself feel better about his miserable life and was about to kill her before finally being killed by their father. Right as he was strangling her he rants about how he intends to slaughter everyone around him in revenge.
  • Astral Projection:
    • Possible subversion in "Death Row Doorbell". The "ghost" of a criminal sentenced to death visits the home of his only living victims every night, begging for forgiveness. On the night when his sentence is carried out, the "ghost" stops appearing.
    • The tree in "Smashed" either teleports or projects its branches to attack whoever it catches eating the honey made from its nectar.
    • "Ghosts of Prime Time" centers on an unfunny stand-up duo becoming famous by astrally projecting to tickle the audience and make them all laugh hysterically. They also tickle the protagonist's friend to death because the laughless protagonist could see the spirits and guessed their secret.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: Subverted to Hell and back in "I Don't Want to Be a Ghost".
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • "Roar" ends with the protagonists surviving the flood, and getting some answers about one of their past. The orphaned one, however, saw his father die in front of him, drowning with an illusion of his mother. He takes it in stride, saying that maybe never confirming the truth was for the best.
    • "Death Row Doorbell" ends with the main character's family dead, and herself as the survivor. However, when the criminal who murdered them is executed, his projection stops appearing at her house, finally giving her some peace.
    • "Earthbound" is fairly bitter with a bit of hope. Asano learns that the volunteer groups can't save the Earthbound victims, and she finds out the chief in her group was her rapist and a murderer to boot. Yet she resolves to not dive into despair or give up on other victims, and remains intact in body, albeit while traumatized.
  • Boke and Tsukkomi Routine: "Ghosts of Prime Time" features a profoundly unfunny duo who force the audience to laugh via possession, some of them dying from the strain.
  • Cats Are Mean: In "Souichi's Beloved Pet", Souichi's sister adopts a wandering young cat, which unfortunately catches Souichi's interests. When Souichi gets blamed for harassing the cat, he vows revenge by placing a curse on Colin (as the cat is named). In the beginning a sweet, playful kitty cat, Colin becomes steadily more violent and ugly until... Colin gets better and Souichi gets what he deserves.
  • Death Glare: In "In Mirror Valley", the people in the two towns have managed to weaponize this, due to having common ancestry that gave them discomfort-inducing stares.
  • Die Laughing: In "Ghosts of Prime Time", two comedians, Sasage and Azuki, project tickle-spirits into the audience to get people to laugh at their awful comedy, in hopes of landing a regular spot on the titular television comedy hour, where they will be able to influence a greater audience. However, any comedians who serve as competition or those who know their secret are astrally-tickled to death, laughing 'til the end, for standing in their way. Keisuke and his mother are the only survivors.
  • The Dog Bites Back: A rather literal case of a cat biting back, as in "Souichi's Beloved Pet", Souichi curses the family cat, Collon, and ends up regretting it.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: "In Mirror Valley": Replacing the shattered mirrors in the titular valley gives the main character a vision of the past and how they shattered, to begin with.
  • Driven to Suicide: Yuina in "I Don't Want to Be a Ghost".
  • Ear Worm: A supernaturally malevolent one in "Splendid Shadow Song". Anyone who hears it can't get it out of her head, and the singer in question has been trying to get rid of it for a year.
  • Eat the Evidence: Done in "Greased" when Goro is accidentally killed in an altercation, and he is served up at the family restaurant to rave reviews. The success of this motivates the father to try replicating the results.
  • Fictional Document: In "Library Vision", the two books Goro obsesses over, and their authors, are made up for the story.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: The honey tree in "Smashed". If it catches you being gluttonous with the delicious honey made from its nectar, it will teleport one of its branches to your location, and then crush you flat. You could simply be having a fingerful and it will respond accordingly. Here is the worst part: the honey is so delicious that everyone who tastes it eventually succumbs to the addiction.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Asano is in shock when realizing that the chief of her volunteer program is the one that assaulted her, and who besides which murdered a girl in the same room that she's renting. She questions him, asking why he would do such a thing.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Asano believes that if the Earthbound victims let go of what is binding them in place, then they can free themselves. Minoru blurts out that he killed his dog, and Ponta's spirit would never forgive him. That's how he became bound. He starts crying Tears of Remorse as he turns to stone, begging forgiveness from his mother and Asano. It's implied that this confession and remorse didn't save him.
