Even though TheBetterCup and I read a lot of books and manga, one of the genre’s we don’t try to much of is mystery. It is not that we don’t like the genre, it is just a little harder to find some that aren’t really cliched. This was one of the first mystery manga that I tried, and man did I love it. I stayed up till 3 am finishing this manga.
Before I get into the plot, I want to explain some of the parts of this that made it really cool read. So in the very beginning, the characters set up the story by discussing the story of the Ubume. Ubume is a Japanese yokai (mythological monster, folktale demon, etc) of ghostly woman carrying a baby. She is said to try desperately to get others to hold her baby, and once someone does she disappears. The baby then gets heavier and heavier until it is too heavy to hold, and becomes a boulder, crushing the person. This myth is told to the audience early on into the story, and is meant to give certain meaning to the mystery for the rest of the story. The use of mythology and other discussions, add a level of meaning to the story (so that our reasoning and understanding of the mystery would be surreal). I really liked this addition.
This is a mystery novel that is not really a mystery novel (where you try to solve the crime). Once you start reading, you start to believe that the story is not so much a mystery, but a book whose plot is moved along by the supernatural. In the end though, this was more about understanding certain characters psychologically (especially the side characters, and not so much the protagonist Chuzenji).
The story follows Sekiguchi, a freelance writer, as he investigates the rumors of a woman whose husband disappeared mysteriously 1 and half years ago and who has been pregnant for about 20 months (swelling up bigger and bigger). He is helped out by his friends Chuzenji (a temple priest and bookstore owner as well as the protagonist of the series) and Reijirou (a detective, and ex-military man who has a strange sixth sense).
The plot is extremely simple, but is soon made complicated with strange and almost supernatural and psychological twists. This slowly get explained through logical theories by Chuzenji. Lots of the theories remind me of NBB classes, physics classes, and religion classes. At some points, these explanations feel like a stretch, but it doesn’t deter from the plot all that much. They actually lend an almost sci-fi touch to match with the more psychological based elements.
I really liked the art style. The characters are so interesting, with great facial expressions (especially Chuzenji), and sometimes, the characters (especially the girl who comes and asks for the detective’s help), look kind of realistic with a film noir sort of feel. I don’t know if that made sense, but I really like the drawing style. Also, I loved the setting of the manga. It seems to be based after in some time in 1950’s (like it is after World War II), but I am not to sure about the exact time period. I really loved how the setting was drawn and how it adds to the feel of the manga.
The very beginning is really dense with theories, that are setting up ideas for the latter end of the story. It honestly did not bother me much, but for some people it may feel like a slow start that may stop them from continuing. I suggest if you try this to read to about the point where Sekiguchi visits Reijirou, because that is when the main mystery starts to really form.
All the theories, I thought, were a really good touch. I loved how he deconstructed the supernatural, and it almost felt like the author had read Levi-Strauss and Geertz before. I really enjoyed this, and I plan on reading the other parts of the series as well.