Curses and spirits and puberty, oh my!
192 Pages B&W; $10.95
(W: Fuyumi Ono; I: Shiho Inada)
Let’s face it, what student hasn’t dreamt of getting revenge on a smarmy principal? The cultic success of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off alone should be proof of that. Imagine living in a world where there was a possibility of exacting that revenge without getting caught. The supernaturally-charged world of Fuyumi Ono’s Ghost Hunt is precisely that kind of place, horror-filled and riddled with magic, psychics, exorcists, spirits, and perhaps the most dreaded beast of them all-the giddy school girl.
What begins as an innocent game among disgruntled students turns into a strange series of deaths on behalf of a kodoku, a spirit of immense evil that gains its power by cannibalizing its own kind before destroying the curse’s intended target. In this case, the victim is Hideaki Matsuyama, the embodiment of everything wrong with school. Fortunately for him, there are countermeasures available, such as Shibuya Psychic Research, a team trained to deal with supernatural threats.
Kazuya Shibuya, a blatant narcissist, heads the team accompanied by Lin-san, Kazuya’s associate; Masako Hara, an exorcist; John Brown, another exorcist with a Kansai (read: party-casual) dialect; Houshou Takigawa, a former monk; Ayako Matsuzaki, a self-proclaimed “miko” or Shinto priestess; and Mai Taniyama, a 16-year-old student with visions.
Yet despite all these elements, Ono fails to fully capture the reader’s attention with this bland group dynamic. The story rides on the mystery of the cannibal kodoku and its growing power, but does not really explore the atmospheric side of horror. The tale of the kodoku itself is actually rather creepy, and applause to Ono for including it, but ultimately it is not enough to disrupt the watered-down scariness, which might be a result of the age restrictions of the manga. The curse comes across more as petty and simple when it could’ve been so much more for the story if it had more than the weight of teen angst to drive it.
Still, Shiho Inada’s artwork is engaging, with great tones and fascinating vision sequences that lend a certain dreaminess to the story. (I could do without the strange side-panel asides from the artist, but again, that also might be age talking.) The characters are relatively expressive when they’re not giving faraway stares that so often accompany supernatural visions. Some great dynamic panels in the spirit-banishment scenes as well. Unfortunately, the story is a bit less engaging than one might hope, but nevertheless, it is an interesting subject and a far cry from something to avoid. Give it a shot. | James Nokes