Nightmares for Sale #1
I’ve seen several successful effort to combine horror and shoujo, but *Nightmares for Sale* is not one of them. The series is set around the pawn-shop of a supposedly mysterious, but in reality bland devil/demon/plot device named Shadow. People come into Shadow’s store planning to buy and sell trinkets, but what they purchase instead is darkness, incoherent plots, and tedious melodrama. The staple tropes of the horror anthology (ironic distance, twist endings, gory art) battle with the tropes of shojo (intense attachments, dreamy pacing, girly art) and the result is a big, fat, aesthetic nonentity — supposedly intense emotions attached to nothing, endings that collapse rather than startle, art that is busy but unmemorable.
*Nightmares for Sale*, in other words, lacks conviction, or even a point — and as a result its exploitative elements come across as particularly mean-spirited. Neither writing nor art is distinctive enough to provide a hook, so the only thing left to enjoy (if that’s the word) is the gratuitously banal suffering. In the first story in the volume, for example, we see a girl bullied by her peers into shop-lifting, prostitution, and madness; she’s supposedly redeemed at the end, but only, we are assured, so that she can get hurt again later. Even this description makes the whole sound too interesting by half. The girl as a character doesn’t even exist; we know next to nothing about her except for her unhappiness, and her fall into degradation is choreographed with the wallowing moralism of an after-school special. The story manages to be both uninvolving and sordid — a little like visiting the Las Vegas strip or watching Riki Lake, two other things that, like reading this series, I hope never to do again.
This review first appeared in The Comics Journal.