July 25, 2012
Nao Tsukiji – JManga – 2012 – 5+ volumes
This was one of my early favorites in the JManga lineup, so I was quite pleased when the second volume popped up recently.
It’s an anthology-style series, and has a dark mystery/horror flavor to its one-shot stories. The Taisho era setting gives the stories a more unique flavor, and they tend to verge off the beaten path of the usual mystery fare. One is a protection case where Kojiro is assigned to protect the daughter of a famous sculptor, who a priest predicts will be sacrificed to their God. In another, Kojiro and the police are trying to talk a kind of psychologist out of releasing murderers from prison under the guise of being “rehabilitated.” In another, the police are investigating a murderer that performs taxidermy on their victims, and the investigation takes them to a truly bizarre place. One chapter is split between two lighter stories, one about a criminal that Shiro runs into, and another about a game of strip chess that Shiro plays with Kojiro with loincloths on the line. I learned a lot about loincloths from that story!
Admittedly, a lot of the stories involve murder, and in the end, are set up by Shiro’s brother somehow. But the main characters don’t come face-to-face with Shiro’s brother in this volume, and I’m content to read these one-shots while the main plot idles. They’re quite good, and as strange and different as the plots are, Tsukiji really makes them shine with her artwork and strange settings. In the story about the sculptor, much of it takes place in his residence, which is decked out with a good number of large bronze sculptures of deities, intertwined and larger than life. The effect is a bit overpowering and very Bosch-like, and it lends an even more creepy atmosphere to the story. In the taxidermy chapter, the characters trail a famous taxidermist to a mansion where a woman collects her prey. She wears remarkable outfits made from bits of animals, and as ghoulish as that sounds (it is), it’s absolutely incredible to look at. As are the themed rooms in her house.
The stories themselves sometimes… well, aren’t that well-constructed. They suit my tastes just fine, since they tend to take a number of crazy, sometimes nonsensical turns. But perhaps true mystery fans will be disappointed.
And, yeah. It’s still pretty erotic, too, despite not being even remotely sexual. It doesn’t cross into overt BL territory, and probably never will. But Tsukiji art is far more suggestive than even some of the dirtiest BL I’ve read. Fans will likely be pleased.
I wish it were in paperback, and I wish it came out faster. Other than that, I love it to pieces, and I’ve got the artbook sitting in my shopping cart waiting to check out as we speak. I’m a happy fan.