Mail Vol. 1 (Dark Horse)

mailheaderIf there's something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Detective Akiba, that's who.

 

 

 

208 pgs B&W; $10.95

(W/A: Housui Yamazaki)

 

It's just another day on the job for Detective Akiba, but instead of solving murders and kidnappings, he's solving ghost stories. In the first installment of the new series from Housui Yamazaki, the creator of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, a string of mysterious hauntings are solved by the tall, dark, and spooky Akiba. Mail shows a lot of potential for readers looking for interesting, simple ghost stories-without a lot of the gore usually seen in horror manga.

 

Each of the six tales in Mail features a different haunting; a few classic set-ups include a dead girl who hasn't stopped playing hide-and-seek, a ghost who shows up during a photo shoot, and a car possessed by the spirit of a scared little boy. Who ya gonna call? Reiji Akiba, detective of the macabre. He's been chosen through ancient tradition to carry Kagutsuchi the spirit gun and dedicates his life to fighting evil. A bit off-kilter but still inexplicably suave, Akiba is Fox "Spooky" Mulder with a little bit of Dirty Harry thrown in.

 

While the ghosts are all different, the six yarns in Mail seem at times to be slight variations on the same formula. First, a pretty girl is terrorized by a ghost. She calls Akiba, who shows up in the nick of time and explains to everyone the ghost's origin and motivations. Then Akiba says a prayer and shoots the spirit with Kagutsuchi and ends with a great one-liner. The exception to this is the volume's final story, which tells Akiba's origin. To avoid the feeling of déjà vu, read each story by itself rather than reading the book cover to cover.

 

 Despite their predictability, Mail's chronicles are well written and nicely illustrated. Yamazaki is a great storyteller, and his ghosts may recall to readers the lore of urban legends exchanged at a seventh-grade sleepover party. The art is very clean, and avoids the tendency of the genre to match the darkness of the subject matter. Details like facial expressions are never lost to overwhelming shadows, and there are no scenes of exaggerated carnage. His characters suffer in recognizable places and situations, often in the light of day. Yamazaki understands that in horror, nothing is more effective than mystery and realism.

 

Mail is probably not the book for horror enthusiasts who love gross monsters and buckets of blood. But for someone who loves classic horror movies and ghost stories, it could be a very good read. Hopefully Yamazaki will learn to break the mold of his formulaic story structure in the next volume, due to come out at the end of January. With a protagonist like Akiba, and a unique approach to horror Mail could become a standout series on the supernatural.

Click the thumbnails for a 4-page preview, courtesy of DarkHorse.com!

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