Manga Reviews: Starving Anonymous Is Weird

*Major Spoilers*

Starving Anonymous introduces us to Ie, arguably one of the most useless protagonists I’ve ever come across. He wants to be an artist and has a photographic memory, making him 5% useful. On a bus with his ride or die Kazu, they’re both drugged and wake up in a facility called “the Cradle” full of nude people being fattened for the slaughter. Literally. Humans are being bred and fed to giant, insect-like creatures for unknown reasons.

Never fear – plot armor keeps Ie alive long enough to be saved several times by Natsune, a six year old grown man who can regenerate his body parts and who wants to kill all 1000000+ insects singlehandedly, and Yamabuki, a bisexual genius who gets turned on by people being eaten by those… insects.

What follows is loads of gore as Ie and the squad unsuccessfully attempt to escape the Cradle amidst a slew of corruption and human evil. Of course we have a classic mad scientist experimenting on humans for the evulz who exists solely to add more misery to an already miserable tale, but a good chunk of the bad guys attempt to justify what they’re doing by saying it’s for the good of humanity… which it sort of was.

Pictured: classic mad scientist who is significantly more evil than any other villain for no reason

Anyway, all escape attempts are futile. Ie gets captured, rescued by plot armor Natsune, and eventually things take a turn from the worst after the HBIC of insects frees all the other insects and eradicates 40% of humanity in the process. Also Trump makes an appearance, which I found hilarious.

Natsune and Yamabuki (who can give birth to baby Natsunes by eating his flesh?????) hatch a wild plan to give birth to a bunch of… baby Natsunes and feed them to the insects, dooming Natsune to a life of eternal regeneration and pain as he’s eaten alive but effectively sealing all the creatures inside the Cradle because they have an endless supply of… food… It’s incredibly hard to explain what happens, which is why I won’t really bother.

The plan works. The creatures all return to the Cradle once their eternal meal ticket arrives, Yamabuki gives birth until he dies (??) High-key bizarre but at this point I was far too invested in this foolishness to quit.

Ie, who has been useless up to this point, remains in character and leaves Natsune to his fate as forever replicating human meat. The Cradle is eventually destroyed by the government and humanity slowly recovers from the alien insect apocalypse.

Time skip!

3 years later, Ie returns to the Cradle’s ruins still guilt-ridden over how utterly useless he was over leaving Natsune and starts digging up the ground I assume in an attempt to dig his friend out (who definitely couldn’t have liked died of oxygen deprivation or something). He fails, faints, chats with a talking lizard, and has a dream in which Natsune and Yamabuki are alive and well; they explain some weird pseudoscience that eventually Natsune’s ever regenerating body got some disease, which became deadly to the alien insects and killed them all, which was the plan all along. Ie is happy and invites them home, but it’s very clear they’re both dead and he’s hallucinating.

Ie wakes up and his homeboy, Kazu, is like “where were you, bro, I was worried but I knew you’d be here.” The story ends full circle, more or less, with the bus having just arrived. Hopefully, they won’t be going back to another fake nuclear facility full of human eating insects (though apparently there is a sequel…).

Starving Anonymous dances with some interesting themes, the main being is it okay to sacrifice some for the sake of many? Shockingly, the government isn’t completely useless and evil as is typical of fiction and real life, but instead are attempting to appease these alien insectoids insatiable appetites in exchange for preventing global warming and presumably the destruction of humanity. Alien critters whose own greed and bottomless appetites ironically destroyed their own world after they consumed everything on it.

The story is full of several twists, but unfortunately falls prey to “edgy for the sake of being edgy” of which as I read, I was like “Yes, these creatures l-o-v-e ripping people limb from limb and tossing their guts and heads across the floor, much to the shock of the MC who does nothing but gawk. Can we move on to the actual plot now?” Like 20 chapters probably could’ve been cut from this with no real loss given that the plot seemed to lose itself about halfway through.

Furthermore, much of the world building was done via flashbacks, the characters were semi-fleshed out but could’ve all been more interesting. There appeared to be a slight attempt at some sort of commentary on capitalism and the exploitation of a few for the benefit of many, as well as the perils of greed and climate change, but the execution of these ideas ultimately got loss in a festoon of guts, blood, and assault.

