|Manga-ka: Shin Mashiba
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: October 2008Synopsis: “For those who suffer nightmares, help awaits at the Silver Star Tea House, where patrons can order much than just Darjeeling… Dreams on the menu in this volume: a man and woman trapped on a malevolent streetcar, a mysterious woman with a possible key to Hiruko’s past, letters in a bottle that aren’t the usual call for help, a young girl who dreams of a miserable future, a boy being chased by shadows, and a nightmare in which Hiruko himself disappears!”
Nightmare Inspector returns for another set of episodic chapters, telling the tales of patrons coming to the Silver Star Tea House to have their nightmares explored. Fortunately for the growing sense of repetitiveness, for which this series just narrowly lacks the charm to offset, an underlying story, previously foreshadowed, returns to bring the plot-device Hiruko to a more engaging position as the series’ lead.
While few of the stories in Nightmare Inspector could be said to have a positive ending, for whatever reason I found this volume to be especially depressing. No story ends well for its patron-of-the-day, and the impending psychological twists and tumbles become something almost dreaded for their edibility. Fortunately this isn’t really a bad thing as far as the series’ intent goes, since a series that leaves a reader thinking and feeling about something a little deeper than the lines on a page certainly has its merit.
My favourite of the bunch this time around was one of the last in the book. It starred a young boy who finds his night’s plagued with dreams of verbally attacking shadows. Hiruko enters the nightmare and aids him in destroying the vocal forms, only to lay open the truth behind their words, which though different then originally interrupted by him, were far more well meaning than the wishes of his parents for whom he loved. Such a sad story, where you both want to sympathize with the guy and give him a little smack for his blind, yet I suppose not entirely unbecoming, love for his family. I also admire the creepy-factor I felt from the short but potent first story in the book about a boy on a tramcar.
A good-sized portion of the book is also dedicated to delving a little deeper into Hiruko’s past, and what led him to the Silver Star Tea House as a replacement for the previous Hiruko, brother of the house’s mistress. The prior Hiruko, Azusa, seems to have left some things behind in preparation for the new dream-eater in his place. And dangerous little old-wound openers they prove to be! Learning some more about the current Hiruko’s form before he became a dream-eater was interesting too, though expectedly depressing from the little we’ve glimpsed so far. I hope the story continues to develop these aspects of the plot further, as well as allow a little more relevant involvement with other recurring characters such as those running the Delirium shop.
As for the story’s artwork, I have a like-dislike relationship with it right now. While I love the stylistic look and combination of English-gothic and Asian cultural flare, the designs of the story’s come-and-go characters leave me rather unimpressed. For one, telling a character’s gender is best determined by their introduction, not their appearance. Now I’m often a fan of the occasional androgynous little pretty boy but every so often it gets a tad excessive in Nightmare Inspector, with a character or two in this fourth volume being prime examples. The general shape of character’s faces and expressions occasionally bother me as well, being a little inconsistent and crooked at times, but more so I think because I feel they take away from all the sharper qualities that draw me to the style so much in the first place. Attractive contrast between black and white makes for some eye-catching visuals.
Ultimately, Nightmare Inspector as a whole always tends to leave me rather under whelmed, but, I’d say its parts are worth more than their sum. While some of the episodic stories feel a little contrived and uninspired, and certain aspects of the art style irks me a tad, in the end there’s always enough beauty, creepy-factor and a generally appealing macabre tone that keeps me coming back for more.