Published on October 30th, 2018 | by Justin Bruce0
The late chef and writer has passed on to the other side, but also left us with Hungry Ghosts, an anthology about, well, hungry ghosts.
Just because Spooktober has come to an end doesn’t mean you need to slow down on your horror reading. Hungry Ghosts is a collection of stories inspired by Japanese folklore and retold through the eyes of the late Anthony Bourdain and novelist and Get Jiro! collaborator Joel Rose. Featuring an ensemble of talented horror artists, Hungry Ghosts is a fun, albeit straightforward, anthology.
Hungry Ghosts centres around a game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, in which players sat in a candle-lit room trading scary stories and blowing out a candle after each one. Being that it’s Anthony Bourdain, it may come as no surprise that many entries in the anthology has something to do with food. And while that may sound like it takes away from the horror element, it led to some interesting stories. “The Cow Head” was one of my favourites from the book. Based around a group of gluttonous villagers, the story isn’t breaking any new ground, but it’s effective nonetheless.
Taking story ideas from Japanese folklore is a bit of a double-edged sword for Bourdain and Rose. Each entry has a clear moral behind it, though not all of them make for very interesting reading. “The Starving Skeleton” is driven by the idea of being kind to those less fortunate than ourselves. An important lesson, sure, but the story’s twist can be seen coming a mile away. I wasn’t hoping for an ending way out of left field but knowing how the story is going to end from the first few panels hardly makes for a fun read.
While the storytelling in Hungry Ghosts isn’t entirely consistent, the artwork is solid throughout the anthology. Legend of Korra artist Irene Koh’s almost cartoony style in ‘The Snow Woman’ provides an interesting contrast to the cautionary tale. But my favourite story in the collection, at least visually, was ‘Salty Horse.’ Hellblazer’s Leonardo Manco brings a dark palate and some fairly heavy linework that really add to the grotesque idea of a guy who just can’t seem to get enough horse meat.
Hungry Ghosts is by no means a perfect anthology. There’s a story or two you could probably skip over and the framing narrative isn’t the strongest. These things didn’t stop the anthology from being a fun read, however. If you’re a die-hard Anthony Bourdain fan or are just looking for an easy post-Halloween read, I’d recommend giving Hungry Ghosts a chance.