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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mail. Volume 1. Housui Yamazaki (Writer and Artist). Dark Horse Manga (2006)


An excellent collection of contemporary ghost stories. The stories manage a difficult task, each story is set up, the situation is developed and finally resolved neatly without any excess and also without feeling incomplete in a short space. The setting is Tokyo and one of the enjoyable aspects to the book are the details about Japan that are unselfconsciously present in the book, the stories are clearly rooted in a real place. The context for the stories is part of their power, how the extraordinary continues to lurk inside and around the everyday.
Reiji Akiba is a private detective with a very specialised practice, he investigates haunting, the strange events that can be brushed off as a coincidence but which retain a nagging unease about them. Akiba sees these as messages from a restless spirit, a ghost who has failed to find rest for some reason and is attempting to make their presence felt by the living. The problem is that the reason they are still involving themselves in the material world is rarely benign, they usually have a grudge against the living and want to drag them into a deathly embrace.
Akiba has a means to deal with these ghosts, his sanctified gun Kagutsuchi breaks the bonds that allow the ghost stay in the world and releases them to their own world. The stories are nicely varied and the art is first rate. Akiba is a very unassuming character, with his glasses, trench coat and sideburns he does not look like a ghost hunter, he is reassuring to his clients and forceful to the ghosts. The art is nicely detailed, the ghosts are given a nice solidity and venom that underscores the threat they pose. Thoughtful, imaginative ghost stories without any gore or excess trimmings, a pleasure.

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