Book Review: Kowabana: ‘True’ Japanese scary stories from around the internet: Volume One by Tara A. Devlin

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Enough that on Amazon, I gave it five stars. What it is, is a collection of translated Japanese creepypastas. While I think in this time of the internet most people likely know what a “creepypasta” is, I’ve grabbed the definition below from a Google search, because it’s not up to me to decide what everyone else’s common knowledge is.

Creepypasta are essentially internet horror stories, passed around on forums and other sites to disturb and frighten readers. The name “Creepypasta” comes from the word “copypasta”, an internet slang term for a block of text that gets copied and pasted over and over again from website to website.

If you enjoy old stories from Reddit’s NoSleep forum (or other such sites where creepy “true” stories are told) then this book is absolutely for you. The large differences between Japanese creepypastas and American ones are the legends, locations, and history/lore. For me, I think the more widely acknowledged belief in supernatural entities/ghosts/demons/curses makes these stories a little more creepy than their American counterparts. I also enjoyed the fact that many of the stories had no definite ending, and many of them read (as with many “older” creepypastas”) more like an actual blog/journal of events than a full story with a beginning, middle, and end. The unknown “cliffhanger” type ending often left me chilled and unable to read the book when I was home alone at night. (Keep in mind, also, that I am quite possibly the biggest wuss out there. I absolutely love horror, but I cannot watch/read/play a scary game by myself, and NEVER in the dark.)

Because of the wide variety of stories, the book was broken up into different sections, featuring locations, curses, Obon (a Japanese “holiday” to honor the dead taking place at the end of summer), and many more. By far, my favorite section was the one at the end entitled “When You Understand.” These stories are very open-ended and each one of them had a chilling, horrible twist. I also found this section slightly educational, since some of the “twists” were plays on Japanese words/pronunciation/phrases. As someone who’s always had at least a passing interest in Japanese, I loved the little bites of information.

Not all of the stories were chilling or even scary, but the translation work was great, and I look forward to reading more in Volume Two. Also, as a sort of last word here, I enjoyed that the lengths of the stories varied, but many of them were quick enough to be read in the time it takes to get a coffee order at Starbucks (which for me, where I am, is usually between 3-6 minutes).

You can also get more of Tara’s translations and works here, as well as by subscribing to her podcasts, Kowabana, and Toshiden (which explores Japanese urban legends and the history behind them).

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