Manga-ka: Matsuri Akino
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: September 2006
Synopsis: “A pair of young aspiring mystery writers tries to crack the most bizarre, baffling and hilarious cases around them. But when clues lead to a dead end, fortunately for our duo, the Masked Detective always seems to show up in the nick of time to help! In this light-hearted mystery from the creator of Pet Shop of Horrors, it’s not always about solving the crimes – but you can be sure that trail of evidence will lead to a hoot and a holler!”
A mystery story about mystery lovers solving mysteries: A perfect beginning to this week’s theme! The story follows Haruka Akashi and Misato Nishina, two high school students, and best friends, with a shared love of mystery novels. Together they make up their school’s Mystery Book Club and write stories of their own under the pen name Taro Suzuki. When a fellow student commits suicide, Haruka decides they need to put their skills to the test and set out to discover what really happened. When the two hit a dead end, a strange man decked in costume appears to help, calling himself Kamen Tantei!
Throughout this first volume, the mystery-solving duo comes across several crimes that need solving, all involving people’s deaths. Like true detached murder investigators, a moment’s shock over a grisly discovery is put aside, replaced by enthusiasm for the mystery! Haruka, the spunky tomboy, takes the reigns, pulling the more passive Misato (male) behind her on the trail of clues. A lover of the supernatural, the manga-ka also sprinkles in some paranormal activity into each story (as if the odd Kamen Tantei wasn’t enough of an enigma on his own!).
Kamen Tantei makes for a really fun read. Haruka and Misato are interesting characters, allowing for lots of entertaining interaction between their different personalities and those around them. The character, Kamen Tantei, returns during each case to lend a hand, but no hints yet as to his true identity. In the meantime, he brings some chuckles to the pages and some confusion to the fledging detectives (along with providing a plot device to last longer than the episodic mysteries).
The art is what you’d expect from the manga-ka, though a little more toned down in terms of detailing with the stories rooted in modern day. I really love the designs for Haruka and Misato, from their androgynous hairstyles to their trendy clothing. From tidy pacing to well rendered scenes, both dramatically and action-oriented, the art carries the plot along nicely.
For those familiar with Matsuri Akino’s other works, such as Pet Shop of Horrors, Kamen Tantei is an overall more light-hearted series. Though the chapters surround people’s death, they get never get too serious or dark. Those who enjoy Genju no Seiza will probably enjoy this series as it shares similar traits in pacing and humour. Hardcore mystery fans may not find this volume has enough substance to it, but it remains an intriguing series with lots of possibilities. For those looking for fun, suspense and a dash of the supernatural, Kamen Tantei could very well be the book for you. After reading volume one, I eagerly awaited volume two and so far the enthusiasm hasn’t waned!