By Kei Sanbe. Released in Japan as “Yume de Mita Ano Ko no Tame ni” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Sheldon Drzka.
This author has previously written the mystery thriller Erased, a series which I could see was very well done and I could also see was probably not for me. This feels like the same sort of thing – even without a hardcover-style release to make it fancier, this manga just seems “important” as you read it. The art is compelling, the characters are, if not likeable, at least someone you want to follow. Senri is our “hero”, a young man who in his childhood had his parents brutally murdered. He also had an older twin, who hid him from this (in fact, the father was abusive, and the twin was hiding him from the abuse – the murder was incidental). Senri always had a connection with his twin, in a “psychic powers” sort of way, but shortly after this he gets a vision of his brother being killed, and that’s it for psychic connections. So how does he grow up? Consumed with vengeance, of course.
There’s a common trope in manga where you see the hero, supposedly a bad guy, who beats up other, scummier villains to show off that he’s really good deep down. The manga fakes us out by making it seem that grown up Senri is the same… but no, he’s actually in league with the bullies, and is extorting money. I mean, he needs SOMETHING else to do beyond trying to track down his parents’ and brother’s killer. (They may not, in fact, be the same killer, but I’m guessing.) He runs on suppressed rage, and is fascinating to read but also somewhat exhausting. He also seems to have little regard for human life, unsurprisingly, and there are a couple points in the book where he’s driven to almost murder in his efforts to find out what happened back then. He also gets beat up a lot. He’s a very grim protagonists, in all senses of the word.
Fortunately, we also have Enan, the saving grace in this book. She’s Senri’s childhood friend, as they were in the same orphanage after his parents were murdered. She’s from a tragic home as well, as her dad was a murderer and her mother killed herself because of the harassment – which she gets as well, because we all know that children are their parents. Senri does not believe this, and says so, possibly the one nice thing he does in the entire book. As a result, Enan is his best (and it seems only) friend, and yeah, probably likes him romantically, though that doesn’t really come up. She’s there to prevent him from turning evil, and has a ways to go, frankly. I liked her a lot. Usually these sorts of characters are fresh-faced innocent types, but Enan is a jaded “gal” sort, though she’s good with kids in her daycare job. I hope nothing horrible happens to her.
As I said, this may not be the sort of title I want to keep reading. But it’s good, and I am interested in seeing what happens next, assuming Senri doesn’t die from the skull fracture he seems to get at the end of the volume and the rest of the series is just light music played over blank pages. Fans of dark thrillers will absolutely want to check it out.