WARNING: This manga contains graphic violence and scenes depicting child rape right from the start.
As you will tell from the warning, From the Red Fog is not for the fainthearted, and this opening volume has plenty of questions that deserve to be answered.
Set in Victoria England, the story follows a 12-year-old boy named Ruwanda Bailey, which among other things is a first name I’ve never heard off. Type “Ruwanda” into Google, and what you get is information about the country Rwanda. Ruwanda has spent his entire life trapped in the family basement, while his mother Matilda has lived a life of luxury – and murder. She is a serial killer who gets Ruwanda to clean up the dead bodies, and who shows no affection to her son.
Eventually Matilda is murdered by unknown assailants, which results in Ruwanda finally fleeing the basement and trying to live on the streets. First, he is picked up by a man who sexually abuses him, but Ruwanda eventually snaps and kills him. As killing is the only thing he knows, killing is also the only thing that Ruwanda gets any kind of joy from.
As a result, Ruwanda continues to murder those around him. He is taken to an orphanage where he kills several of the other children as well as the staff. He is eventually found by a mysterious gentlemen called Mr. Midwinter, who decides to use him as an assassin as part of a scheme involving drugs.
From the Red Fog is a manga which certainly has plenty of gruesome action. In terms of horror styles, the series feels most like a slasher story, albeit one set in the late 19th century. You are expecting Jack the Ripper to appear at any moment. The artwork by Mosae Nohara is definitely gripping when we see Ruwanda committing his crimes. However, this feels like the only positive in a generally sub-par work.
As mentioned, the underage rape scene is one that will put off most readers, and is one I personally find objectionable, but for reasons I will come to later. As for the general plot, we know that Ruwanda is somehow being employed by an organisation dealing with drugs, but this opening volume only consists of three chapters and has not yet had time to bed in. In terms of storytelling, one interesting aspect is the use of British English in this American translation by Caleb D. Cook, with the use of words like “tosser” and “codger”. Someone who is going to be a regular character, a child pickpocket named Ivan, speaks in a very distinctive working class accent, but at times it feels somewhat forced. Passages where he says to Ruwanda like: “Y’might as well admit to bein’ a spoiled brat. Hork. Makes me sick. Ferget it. Just shut yer trap and keep up”, just don’t feel right.
However, the main problem for me is with some of the decisions Yen Press have made in terms of production. The end of the volume features a character profile of Ruwanda, which at the bottom of the page, in very tiny font, has a sentence saying: “Murder is a crime, and Ruwanda is a fictional character. Good boys and girls shouldn’t view him as a role model!” Now, I don’t know if this is written by the author or put in by Yen themselves, but my thought is: “Why would you let a boy or girl read this?” This manga has so much violence in it, as well as featuring a scene where the lead 12-year-old character is raped. Never mind using Ruwanda as a role model, children should not really be reading this kind of thing anyway.
But probably the most infuriating thing is this: Yen Press has given From the Red Fog, a series which, as I have said, features murder and rape, an “Older Teen” 16+ rating. This is the same publisher which has been giving Sex Ed 120%, an educational manga covering issues like contraception and sexual consent, that is clearly aimed at teenagers, a “Mature” 18+ rating. Out of all the volumes so far released, Sex Ed 120% contains no violence or rape, but has been given this idiotic rating, while From the Red Fog is clearly the title which has the more objectionable content. Who on Earth is in charge of doing these age ratings?
When it comes to manga serial killers, Ruwanda Bailey is unlikely to be as remembered when compared with Death Note‘s Light Yagami, CLAMP’s Seishiro Sakurazuka or Danganronpa‘s Monokuma. While the action is mildly entertaining, I doubt there is much in From the Red Fog that will keep me reading.