Ghost Diary, Vol. 1

By Seiju Natsumegu. Released in Japan as “Kaidan Nikki” by ASCII Media Works, serialized in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Krista Shipley, Adapted by Shannon Fay.

For a while now, there has been a war going on in manga, though some may not have noticed it. Here at Manga Bookshelf, though, we pride ourselves on observational skills, and have watched the fallout with much interest. I am referring, of course, to the battle between manga being licensed about yokai and manga being licensed about monster girls. Both seemingly involving the same thing, but in reality these are very different beasts. Monster Girl series, with one or two exceptions, show us various types of creatures living alongside humans in society, while yokai series tend to involve humans investigating said creatures as dangerous and mysterious phenomena. Ghost Diary ran in Dengeki Daioh, so honestly I was expecting the former, but make no mistake about it, this is a relatively serious work, and its dark turns surprised me.

The plot involves a group of high-school occultists who go around searching for mysterious things. That said, most of the club are there to fill out the cast, and the real stars are Kyouichi, a teen exorcists who is haunted by a tragic past, and Mayumi, the standard cardboard cutout tsundere who likes him. Kyouichi’s older sister disappeared after a battle with a yokai that was coming after Kyouichi himself, and he’s vowed to find her. Luckily, he has help. Unluckily, it’s the worst kind of help. Chloe is a grim reaper who seemingly wants to find Kyouichi’s sister as well so she can get her memories back, and offers to help him out when he needs it, to the point of moving into his house. Unfortunately for Kyouichi, Chloe is not going to be one of those quirky mentors you see so often in these sorts of series.

As you may have guessed by my brief snarkiness in the prior paragraph, I wasn’t all that impressed with the love interest in this series, and the rest of the club is also a bit underwhelming (even the shy girl who speaks through her doll has been done better elsewhere, though I admit the overweight yakuza is new). But make no mistake about it, you want to read this manga for the relationship between Kyouichi and Chloe, as she kills his friends (then resurrects them, to be fair), destroys what might otherwise have been a heartwarming chapter about a dead baker who was moved by Kyouichi’s sister, and otherwise behaves like she may be the villain of the series. But she may not be – certainly at times she does behave very much like the mentor she wants to be, and it’s unclear if she’s the antagonist of the whole series or just a horrible creature. I want to see more of her.

This series is not for everyone – the last chapter has some disturbing rape threats from a man trapped in the body of a prepubescent boy – but overall I was pleasantly surprised. This is a dark take on a genre that already gets pretty dark. And it’s only three volumes, so I’m definitely interested in finishing it. Let’s hope that Kyouichi can survive it.

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