Black Paradox is another manga by author Junji Ito, published in 2009 in Big Comic Spirits. Mr. Ito is known to occasionally dabble in various genre including slice-of-life and science fiction. Black Paradox is a result of an attempt at the latter. Though it still holds on to the various elements of a horror manga, it takes place more in a dystopian society, or at least the beginning of one. While it is lesser known among his fans, Mr. Ito has expressed that it’s one of his personal favourites. And rightly so, we realised.
The premise seems incredibly simple. Four individuals who are strangers to one another decide to meet up having been acquainted via an online portal called Black Paradox. The purpose of the meeting? To commit suicide. Each has their own reason for voluntarily letting go of life. Of course, you have an idea (or ideas) of how this is going to end, but none, and I repeat none of them are even close to what actually pans out.
As the four individuals drive away in a car to a nearby forest to complete their task, each reveals their reason to do so. First up, a woman who uses the username “Mamoru” says she has seen premonitions of her future in which her body undergoes some painful and drastic changes. More often than not, her predictions do come true and she’d prefer to go before the time is here.
Secondly, we meet “Taburou” who is haunted by his doppelganger who follows and stares at him intently. Is this just a spectre of his future? Who knows. Mamoru says seeing a doppelganger is a sign of approaching death and they are jubilant over it.
Next one to speak up is “Pitan”. Pitan works at a cutting-edge technology firm that aimed to create a humanoid robot. A perfect replica was created and the person chosen as the ideal was Pitan himself! Overtime, the robo-human who looked exactly like him turned out to be better than him at everything and took over his life and friends.
Finally, we have a pale haired lady “Barachhi” who hides the left half of her face with her hair. She reveals her reason for suicide is the constant threats she receives from her reflection in the mirror. She also holds back her hair to reveal the other half of her face – which is a gruesome birth mark. So far, nothing is amiss. Everyone understands each others wishes and respects them.
As the four travel in the car, Mamoru notices another car pass by with exactly the same people in it! Except, the “Barachhi” had her hair on the other half of her face. She looks at the Barachhi in the car with them and realises certain inconsistencies in her story. She also notices she has no reflection in the mirror.
As they reach the site of suicide, Mamoru pulls Taburou aside and voices her fears that the Barachhi here is actually her reflection. Taburou also says that Pitan makes faint motor noises when he moves. Realising they are being played, the duo escape while being followed. A struggle ensues where they shatter “reflection Barachhi” and “robo-Pitan” escapes. But not before he slashes Taburou who turns also out to be a mere presence. Mamoru, the only real human here finds the other car with the real three humans. Her find interrupts their suicide plans.
Thee group decide to meet up again to attempt suicide. On the second try, they swallow pills together. After some time, Mamoru gets up and pokes everyone to wake up. She knows it’s a sham. She was sure no one else would die so she didn’t swallow her pills. Everyone wakes up and reveals they chickened out at the last moment. Everyone except Pitan who seems dead. They panic and try to revive him. As he wakes up, he coughs up a weird stone, one never seen before. Barachhi says they must investigate what it is and puts the suicide quest on hold.
And this is where the story begins. It seems that Pitan’s stomach has turned into a gateway portal between this world and Paradise. He keeps on spewing these ‘jewels’ which they call ‘Black Paradox’. The Black Paradox is harder than diamond and on being struck produces enough energy to light a city, they realise. It opens up chances galore for everyone to benefit monetarily.
Mamoru and Taburou also realise that these stones are actually our own souls from the next world. And by harnessing their energy, we are actually utilising ourselves. Will mankind then go extinct? It’s like a worm eating itself. But the stone possesses power beyond human imagination. It also emanates positivity and warmth to the holder. With the government soon involved, it is impossible to turn back time. The only road now is to extract as much as possible for man to exploit.
We have four different individuals – Barachhi wants to capitalise on the find, Mamoru is wary, Pitan is being harnessed whereas Taburou is haunted. Enter Dr. Suka who is the villainous mad scientist needed to turn this story into a twisted moral fest. He has his reasons for utilising the humans. It is for the sake of science, for the greater good. But where do we draw the line? There is no main character and the viewpoints alternate with each character fighting their own demons. It is also a commentary on how the prospect for money drives these people from ‘group suicide’ to a desire to capitalise on this life as much as possible. But despite the sparkling new beach house Taburou bought, he is haunted by his doppelganger to the point where he is scared of his own shadow. He locks himself up in a dark room to avoid seeing anything. And it is his shadow which then turns out to be a portal into the world beyond.
Alternatively speaking, their original goal is fulfilled with the character travelling together into the world beyond via facing (going through) their own fears.
The concept of Paradise, though introduced doesn’t act as a metaphorical catalyst but is a new ground to be explored scientifically. Ships are made to enter it, but cannot survive in the high-pressure atmosphere. Dr. Suka keeps trying to open newer portals. The Government isn’t interested in what lies beyond, but on how more stones can be obtained and harnessed. Despite the knowledge of the existence of an afterlife, the focus isn’t on ‘will we go to heaven or hell’. There is no mention of any moral conundrum of any sort.
It is a commentary on how humans will be willing to exploit anything, even if it is their own souls. But it doesn’t necessarily seem like a bad idea under the given circumstances.
Similar to the earlier review on The Woman With No Ribs, the art is the same as Ito’s other works. There are grotesque trigger imagery. The story deals with death and suicide after all, but also beautiful scenes of thousands of souls bursting forth. It is a distinctive kind of style with pleasing, proportionate characters.
Overall, Foxy Turnip gives it a 8.5 Turnips out of 10!
Black Paradox is available for reading on MangaRock and has a rank of 3019. It has 8 chapters.
myanimelist.net has rated it 3.75/5 with a rank of 8,203.
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