Nevertheless, the story ends on a sweetly bitter note that’s oddly satisfactory and if you’re a depraved soul like myself, you’ll probably be entertained.

Starving Anonymous Rating: 7/10.

Webtoons to Read If You Don’t Want to Sleep

Sometimes you’re in the mood to get PTSD, other times you just don’t want to sleep.

Fortunately, others have blessed us with their talents and created creepy stories to keep us from getting that small taste of death at night, also known as sleep.

Nocturne

One day, you awaken to realize the world is monochrome. Literally – you can no longer see colors; your skin is gray, your speckled pjs are various shades of gray, even your bright, pink nail polish you meticulously painted on the night before is black.

You venture outside only to discover a giant, gray forest has grown around your house obscuring everything – a forest that’s pulsating with life. Panicked, you attempt to run back inside only to realize you can’t move because an angry tree root has tethered itself to you and is slowly dragging you beneath the ground. You let out a desperate cry for help, but alas! There’s nothing but forest around. The tree buries you up to your neck. Just as you close your eyes to greet a slow, painful death – you’re stopped. A faint howl wafts past your ears and you open your eyes. Some sort of shadowy, red-eyed creature stands a few feet away from you, staring down right at your head.

That’s basically what reading Nocturne is like.

Sadly, Nocturne updates rather sporadically but it has major Junji Ito vibes. It’s mostly a series of random tales, and they’re super short too in case you have to wake up for work tomorrow but still want to be nervous as you lay in bed, staring at the dark abyss also known as your ceiling.

Nocturne Rating: 9/10

Gremory Land

A bunch of teens go to an horror-themed amusement park called Gremory Land. All is fun and games, except just kidding!

From the start, there wasn’t much appealing about Gremory Land but when you toss machete wielding killers dressed as animals, rides designed to butcher you, and the traumatic back-stories of everyone involved into the mix, it’s even less fun.

Gremory Land is written by the same author as Melvina’s Therapy (which I also recommend). It has a neat twist ending that will either leave you amazed, or scratching your head in confusion.

Still, it’s uber creepy.

Gremory Land Rating: 7.5/10

Rotten (Foul Smell)

You’re a child living in an apartment alone – your landlord is an actual pedophilic demon, resembling a cross between the woman in black and the crypt creeper. The giant ogre of a man living downstairs is a serial killer; your neighbor’s apartment smells like something dead is rotting inside of it. Oh and you can see ghosts, none of whom are as terrifying as the humans around you.

That’s basically the plot of Rotten – there’s a room full of shoes, a missing girl and a twin in search of her, and a cop who can literally smell evil. Somehow, Jaeshin is tossed into the middle of all these things as he attempts to exist without dying.

Rotten is part thriller, part horror that will leave you stressed and seeing weird faces for a long time.

Rotten Rating: 9.5/10

Tales of Terrible Things

As you’re driving down the road after work, everything becomes a gaussian blur of pastel pinks, blues, and yellows.

Momentarily in awe of the beauty around you, you fail to see the ghostly half-bear, half-eagle creature in the middle of the road. Swerving, you over-correct and smash into the guard rail, flipping right over it. The car lands in a heap after sliding down the mountain, though somehow you’re still alive and well. Bloodied, you scramble out of the vehicle only to find the world is still a gaussian blur and there are ghostly, mutated animals everywhere.

Anyway, Tales of Terrible Things are a series of terrible stories, most of which have an awesome twist. The author is such a good writer that even me, who is the queen of predicting how things ends, is often surprised. It’s only flaw is that it updates sporadically but the author (Sarah Rydholm) is probably busy. She also has a Patreon.

Tales of Terrible Things Rating: 10/10

Witch Creek Road

Picture your average teenagers getting killed in violent ways by murderous but attractive, supernatural creatures in the woods and then add the end of humanity to the mix and you have Witch Creek Road.

The story does indeed start out with a bunch of teenagers on their way to death headed to the woods for a fun night of drinking, partying, and fooling around only to encounter a group of witches who have sinister plans. You’d think that’s where the story ends, but actually it’s only just begun. There’s a skinned man, a talking gun, and Pandora’s box – if that sounds confusing, it is.

