The opening epigraph of Mike Garley, Lukasz Kowalczuk, and Lukasz Mazur’s Samurai Slasher: Late Fees reads, “Remember, kiddo: not every story has a happy ending.” This epigraph is apt, as Late Fees is an exploration of coping mechanisms that artists and everyday humans alike take on as they live and work through unhappy, and sometimes even traumatic, situations.
Samurai Slasher is a reference to the first horror movie that the unnamed father at the center of the text shows to his unnamed, fairly young son during a weekend visit. What the horror film, along with the subsequent horror films that father and son watch together, provides to the young son is twofold: He finds in them full-fledged escapism, but also, aided by the appearance of a samurai in his dreams, an increased assurance in his own (emotional, mental, and, I think, physical) strength. By design, the nature of the monsters that the son battles – which make up a core element of the text – are unfixed; readers know for certain that the monsters are tied to the father, and by extension to the son, but we’re never given a clear picture of what they represent. While some readers will find catharsis in this particular narrative structure, as the monsters can easily be made to stand in for multiple traumas (including those that are personal to the reader), some may find it frustrating.
Stylistically, Late Fees is incredible; the character design is complex, which allows readers to experience a good range of emotional attachments. The monsters themselves, which are drawn in a Japanese style and based on individual people, are exceptional and manage to be beautiful and scary at the same time. Through facial expressions, slight distortions in environment, and careful mixing of realist settings and features of Japanese samurai films, the text carries an effect of disease or discomfort; the style very much mirrors the conceptual work of the monsters themselves, and the reader is left aware that the grim or grotesque is always near the surface for the son.