Manga-ka: Kendi Oiwa
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: September 2008
Synopsis: “Before they were friends, he had already noticed her. He wanted her hands – those beautiful, enchanting hands – to himself. And he hoped that the local madman who had been “collecting” the hands of anything that moved – babies, children, men, women, animals – would get them for him… until that day she asked him to teach her how to smile. In four gruesome stories, two murder-fixated teens lose themselves in their obsession.”
The story waffles around on what it wants to be, mostly because it’s hard to determine what role the leads play in it. Is Morino a victim or a perpetrator? Is Kamiyama the hero or the villain? Whichever it is, these are two creepily messed up individuals – Morino for her fascination with death with a general disregard for her own well-being, and Kamiyama for, well, everything about him.
Niether main character in this story is likeable. Any situation that plays up being Morino’s last doesn’t feel satisfying suspenseful because it’s hard to really care when she’s getting what it seemed only obvious was coming to her. Kamiyama feels wasted because he’s so much a bad guy – of the creepy, terrifying variety – but the story keeps failing to reach his true potential by choosing to try and spin him like a demented type of hero.
The opening story was suitably unnerving with Kamiyama gazing longingly at Morino, or more specifically, her wrists. Quickly he becomes obsessed with her hands and the idea of owning them. Conveniently there’s a madman going around chopping off hands and collecting them in his fridge. Kamiyama discovers who it is and devises a way to have him attack Morino in the hopes she’ll lose her hands to the deranged invidual. Clearly a story about the deranged and then the more deranged. But wait… Kamiyama is a recurring character, and in fact, then becomes Morino’s best friend (of sorts).
Far from suddenly turning around his creepy-ways, Kamiyama just becomes more and more involved with murders and death around him and continues to be enamoured in his own way with Morino. He and Morino become entangled in other cases around them with Morino having a strange, though convenient for Kamiyama, vibe that makes her unignorable to serial murderers. She’s a potential victim in every of the four stories in the book with each playing out in the exact same way – Kamiyama and Morino learn about something creepy (either past or present), they get involved in some fashion, we learn about the scary-doings of a random third party character there to be psychotic, Morino gets kidnapped and Kamiyama appears to save her… sort of.
The third story in the book, about a man with an urge to bury people alive, was the most unnerving of the book, simply because of how scary the very concept of being buried alive is. Was it so wrong of me to want to see some actual penance for the evil though? This kind of story was one that really could have used the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Goth‘s final chapter delves into Morino’s back story where it’s revealed she actually had a twin sister who died. Yes, very horror-story original. Kamiyama digs into her past to discover a truth she’s worked to hide which eventually leads to yet another life or death situation which actually directly relates to Morino instead of her just being a sicko-magnet.
What really disappointed me about Goth is that I really loved the atmosphere. Things got suitably disturbing and even felt pretty suspenseful. The art also complimented it all really well. There was really striking imagery and the overall look of it was perfectly suited to a great horror story. It was such a shame then that what we got instead was a mish-mash of unsympathetic characters and an assortment of messed up individuals few of whom get any sort of just deserts or even a satisfyingly mysterious resolve. This book was a mess – a beautifully crafted one perhaps, but still unsatisfying.