Sadako is one of the most terrifying movie monsters of the modern age. Since the long-haired girl debuted in Koji Suzuki's novel Ring in 1991, the character has become a nightmarish icon. This is principally thanks to the 1998 movie adaptation of the book that spawned a massive franchise that includes sequels, TV shows, and manga.
However, like Freddy Krueger and other horror icons before her, Sadako's popularity has also led to comical takes on the character. And the Sadako-san and Sadako-chan manga, recently released in the West, might just be the funniest the cursed girl has ever been.
Written and illustrated by Aya Tsutsumi, Sadako-san and Sadako-chan was first released in Japan in 2019. However, Seven Seas Entertainment released an English version of the book this year, letting Americans enjoy the fun too. Sadako-san and Sadako-chan sees Sadako once again crawling out of a TV to curse a poor soul. However, when she climbs out, she encounters a little girl trapped in a wardrobe. This girl reveals that not only does she know of Sadako thanks to the internet, but her mother thinks she is destined to become Sadako's reincarnation and thus keeps her locked away to prevent her from scaring the other kids. Also, this girl's psychic abilities allow her to read minds -- which lets her hear Sadako's innermost thoughts.
Sadako is confused by this girl, who doesn't even seem to fear her. This, and the idea of there being another version of her, gives her a massive identity crisis. It turns out the lack of CRT TVs in the modern world has made Sadako's job much harder, and she's lost her enthusiasm for cursing people. The young girl decides to befriend Sadako and teach her about the new world, pointing out that no one watches TV anymore -- everyone just watches YouTube on their phone. The young girl takes the name Sadako-chan and talks Sadako-san into becoming a YouTuber with her, suggesting this will help get Sadako-san back into the flow of cursing while letting her torment a whole new audience.
The highlight of this manga is Sadako's dialogue. Hearing this famous monster complain about modern technology and misunderstand the world around her is hilarious. The various callbacks to Sadako-san's lore and the movies she comes from are handled well, leading to plenty of laugh-out-loud moments that will make long-time Ring fans very happy.
However, what sets Sadako-san and Sadako-chan apart from other gag manga is its surprisingly emotional core. Despite her monstrous nature, Sadako-san is made into a really relatable character. Rather than some unthinking creature, she is a lonely wanderer debating her place in the world, just like any other person. Any creative who has lost passion for their craft will see a small part of themselves in Sadako-san. Her struggles to rediscover her passion for cursing feel similar to the burnout we all experience from time to time.
Sadako-san and Sadako-chan is a must-read manga for fans of The Ring. However, even if you're not a fan of the classic horror series, you'll likely still enjoy Sadako-san and Sadako-chan's hilarious escapades as they navigate the modern world of content creation together. On paper, the idea seems utterly preposterous. However, Aya Tsutsumi created something charming, heartwarming, and silly in all the right ways. Once you read it, you won't be able to see Sadako in the same way ever again.