  • He Knows Too Much: In "Ghosts Of Prime Time", Twilight Pacific Peace attempts to do this to Keisuke and Tsuguo. Keisuke manages to resist it, as does his mother. Tsuguo isn't so lucky. From what we see, Keisuke is alive at the end of the story, albeit helpless to stop the comedy duo from spreading their influence.
  • Heroic Willpower: Keisuke is the only person we see that resists the Tickle Torture from the Twilight Pacific Peace duo. Despite them trying to bury him alive in the ghosts that cause tickling, he never laughs once. They leave him for dead, assuming that no one would survive hours of forced tickling. Fortunately, the girls were wrong.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Binzo Tsujii, the hypothetical son of an adult Souichi and monstrous fashion model Fuchi.
  • I Ate WHAT?!:
    • Nami in "Blood Sucking Darkness" is horrified to learn that her dreams of raining blood weren't completely imagined, and that this is how she has been given sustenance in the face of her eating disorder.
    • Similarly, Yui in "Greased" begins to have dreams about Mount Fuji erupting oil and flooding her town as she drowns in it. When she wakes up in one of them, she sees that cooking oil is being forced down her throat by her father, hoping to prepare her for his restaurant.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Even after living a horrifying nightmare where his continued wickedness wound up causing him a painful and terrifying demise, Souichi bitterly resolves to try and dream of his classmates suffering instead.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • The customers at the restaurant in "Greased" become this when Goro is killed and served up because he had been consuming grease for years. The sudden success makes the father desperate to achieve it again, regardless of the cost.
    • Misaki in "I Don't Want to Be a Ghost" doesn't eat people... but she does eat ghosts. And they bleed.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: "Smashed" tells of a kind of honey that tastes so good that everything else completely pales in comparison once you've tried it. In fact, the main characters who get to try it start to suffer from starvation as nothing else tastes good anymore. It doesn't help that there's a certain risk in eating said honey...
  • Instant Taste Addiction: In "Smashed", all of the main characters taste a type of "honey" from a tree in South America and become immediately addicted to it — which is bad news for them, because the tree the "honey" comes from is able to detect when people are eating it and can teleport its branches around the world to squash them flat.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: It's ultimately revealed in "Earthbound" that the titular victims were those who had gotten away with serious crimes like rape, robbery, or murder. Some are remorseful, like Minoru, and others are silent, like Chief, but they can't evade the eventual punishment. They can't move, and have to hold their position for days and weeks, refusing help while the curse turns them to stone.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Misaki from "I Don't Want to Be a Ghost" can see and touch ghosts. She also feeds on a spirit's substance, and rips into them like a hungry wolf when she's hungry.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": In "Earthbound", the quarantine workers react this way when their attempts to get a man to a safe location ends up dislodging his head, as he turned to stone.
  • Moral Pragmatist: Keisuke understandably doesn't want to confront the comedy duo that can compel people to laugh. He can see they use ghosts to engage in Tickle Torture and cheat their way to the top. Nevertheless, Keisuke's response is to go home and advise Tsuguo that returning to the comedy club is a bad idea. He knows that no one will believe him. Even in the end when the duo follows him to his house, he doesn't tell anyone after they kill Tsuguo because the cops would laugh in his face while taking his statement.
  • Mundanger: In "Roar", two hikers end up lost in an area where a flash flood repeats daily, with the same illusions. One talks about how he has a phobia of water, that burdened his relatives as they passed him around. That isn't the mundane part. The mundane part is when they encounter an old man, who explains that he and his son were the only survivors of the flood, which happened over a decade ago because the old man had to choose between pulling out his baby or his wife from the rapids. The protagonists realize that the man must be the orphaned one's father, but are unable to tell him before he succumbs to the despair of being unable to save his wife.
  • Obsessively Organized: Goro Shirozaki of "Library Vision" is obsessed with keeping his 150,000-book heirloom library in perfect order, and can tell when so much as one book is out of place. He has also written a painstakingly detailed diary entry of every single day since the age of four.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: "Blood Sucking Darkness" features a concept of transferred blood, with bats drinking from one source and feeding a target with that blood.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Murder Shot: Binzo Tsujii does this in "The Mystery of the Haunted House" when the protagonist catches him eating the lost policeman's leg.
  • Rape as Drama: Asano in "Earthbound" was raped in her sleep, and that gave her severe PTSD. She moves from apartment to apartment, paranoid that if she doesn't, that her assailant will come back to torment her further and is horrified to discover that her recently earthbound volunteering colleague was bound because he was her rapist.
