Manga-ka: Shin Mashiba
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: April 2009
Synopsis: “Dreams on the menu in this volume: a treasure’s whereabouts depicted in a manga, a destiny controlled by the roll of the die, a nursery rhyme that is more than just words, a neighbor whose walls keep crashing in, a dog being tormented, a girl who isn’t sure of her true self, and a haunting photo that isn’t what it seems.”
Seven volumes in and it’s old hat by now to say that the character designs remain distractedly similar to each other, the stories more episodic than linear and equivocally darker with each passing volume (though the last book should hopefully prove hard to beat). Alright, so old hat, but still worth mention, and no less true than before, but of course, Nightmare Inspector does not remain without its own twisted little charms.
While the previous volume delved into some grim back-story of recurring characters, volume seven sticks to the tried and fairly true formula of episodic tales involving patrons to the Silver Star Tea House. Most stories don’t end on a positive note, but by this point you come to expect it. It’s waiting to see the twist that brings about an uncertain end, which makes them worth reading.
I didn’t have a distinct favourite of the multiple chapters in this book, but as in past volumes I have preference to those that manage to surprise me. The first story, about a treasure map in the form of manga left between friends, had a twist at the end that didn’t surprise so much as the brutality of its execution did. I also enjoyed the few panels of Hiruko as a cat-eyed rendition of himself within the manga.
One of the following stories, about a boy seeking to unravel the mystery of clues his Father left to him, was a fun read in that it isn’t evident from the get-go what the real meaning is. Hiruko and the boy seek to discover their meaning through deciphering the clues in his dream-world ala performing tasks to meet certain requirements. Regrettably I guessed every meaning incorrectly. Good thing Hiruko is as clever as he is laidback!
Other notables include a rather chilling story of a young girl kept captive in her room with fears of being crushed within it, to a story about an abused dog whose dreams are asked to be explored. Like any story involving a dedicated animal being mistreated, it breaks your heart, but to my peace-of-mind, the dog’s story gets a good, albeit bittersweet, ending.
Overall, it’s more of the same here in volume seven, and yet still makes for a pretty entertaining read. Recommended for some quick chills and its sharp, gothic-style artwork that attractively mixes influences of both English and Asian culture.