Like many children who were watching horror films way younger than they probably should have, I remember seeing one of the American versions of The Ring on TV when I was about ten. I remember seeing the scene where the main male character was sitting on his couch and the girl on the TV crawled out. I then remember quickly turning the channel as fast as I could because I was convinced that she was going to crawl through my TV next. Now that I’m an adult, I know the general plot of The Ring (someone watches a tape and then has seven days until they die from this creepy ghost girl’s curse), I've seen the prank videos of a girl crawling out of TV’s at an electronic store, but I’ve never gotten around to seeing any of the films. The reason why I point this out is because it directly affected my feelings about this book, because Sadako is the demon girl from The Ring.
Sadako at the End of the World takes place during the apocalypse. Two young girls, Al and Hii-Chan, come across the cursed video tape and play it. Weirdly the tape works without the use of electricity. Sadako then crawls out like she normally does, but instead of instilling fear in her victims, the girls are delighted to see her. Not having any knowledge on how video tapes work, they believe that every TV has the magical ability to make people appear. They then try to talk to Sadako but she is unable to speak. She is able to get an old tablet to start working and is able to communicate through typing on it. The girls then express to Sadako that they plan to travel from their home to see if they can find any more survivors. Sadako decides to travel with the girls to find more victims for her curse. The book spans seven days from when the girls first watch the video tape to… well, the end of the girl’s time.
I honestly didn’t realize Sadako was the ghost from The Ring until I started reading the book. It basically asks the question: if there isn’t anyone left in the world, will Sadako’s curse still exist? A quick spoiler, Sadako kills everyone she comes across in the book. None of the deaths are gruesome, more sad, reflecting the mood of the entire manga. The group comes across two people who were both very nice to Sadako and the human girls, but Sadako basically has to kill them in hopes that her curse will be done and she can move on. I felt sad for both Sadako and her victims and the ending is overall very sad because you realize that Sadako is very alone. Anyone she comes across she has to kill, so it’s not surprising when she hopes that there’s not anyone else alive on Earth so she can move on.
I liked the storytelling and all of the characters were very well developed. You get hints as to what caused the apocalypse, but the manga doesn’t explicitly say what happened to civilization, only that people just started to disappear. For example, the girls come across an elderly woman who lives by herself. During their previous travels they had gone through an abandoned house and saw a photo of a young mother with a little girl. The same photo was in the old woman’s house. She explained that the photo was of her and her daughter, who normally visits her but she hasn’t seen a long while. While the girls say that she must have moved, it’s really implied that the woman’s daughter was one of the victims of the mysterious apocalyptic event. We don’t really know what happened, but in the different illustrations we see the world has turned into a giant ghost town.
I think part of the reason we don’t know what happened is so that we focus more on Sadako’s struggles. Like I mentioned before, everyone she meets is very kind and isn’t afraid of her in the slightest. You can tell that she cares about the girls, but her curse forces her to kill everyone within the first seven days of meeting them. At the end she even promises Al that they can be together forever and thinks that after she kills the girls she’ll be able to join them in the after life. I won’t completely spoil the ending but I will say it was sad.
The girls do come across another spirit by the name of Okiku, who is referred to as The Ghost of Plate Manor. She is actually based on a real ghost story in Japan. At the end of the manga it explains her full story, but in the book the girls are able to help her move on to the other world. In a lot of ways it mirrored Sadako’s ghost story. She needs to fulfil her curse in order to move on. Unlike Sadako’s curse, Okiku doesn’t need to kill people to fulfil it. I really enjoyed Okiku’s story and hope the writer creates a manga based on her next, because it would make for a great story.
I liked the manga and didn’t really feel like I was missing anything from not being super familiar with the original novels or films. It wasn’t scary, so anyone who was a fan of the horror aspect of the originals will probably be disappointed. One thing I really liked though was how thrown off Sadako was by the girls initial reaction to her. I believe in ghosts and spirits, but I believe we are the ones that give them power if they are malicious. That belief is kind of reflected in the book, which I could relate with. It was overall a good read and one that made me want to revisit the film that freaked out 10-year-old Krystal. With the new knowledge that I have of the character and the fact fifteen years have passed since I last saw the movie, I might be able to actually get through it.