It’s actually Halloween! Happy Halloween everyone. I hope you get lots of treats in your preferred form. I hope you have fun and that your costume is not too uncomfortable. And if you’re not going to wear a costume, I still hope you’re not too uncomfortable!
Since Halloween falls on a Monday this year, it gives me the chance to leave you with one last horror manga review.
By the way, can we all just take a moment to appreciate how much horror manga I have read in the past few weeks? I now know exactly how long I can go without sleep! About 7 hours, I’m a cat…
Why I Picked up Shi ni Aruki
I actually really liked the cover art for this manga. I had no clue what it was, or even the genre but the brightness of this cover really stood out for me. Like a beacon. I don’t think I even registered the image itself, a girl of some sort… but the colours
For the record, this is the cover I saw:
And these are some of the other volumes
A wealthy man, Kurosu Tokimune, meets an unnatural end. With his death, his family joins together to grieve, only to become suspects of a police investigation as to whether he was murdered. Their primary suspect: the adopted daughter of the Kurosu family and first to discover his body, Kurosu Tokiko. The girl who shows no distress at her father’s death. And as all suspicions point to her, the second unnatural death occurs… It’s always been this way. Wherever Tokiko goes, people tend to die.
My First Impression
This plot is rarely done right, could this be the exception?
I think the official summary does a pretty great job at describing the manga but I’ll just rephrase it a bit to give you an idea of how I experienced the plot.
Essentially, Tokiko is a girl loved by death if you will. People associated with her have been dying since she was a little girl. But lately, it’s really accelerated. The entire story keeps us guessing as to whether there really is something supernatural happening around Tokiko or whether there’s a much more rational if also more sinister explanation. We also aren’t told until the end what part, if any, does Tokiko herself play in all these events. Is she really a pure innocent girl or is she a psychotic killer, or maybe something in between?
Personally, I love a mystery. It doesn’t even have to be a good one. I’m one of these people that wants to find out what’s going on. Most of the time, a mystery will keep me interested in a story even if I objectively think the story isn’t that good. Unfortunately, mysteries rarely have very satisfying solutions, but that’s the risk you take.
So right from the start, I was a bit more interested in Shi Ni Aruki than the average reader. And I wasn’t put off by the gore either. The manga is a bit uneven in that regard. There are volumes where little to nothing visually horrific happens and then there are chapters completely filled with blood and gore. The art style isn’t all that details so the gore is mostly ink splatters but it’s nevertheless effective. There were some scenes that upset my tummy.
At this point, I know I’m going to lose a few of you. There is a portion of my readership that just does not enjoy gore, even at Halloween. And this manga is definitely not for you guys. To give you an idea, the book keeps a tally every few chapters. Out of 16 characters with dialogue in the manga, 12 die. All the deaths are gruesome.
At some point, the story starts to introduce more convoluted elements. Like the official synopsis says, it starts out with a pair of detectives and the Kurosu family. That’s pretty good. It’s cat and mouse as the family members start to blame each other and the police are trying to figure everything out. At that point, there’s no real indication of anything out of the ordinary, an old man could simply have had an accident. It happens all the time.
In my opinion, this was the part of the story with the most potential. And it could have been really great if the pacing wasn’t rushed. This is unusual for me but I think that Shi Ni Aruki was rushed at the beginning rather than the end. As if the author really wanted to get t a specific part of the story but when reading it, it’s unclear why.
So at the beginning, there’s all this tension and uncertainty, then the family members start to drop one by one. That’s still great, in my opinion. Very And Then There Were None. The problem is, they get rid of three people, in three separate accidents (maybe) in a page and a half. And that rhythm is kept for a while until things calm down dramatically. It makes the tension lopsided and doesn’t work on any level. You can’t really get into the mystery aspect because the gore and horror elements are taking up the whole story and there’s no space for clues. You can’t get properly terrified because the tension suddenly cuts off and now it’s a procedural.
But then, like I said, the story tries to do too much, They introduce a paranormal research group. They seem to be funded by the government and give off a sort of X-Files vibe. They stir the story into making the reader think there’s a curse at work. Unfortunately, they also fall into the trap of trying to explain the supernatural which is something that’s incredibly tough to do. The explanation is predictably full of holes.
They also introduce a serial killer, that has long-term ties to the story and whose presence has an impact both on the events of the manga and those that happened before the start of Shi Ni Aruki.
To me, the elements never came together. If they had slowed down the pace and made it a police procedural full of gore as family members slowly dwindle and the inheritance keeps getting bigger. That could have made a great bloody mystery.
If they had let the paranormal team take over and concentrated on a supernatural explanation, we could have had a grim x-files type of story.
Finally, if they wanted to make that serial killer arc work, they could have peppered in more clues and foreshadowed that reveal. A slow burn into a horror action film where we hope the character can escape from the grasp of a monster.
But trying to mix all three without ever committing to one made every element weaker and left the story more of a general mess.
In the end, as shocking as Shi Ni Aruki tries to be, it ends up average at best. Too bad, I thought it had a lot of potential at the start.