  • Rise of Zitboy: Played for pure nausea in "Greased", wherein Goro, and eventually Yui, suffer hideous acne from the oily atmosphere of their restaurant. Oh, and Goro squeezes all of his face pimples onto his sister.
  • Sadistic Choice: For those who eat the delicious honey, they face a terrible choice. Either eat the honey and risk getting squished flat or slowly starve because everything else tastes terrible. Sooner or later, everyone who's tasted the honey once eventually succumbs to eating it and facing death.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • The Dwindling Party in "Smashed" suffer this, the more they see their friends getting squished in front of them. They start Laughing Mad from the sheer trauma.
    • Featured for two characters in "Library Vision" as a result of paranoia causing the owner to try committing all of the books in the library perfectly to memory.
  • Save the Villain: Even in "Earthbound" after learning said victims committed murders, rapes, or other terrible crimes and that is why they are cursed, the authorities do all they can to not shatter them and instead get them medical attention. Minoru's parents still try to rescue their son, after learning he killed his dog because he is their child. Asano stays with the group of volunteers, hoping to find answers.
  • Schmuck Bait: The delicious honey from South America; once you have a taste of it, other foods taste terrible. That's not even going into the fact that some people who eat it mysteriously end up splattered against the wall.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: In "Greased", Yui's family runs a barbecue restaurant. When Goro violently attacks her, he's killed by their father, who then serves him to the restaurant patrons. The restaurant briefly becomes hugely popular, but trade dwindles again when the meat runs out, forcing the father to cut off his own leg to serve instead. The first half of the story is exposition, explaining how this all happened; being forced to live above the restaurant and essentially being constantly marinated in the greasy fumes from the grill screwed up the physiology of both son and father, with Yui managing to mostly insulate her room. As a result, the grease had made the two men especially tasty (and also drove them completely insane). How bad is it? The ending reveals that the father's bodily fluids have been replaced by grease, which is implied to have been true for Goro as well.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A sobering one in "Earthbound." Asano mentions that she has bad PTSD from when a mysterious assailant raped her while she was sleeping that that's why she moves frequently from apartment to apartment. The story ends with said assailant becoming earthbound and turning into stone. In most stories, that would allow for Asano to start facing her trauma and overcoming it. Not here; Asano's trauma is even worse on learning that someone she trusted was her rapist and became earthbound in her apartment. Though he's dead and unable to hurt her anymore, the story ends with her reminding herself to keep moving.
  • Taken for Granite:
    • Invoked in "Earthbound", in which living people attach themselves to a certain spot, totally unmoving, bound in place by guilt for crimes and remain conscious the whole time. Even massaging their limbs doesn't do the trick. Eventually, they harden to the point of being able to break like stone.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • In "Ghosts of Prime Time", Keisuke has this reaction when he goes to the comedy club with Tsuguo. He can see the spirits that the comedy duo are using to tickle the audience.
    • "In Mirror Valley" reveals that this is the reason why the two deserted villages are littered by glass shards. The two villages were descended from a tribe that had Death Glare so strong that it makes the target of their gaze feel physically uncomfortable, and they started to use mirrors as weapon to deflect each other's Death Glare. After a Romeo and Juliet-esque event, the villages' hatred grew into a fever pitch and their Death Glare got endlessly ping-ponged by their mirrors, to the point where their hatred literally shattered them like glass statues.
  • Together in Death:
    • An old man (implied to be the father of one of the main characters) who, waiting for the illusion of his wife drowning in "Roar", after thirty years of trying to save her phantom, finally jumps after her when she can no longer hold his net.
    • The Star-Crossed Lovers from "In Mirror Valley" committed lovers' suicide in a river that separated their villages. Their ghosts proceeded to manifest every night over the river to make love — as a taunt for their families who had disapproved their relationship.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Featured in "Blood Sucking Darkness" when the anorexic protagonist learns how she's been sustained.
  • When Trees Attack: "Smashed" features one of these. The characters become addicted to some strange "honey", only for each of them to be squashed flat whenever they try to eat any of it. The narrator travels to a distant jungle to find more of the stuff, only to discover it's not actually honey at all — it's the sap of a bizarre tree that can teleport its branches around the world to swat anyone who tries to eat its sap.

Alternative Title(s): New Voices In The Dark