Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Vol. 1

By nanao and HaccaWorks*. Released in Japan by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Gene. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I’ve spoken before about how it can sometimes be difficult to review a new volume of a shoujo romance whose basic premise is ‘girl in high school likes guy, feelings ensue’, as there’s just so many of those out in North America. I am very happy to say that I’m starting to feel that way about the influx of yokai manga over here as well. We have all different types of yokai titles over here, including those for kids, for young adults, for men, for women. After a year that saw the loss of Shigeru Mizuki, it’s heartwarming to see his legacy, and that of Japan’s folklore, carry on. And so we have this new series, which is actually based off of a visual novel, and brings together the yokai genre with mystery, horror, and a bit of not-quite-BL – exactly what a shoujo reader would enjoy.

ayakashi1

Our hero is Yue, a name that longtime readers of manga will know always seems to be connected to the supernatural in some way. (I believe in Chinese it means moon.) He’s a yokai, and seems to be very important, but is unfamiliar with much of the world beyond the temple area in which he lives. So he and his friend/familiar descend the mountain to attend a festival, and run into two contrasting humans, one quiet and serious, the other angry and a bit over the top. As the series goes on, and he gets permission to visit his new wannabe friends, though, we discover the village where this is taking place is slightly off to begin with, and that there’s more going on here than meets the eye.

This series is an excellent example of what you want in a first volume. It gives you enough backstory and characterization to satisfy while making you want to read more to see what happens. Yue is sweet and naive without seeming foolish, and Tsubaki is reserved but shows a genuine love of family. As for Akiyoshi, he provides some of the series’ few laughs with his stalker-ish ways, but also gets to carry the bulk of the exposition, as he knows about the yokai without being part of them. Honestly, the three leads make a good team.

As for the horror and mystery, well, it would appear the danger is not just of having your life taken, as if a typical vampire manga, but having your very existence removed from the world. An old kindly elementary school principal vanishes one day, and those connected to the school deny he was ever there – or that they even had a principal. It gives an extra frisson of creepy to the whole deal. For more old-fashioned horror, there’s also the standard scary black ghosts that try to eat you, which also pop up a lot in these sorts of manga. Basically, AkaAka (its fan nickname) may not tread all that much original ground, but it hits all the right notes and really makes you want to read on. A definite good read, despite a double bad sign of both a name all in lowercase *and* a name with a special character in the authors.

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