Still, it’s all very creepy.

Witch Creek Road Rating: 6.7/10

Silent Horror

A bunch of incredibly sweaty people who never speak have horrible things happen to them – that’s the plot.

What makes Silent Horror exceptional though is just how squicky it is. Most of the stories are pretty short, but they’re all delightfully violent if you’re a wicked soul like me.

You use to be able to read it on Webtoon, but because Webtoon is full of pansies, you can now read it on Tapas instead, though a handful of stories are still on Webtoon.

Silent Horror Rating: 8.5/10

Ghost Teller

Ghost therapy in the afterlife – a group of ghosts get together to tell the scariest stories of all: stories about humans. Given that all the characters are ghosts, you know none of these stories end well.

Ghost Teller isn’t really scary in the bloody, violent, creepy faces sense but most of these stories hit a little too close to home in being something that could easily happen in real life.

It has two seasons, both of which are equally depressing and thought-provoking; all the stories feature different characters with various tales of woe. It’s enough misery to keep you up into the wee hours of the morning, stewing over the cruelty of humanity.

Ghost Teller Rating: 9.5/10

Positive Masculinity: Stephen Ahn & Gray Yeon

*Spoilers*

Masculinity is hard to define, since most of it is rooted in cultural ideas which change over time, rather than Biblical truths. However, generally we associate manliness with trucks, beer, and guns working/being hard working, being logical/stoic as opposed to emotional, or being prone to outbursts of anger, being a provider and protector of the family unit, possessing raw physical strength, being handy with tools, etc. Toxic masculinity seems to describe when these masculine traits work to the detriment of men. For men, they’re often confined by these masculine ideas with the expectation they’ll live up to them, even if those things don’t come naturally, or it works to their disservice.

In fact, men are often shamed for expressing emotions besides anger, or made out to be weak for doing traditionally feminine tasks (gardening, caring for children, etc.) even though objectively nothing makes those tasks or emotions feminine and again ideas of masculinity have changed over the years. Even in the confines of romantic relationships where men are supposedly allowed to be tender, society will call men who outwardly display their affection whipped.

In fiction then we typically only see a man’s tender, more protective side via romance, which doesn’t hold true for women. The manwha Weak Hero balks at that idea, something I rambled about already as we see the boys of Weak Hero defy gender stereotypes by opening up to one another and acknowledging one another’s weaknesses whilst beating the life out of others. Still, I wanted to talk specifically about the positive masculinity between Saint Stephen Ahn and Gray Yeon.

If ever there was a quote that described Gray Yeon, the verse, “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless,” comes to mind.

At least everything is meaningless until Gray meets Stephen Ahn.

Stephen is just built different. Even the kids in his class notice.

A panel from the manwha "Weak Hero". In it is a kid with brown hair, parted in the middle. The text bubbles from him say "What? He's loaded like that?"
A panel from the manwha "Weak Hero".  The picture contains the torso of a boy wearing a dark brown blazer, standing in front of a window with sunlight filtering in. The text bubble reads," Stephen Ahn was a peculiar guy."

But Gray and Stephen are two sides of the same coin. Gray is wholly focused on his studies despite finding little joy in them (or anything); he lives with no clear purpose or direction in life (same), no goals nor desires, just merely existing.

An image of a boy with gray hair looking dour. The text reads," I didn't know what I was supposed to do."
A panel from the manwha "Weak Hero".  The image is of a school-age boy with gray hair sitting at a desk, surrounding by books. Several over-sized hands are pointing down at him. The text reads," So I just did as I was told, like a fool."

Interestingly, Stephen doesn’t seem motivated by any strong goals or desires either besides being a saint keeping others happy.

A boy with brown hair. The text bubble reads, " So I guess it's some kind of self-satisfaction?"

For Gray, life is serious business – the only thing that matters is learning. For Stephen, life is a playground meant to be enjoyed and nothing is taken too seriously.

A boy with dark, brown hair lounging on the bed and studying for a test by reading a book. He wears a brown sweater. The text above his head reads, "I can smell what will be on this test?" The speech bubble reads, "like he was playing a game."

