by Shin Mashiba; adapted by Kelly Sue DeConnick
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
The Silver Star Tea Room is a quiet little cafÃƒÂ© where people seeking freedom from their nightmares come. Inside sits Hiruko, who appears to be a teenager lost in his daydreams, but in reality he is a baku, a dream eater. The desperate can find out the truth behind what haunts them, all for the price of letting Hiruko eat their nightmare.
Nightmare Inspector is an enjoyable supernatural manga. It’s similar in style to Xxxholic, Nightmares for Sale, or Antique Gift Shop. The book has seven chapters, each composed of a different client. The stories are slightly formulaic, but they move quickly and end with great twists. It’s the twist that hooks you and keeps you reading. I don’t want to go into too much detail about any of the stories, in fear I’ll inadvertently ruin the surprise.
Part of the appeal of this book is the incredible world that Mashiba creates. The book is set in the 1920’s, when Japan was still in transition between its traditional culture and adapting a more Western look. So you get a wonderful blend of Victorian and classical Japanese styles. This gives the book a more traditional gothic feel, like that found in the stories of Poe, Hawthorne, or Doyle.
The artwork is stunning. Mashiba creates a moody and richly detailed world. There are incredible images like an Escher-style staircase or a building made completely of kanji characters. Mashiba, like Death Note‘s Takeshi Obata, is a master of the comic form. I’d love to know more about Mashiba. The back page says that this is his first manga. Given his level of adeptness, Mashiba is either a manga prodigy or apprenticed under one of the other masters of manga.
Of course, I do have a couple of small complaints. First, the stories are too short and quickly resolved. When Hiruko enters a client’s dreams, he seems to immediately know everything going on. He appears bored as he swiftly guides his client to the truth they are hiding from themselves. I would prefer if Hiruko had to actually take some time to figure out the dream and its solution. Hopefully, future volumes will present Hiruko with dreams that are a challenge to his abilities.
Second, I wish Viz had included cultural notes. It would be nice to know that the Taisho Era ran from 1912-1926 without consulting outside reference material. Also, I would also have liked to be given some mythological/culture backgrounds on baku. Plus, I enjoy reading translation notes about words or phrases that prove a challenge to put into English.
However, these flaws are me nitpicking and shouldn’t prevent any from picking up this manga. It’s well-written and the book is worth owning just for the artwork alone.