Manga-ka: Shin Mashiba
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2009
Synopsis: “Dreams on the menu in this volume: a different perspective on Chitose’s past, Azusa’s return as a Baku, a dream so horrible it corrupts all other dreams, and the final dream where only one Baku can survive the truth.”
Nightmare Inspector, volume nine, brings to close Shin Mashiba’s gothic-horror series. Eight volumes of episodic tales of nightmare exploration and fantastical escapes are concluded here as the story takes its largest step forward into the limelight of its own recurrent plot elements and sees the characters through to their dark, and albeit a tad unsatisfying, resolutions.
While I had repeatedly hoped for more attention in regards to the lead characters amidst the standalone chapters, here I was left with the unfortunate mindset of ‘careful what you wish for’. The whole book aims to fill in the remaining gaps of Hiruko’s existence, from his battered past as Chitose, to the complete re-emergence of the Baku Azusa who revived Hiruko as his current form.
The sudden appearance of a surprisingly relevant, but never before seen, character caught me off-guard, to the point where I was sure she must’ve somehow been a phoney. And yet fully relevant she was, a blast from Chitose’s past to add a whole new layer to the already disturbing back-story laid out in an earlier book. Tsukichiro, another baku who has had his eyes set on learning everything there is to learn about Hiruko, is fleshed out considerably in this last book as chillingly masochistic and it was scary watching how he got his kicks amidst the chaos he sets into motion.
Everyone gets involved in this finale, from teashop hostess Mizuki to young Shima of the Delerium. Prepare for some twists, turns and back flips as each and every recurrent characters has some new side to them exposed, and rarely is it very pretty. It’s a little overwhelming to take in, one thing after another coming at you, everything overlapping, weaving together and never without its share of dark overtones. The art matches the story as well as ever before and matches in scope even the most bloody and atmospherically unsettling visuals the series has seen yet.
The end of the story sees all the characters get what they want, but if there’s one thing this series has taught us readers, it’s that what someone wants isn’t always in their best interest. The resolution is disconcerting in that it doesn’t compliment the light-hearted, comedic moments exchanged between the characters that gave them a lot of their appeal. I felt a bit gloomy at the end, which isn’t usually one’s response to a character-fulfilling conclusion.
In essence I found this conclusion to Nightmare Inspector a somewhat weak finale, not in so much the occurrences themselves but in the convoluted manner of their execution. Suddenly the benefit of shorter chapters in volumes past becomes evident when you see the effects of situations being dragged out too long, padded with repetitive reflection that lacks as much compelling potency. In my opinion, the loss of occasional humour was what saddened me the most because those moments are what really got me attached to this cast in the first place.
Still, in regards to the melancholy flair the stories often leave the readers to reflect upon, volume nine delivers a similar vein of angst and torment in spades. It may not be the best indicator of the series’ stronger literary moments, but for all intent and purposes you’ll probably finish it off feeling nearly as hollow and damaged as the characters themselves, which in the case of Nightmare Inspector, may have very well been the point all along.