Still, it’s no surprise Stephen noticed Gray studying mindlessly – in Gray’s meaningless existence, he likely saw a darker, more sober reflection of himself.

The two soon become bros befor hoes amigos, finding joy in their relationship with one another (and video games).

A boy with gray hair wearing a slight smile. The text bubble reads," Was the one who completely filled,... the hole in my heart."

Alas, nothing good last forever!

A rogue Bryce Oh appears, or rather Saint Stephen takes Bryce under the shadow of his wing after noticing him solo. Bryce, the physical embodiment of everything Stephen isn’t: selfish, insecure, and cruel without reason. In contrast, Stephen’s sacrificial behavior makes others think of Jesus dying on the cross for them (lol).

This sacrificial love is most prominent towards Gray. After Bryce steal Gray’s home work for LOLz Stephen gives Gray his own, taking a beating from the trash teacher on his behalf and uttering what seems to be a prophetic statement.

****

Of course, Bryce’s petty behavior only escalates from there partially egged on by the validation he so desperately craves and gets from Oswald Yang, who’s wealthy and tough. We see some of Bryce’s resentment, and the reason why he turns on Stephen, most clearly when Bryce notices how the girls don’t pay any attention to him but only Stephen and Gray. Gray at least is good at something – he’s very smart, one of the top of his class. But in Bryce’s eyes Stephen is on the same level as him and not deserving of validation either. Coupled with his insecurities, it didn’t take much for Bryce’s ego to get scarred.

Oswald Tang mini HBIC of class begins bullying Stephen after Bryce spreads rumours about him wanting to throw hands, albeit bully seems almost too soft of a term, – really, they’re like torturing him. Consequently, Stephen ensures Oswald Yang’s attention remains on him and not the frail Gray by not putting up a fight. Given Bryce was “friends” with Stephen and turned on him violently as soon as his feelings got hurt (talk about toxic masculinity lol), it’s not outside the realm of possibility to believe the same could happen to Gray.

Side Note: There’s a slight implication in-text that Stephen probably could’ve adequately defended himself.

Physically Trash Bryce was weak af and there’s little evidence Oswald was like Wolf Keum/Jimmy Bae level strong – even his classmates seem surprised Oswald is suddenly “acting up”. Not only does Stephen get clobbered several times yet recovers quickly, we see him playing basketball and mentioning walking for exercise, giving the impression he’s in decent shape and relatively strong. Notably, Stephen never even tries to defend himself.

We see this lack of trying more metaphorically in Stephen’s ability to become the HBIC of class. If he tries, he gets the top spot. But he doesn’t (except to woo Gray). Applying this logic to his physical prowess, it’s reasonable to say had Stephen tried to defend himself, he likely would’ve been able to hold his own, or at least become enough of a hassle bullying him would be too much work.

Of course, Stephen doesn’t try solely to ensure Oswald’s attention remain on him.

Eventually Dumpsterwald Oswald tells Stephen if he gets the lowest grade in class, he’ll lay off. Whether that’s true or not, IDK. Nevertheless, Stephen rises to the top for the sake of Gray. This sacrifice culminates in him “falling” off the roof of a building. Whether pushed intentionally or not, seems somewhat irrelevant (though it does stand even Trashwald and his goons were genuinely shocked, so they likely didn’t actually mean for Stephen to fall).

Gray later visits Stephen at the hospital and there we see probably the most emotion he’s ever displayed aside from when he went ham on my boi Wolf.

Just as Gray saw light in Stephen and was changed by it, did Stephen see a light in Gray and was drawn to that? Or was Stephen merely alone, even until the very end, and seeking some sort of companionship as a result of that solitude?

Alas! We’ll likely never know. Stephen (if he’s still alive) was brain dead and unlikely to ever recover. Gray has a new harem of True Companions.

Weak Hero has many good examples of positive masculinity (it has toxic examples too lmao), but it displays the beauty of male friendships and how men can bring the best out of one another, rather than the worst. Stephen exemplifies the very best version of masculinity, or as my favorite book says,“[g]reater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).

References: SEOPASS/RAZEN Weak HeroLine Webtoon/Naver, 2019. Digital.