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Masters of Monsters: The Tradition of Horror in Japanese Folklore & Manga

October 31, 2019

Discover the long legacy of horror in Japanese popular culture

Japan has an impressively broad pantheon of yokai, or supernatural beings, and few in the English-speaking world know as much about them as Zack Davisson. In this talk, he introduces some of the precursors to modern horror manga, illuminating the relationships between contemporary and classic works.

“The roots of Japanese horror run deep. From the ancient weird energy of mononoke to the Muromachi-period concepts of infinite hells and the rise of yokai in the Edo period, Japanese storytellers have a well of frights to draw on. And draw on them they have.

Kabuki artists like Tsuruya Namboku IV spun ancient folklore into modern stories, tapping into the psychology of their audiences to manifest ghosts where they were the most frightening. Ukiyo-e artists like Yoshitoshi Tsukioka amped up the gore and writers like Ryunosuke Akutagawa refined the shock into true terror.

This is the inheritance of horror that modern manga artists have continued to build upon. ‘Ge-Ge-Ge no Kitaro’ artist Shigeru Mizuki was one of the first to use Japan’s folkloric past in manga, followed by second-wave artists like Hideshi Hino and Tsunezo Murotani and modern artists like Junji Ito. Each has produced their own unique spin on Japan’s horror legacy.” – Zack Davisson

Zack Davisson is an award-winning translator and writer. His work includes translations of globally renowned comics such as Devilman, Cutie Honey, Space Battleship Yamato and Opus, as well as Shigeru Mizuki’s famous folklore comic Kitaro. He is also the author of Kaibyo: The Supernatural Cats of Japan, Yurei the Japanese Ghost, and Yokai Stories.

Zack has lectured on manga, folklore and translation at Duke University, UCLA and the University of Washington, and contributed to exhibitions at Wereldmuseum Rotterdam and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

This talk is part of the HORROR MANGA JAPAN event program and is related to the exhibition, RETRO HORROR: Supernatural and the Occult in Postwar Japanese Manga, on at The Japan Foundation, Sydney from October 18, 2019 to January 24, 2020.



October 31, 2019 (Thursday)
6:30pm – 7:30pm (doors open 6pm)

Free; no RSVP required.

The Japan Foundation, Sydney
Level 4, Central Park
28 Broadway, Chippendale NSW 2008



(02) 8239 0055

Presented by

Event partner

Event sponsors


Oct 18 – 24, 2019


Event Program
The Japan Foundation, Sydney

Oct 2 – 23, 2019

Grief and Vengeance:
Otherworldly Tales

JFF Classics Film Screenings
Art Gallery of NSW

Nov 2, 2019 – Mar 8, 2020


Art Gallery of NSW

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