In Jiro Matsumoto's Velveteen & Mandala, two high school girls, the eponymous Velveteen and Mandala, go from spending idle time on a riverbank to fighting against hordes of the undead. They're cute schoolgirls -- one blonde, one with black hair -- they've got easy access to weapons, they live in a tank (kinda), their zombie enemies still mill around going on job interviews, and there's a lot of clever dialogue. Boy, doesn't this book sounds like a pretty cool post-Buffy comic?

There's one problem: Velveteen & Mandala is a funny, touching, scary, violent, and deeply uncomfortable comic, whose back cover describes it as "[a] sublime mixture of Hayao Miyazaki, Evangelion, and scatology." Hit the jump for a little more info and an exclusive 24-page interview -- the entire second chapter!Matsumoto isn't interested in turning you on or thrilling you with zombie-fighting antics. Velveteen and Mandala are disturbed individuals, living outside a dystopian Tokyo overrun with the undead. Mandala shouts "TAPE RECORDER" as if it can ward off evil or shield her from harm, while Velveteen keeps having dreams that don't quite line up with reality. They spend time on the outskirts of Suginami Ward together, argue, eat, and interact with the Super. The Super is a man who doesn't wear pants -- or underwear -- and keeps the dead who are regularly dumped in the riverbed under control.

Velveteen & Mandala feels wrong in the best sense of the word. It's a creepy, gross little monster of a book, the type that is going to crawl inside your brain and throw up on your frontal lobes. It's not all gross-out action, of course. The strongest scenes come from the extreme cruelty that lurks behind high school life or the way that people -- and I mean regular people here, like you and me -- are casually insensitive to each other in deeply cutting ways.

It's rated 18+, published by Vertical, and the exact manga you need if you're a fan of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit, Charles Burns's Black Hole, or seeing some good old-fashioned gross action. It comes out August 30 and is more than 300 pages long. Check out the preview to get ready. Remember to read it from right to left.

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