Review: “Tales from the Suicide Forest” (Amigo Comics – Monochrome May Special)
Japan’s Aokigahara forest is famous for many reasons. At the base of Mount Fuji near Tokyo, Aokigahara is a popular destination for local artists and foreign tourists alike, the home of several unique caves, and its dense greenery has earned it the nickname “Sea of Trees.” However, Aokigahara has also taken on a much bleaker name in recent years – The Suicide Forest – as it has become one of the world’s most-used sites for people who choose to end their own lives.
Written by EL TORRES and featuring illustrations by Fran Galán, Tales from the Suicide Forest is a supernatural horror book set in Aokigahara. As such, the book is not based on any real-world examples of actual suicides, but it should come as no surprise that it consists of disturbing accounts of people who find themselves in dark places.*
The book itself is an affordably priced one-shot ($3.99) featuring two, twelve-page stories (for a total of 24 story pages, derp). The first story (titled Return) follows two teenagers who are struggling with the guilt surrounding the disappearance of their friend, while the second (Sacrifice) portrays a bitterly resentful man who has entered the forest to conduct a cathartic ritual aimed at dealing with his own professional frustrations.
Given that each story is on the shorter side, it’s not particularly easy to lay out more plot details without spoiling the book. However, both Return and Sacrifice are successful morality tales about trust, friendship, patience and perseverance. Each story comes with its own twists and turns, and ends with a less than subtle gut punch that quite possibly will stick with you well after you put the book down.
Galán’s artwork is a perfect pairing for the book’s disturbing themes. Galán’s use of chiaroscuro is unsettling enough to be haunting, but even the more gruesome images are not overdone to the point of being schlock. Most of the finer details are visibly distinct, too, which isn’t always the case with black and white artwork. The entire book is well-paced, and not a single page felt overburdened with text.
For fans of Twilight Zone-esque morality tales or supernatural horror, Tales from the Suicide Forest is a solid one-shot to pick up, especially at the $3.99 cover price. The only reservation I have in wholeheartedly recommending it stems from its disturbing subject matter, but if you’re choosing to read a book titled Tales from the Suicide Forest and are surprised at the dark themes, that’s on you. Some may also be disappointed to find a 24-page book is split into two, even shorter 12-page stories, so if you’re hoping for deeper lore and more fully explored characters, this book isn’t your best bet.
If you do pick up Tales from the Suicide Forest and would like to read more, Amigo Comics also has a four-issue miniseries titled Call of the Suicide Forest (by a different creative team) available now on the Amigo website. EL TORRES also wrote a full graphic novel titled The Suicide Forest (this time featuring artwork by Gabriel Hernandez Walta), which you can pick up on Amazon.
Thanks for reading! To check out more of The Splintering’s Monochrome May content, go here.
*Disclosure: a copy of Tales from the Suicide Forest was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.