Manga-ka: Saki Okuse
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: August 2005
Synopsis: “In 2009, Shinjuku’s drug trade just got a whole lot bloodier. A new narcotic endows users with demon-like horns, fangs and a raging appetite for human flesh. When a man named Eiji Kuraza transforms into a murderous demon and then goes missing, his girlfriend Shizuka will stop at nothing to find him. Following a trail of violence, narcotics and prostitution, Shizuka hires supernatural P.I. Tsunami for his expertise, while she joins the red light district to conduct her own investigation.”
Twilight of the Dark Master is a one-shot manga, taking place in the dark future of Shinjuku. Dangerous drugs that cause mutation, and an appetite for human flesh, are circulating the city and serial murders are occurring at an alarming rate. After being violated and maimed by her boyfriend, a young woman named Shizuka seeks out a notorious detective who lives in the city’s most dangerous area, looking for the final salvation for her lost lover.
Some readers may recognize this title first as an anime of the same name, dubbed and released by Urban Vision back in the nineties. The plot’s considerably different in some regards but no less interesting for it’s own medium. The story revolves around Shizuka, and the search for her boyfriend, and Tsunami, a beautiful and mysteriously powerful man who takes on such supernatural tasks for his own reasons. Other characters include two Chinese siblings with a love for violence (and each other), that seek to stop Tsunami, and on Tsunami’s side, an enjoyably spunky young man with some interesting abilities of his own.
First and foremost, this isn’t a title for the kiddies! Rape, violence, prostitution, swearing and other such mature themes run rampant in this manga. Fortunately, it doesn’t detract from the story, or feel too excessive, so much as it sets the dark tone. The book opens with police dealing with yet another psychotic individual and his victims, before taking us to Shizuka’s search for Tsunami in the city’s scuzzy underbelly. Her past trials are nothing short of horrific and there’s a definite sympathy for her situation, and an admirable sort of insanity of her wish to find her boyfriend, Eiji, and see him to death.
One thing that feels pretty evident when reading through this book is that it’s a small part of something much bigger. Characters are fleshed out just enough to keep the story going and there are references to other, much bigger, things going on in the pasts of this cast. I’m a little disappointed it’s only a one-shot because I really would’ve loved to read more about Tsunami and his curly-haired part time partner. While I don’t want to give away the ending, I can say that it’s a pretty satisfying ending for this short story’s sake, even if it does leave much teasing for more plot than this book has the pages for.
Saki Okuse’s artwork has a retro flair to it that is immediately evident when you open the book up. Not a complaint though! I enjoy the nostalgic style and how well it suits the subject matter. Screen toning is balanced with streak and cross-hatch shading to set a dark mood and it all works pretty well. I especially liked the character designs as Saki Okuse shows a strong ability to draw distinct appearances that are unique from one another. The pages are full of people of different nationalities, age, size and every other appearance you can think of. My favourite is the simple but expressive face of Tsunami’s partner and his head of curly hair.
Overall, I recommend Twilight of the Dark Master occult horror to fans of the genre. It’s gritty, action-filled and sprinkled with a well-balanced dash of suspense and eye-candy, all making for a pretty entertaining read (not to mention the nice 200+ page count). I wish I could’ve had more time with some of the characters but, alas, I’ll just take what I can get!
Review written August 17, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo.
Book purchased from independant gaming-store, Odyessy 2000