story by Eiji Otsuka; art by Housui Yamazaki; adapted by Carl Gustav Horn
published by Dark Horse; $10.95 US
As the creators did in Book 7, this volume starts with an exploration of fandom. A young idol, a girl famous for being cute, is finding creepy possessed dolls in her apartment. She assumes they’re being left by obsessed fans, but when the toys move on their own, that suggests something more.
The best part of this story is how involved Kereellis gets. That’s the alien puppet, channeled by Yata, who reacts in a protective fashion toward the dolls. Of course, the idea of a doll moving on its own is a staple of horror fiction, but combining the concept with a star told to act young gives it new context, especially with the introduction of a real-life doll temple (providing that air of exoticism for the U.S. reader that comes with the odder elements of Japanese culture).
I admit, I’m not really sure why this story ends the way it does — the authors want to make a point about fans and idols symbiotically needing each other, but I can’t figure out how that justifies what the Corpse Delivery Service does, or why it was necessary. It seems a bit rushed in the ending, with perhaps too many elements not given quite enough space.
The next story continues exploring the desire to look, with an almost-invisible man (only the head is visible) zooming around on a motorcycle and being caught peeping at naked women in a locker room. (Plenty of fan service in this volume as a result, although it’s a realistic treatment of what a nerd who gains the ability to disappear would actually do.) This section emphasizes the series’ science fiction tendencies, and those who’ve thought about the technology behind invisibility powers will appreciate how the key flaw is used here: someone fully invisible would be blind, since light rays wouldn’t hit their eyes.
The last section tackles politics and history in an ear-focused story that reminded me of Book 7, which also involved the concept of “listening ears”, spiritually enhanced people who could hear voices silent to most. In this case, it’s a group of child oracles. We also get to meet again the nurse from Book 8, in a nice return cameo.
The story is ambitious, but like the first one, it didn’t quite come together for me as tightly as I would have liked. While reading it, I was caught up in the events, wanting to know what would happen next, but reflection afterwards left me vaguely unsatisfied. I suspect the idea of government officials listening to secret power brokers with unpleasant war records might have a bit more resonance with the Japanese.
A final story reveals background for both Keiko and Yata (as well as a partial origin for Kereellis). Like the other members of the team — at least those whose history we’ve seen so far — they became orphans young due to family trauma. The story reminded me that we don’t see as much of the women in the group as I’d like. Both Keiko and Sasaki are convenient plot devices, with much of the action falling on the three guys.