Instead of being terrifying, the monsters in Elbert Or’s all-ages comic strip “Bakemono High” are terribly cute and irresistible. The comic strip (“Bakemono” is Japanese for “monster”) ran in K-Zone Philippines from 2006 till 2009, when Or suffered an injury.
During its time in print, “Bakemono High” developed a loyal and vocal following, so that, even though it has been basically invisible for four years, it feels like it’s still very much around.
Luckily for dyed-in-the-wool fans and for those meeting the Bakemono gang for the first time, Or has just self-published “Bakemono High: Book One,” a compilation of the 13 best strips in the series. The book features the strips in black-and-white instead of the original color rendition, but Or’s art doesn’t suffer from the transition at all.
“Bakemono High” imagines what it is like for supernatural creatures like a vampire, a werewolf, a mummy and others to have to go to high school. But these are monsters rendered in Or’s trademark cartoon style, and he infuses each character with a distinctive look and voice.
At the beginning of “Bakemono High: Book One,” the adorable vampire kid Max has just arrived at Bakemono High for his first day of high school. Max is naturally worried about fitting in, but is extra concerned because he happens to be the son of the school’s principal.
His first day quickly goes awry when Max encounters the school bullies. But by the end of the day, Max has made fast friends with the cuddly kid werewolf Chuck as well the highly-strung mummy Amy.
Soon, Max will make more friends, and the humorous happenings in “Bakemono High: Book One” gets funnier and more furious. Or not only shows us the different aspects of Bakemono High life (beware the maggot munchies, and check out the guest appearance by Lovecraftian demon Cthulthu), but also expands the cutesy cast to include memorable additions such as witch girl Salem and her unusual pet fish Spot.
Beyond the characters, there is an exuberant inventiveness to “Bakemono High: Book One” that makes the series transcend its original audience of children. Or does his own take on pop culture staples such as “High School Musical” and Archie comics.
So, Or effectively takes Hollywood horror icons, “kawaii-fies” them, in the process giving them distinctive new personalities, and then puts them in satirical school situations, making them original characters with his trademark flourish. Later on, he begins adding monsters from pantheons.
Plus, Or just nails the comedic dynamic between the various characters, making them funny for any age.
For those looking for full-color “Bakemono High” high jinks, Or has also put together a shorter selection of strips for the e-book “Bakemono High: Recess” available for P125 on e-book publisher Flipreads (http://flipreads.com/bakemono-high-recess). Priced at P100, “Bakemono High: Book One” is the perfect opportunity to savor the series’ best moments and catch up just in time for the next exciting phase.
In August, Or will release “Bakemono High: Book Two,” the first offering of original “Bakemono High” material, and he hopes to do yet another collection of new adventures after that, something that longtime “Bakemono High” followers have been waiting for.
In the meantime, enjoy the best of this now-classic comic strip in “Bakemono High: Book One,” a book from a highly original talent, a collection that offers something for everyone looking for smart, school gags.
It’s the perfect time to get back to monster school!
“Bakemono High: Book One” is available at Comic Odyssey branches. For more information, visit elbertor.com.