Mail vol. 2 (Dark Horse)

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The latest volume of this thoughtful horror series finds the mysterious pyshic detective Akiba with plenty of new ghosts to bust.

 

 

208 pgs B&W; $10.95

(W / A: Housui Yamazaki)

 

 

Detective Akiba is back on the case and banishing ghosts in the second volume of Housui Yamazaki's Mail. Six new stories showcase creepy hauntings that can only be stopped by the psychic Akiba and his spirit gun Kagutsuchi. Without fail, he delivers the spirits to their final resting place, where they terrorize their victims no more.

 

Click thumbnail for a larger image.Mail's second installment does little to build on the character of Detective Akiba, and because he is not re-introduced here, new readers of the series should pick up the first book before they read this one. It is unfortunate that Akiba's character is not developed further, because he is extremely interesting. The audience should see more of his weaknesses and personality, rather than just his deductive reasoning skills and gun-wielding heroics.

 

Yamazaki, whose series The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is also released stateside by Dark Horse, does make an effort for more varied story structures than in the first volume. This time out, the detective is sometimes a character throughout the story rather than showing up only at the critical moment, and is not always the one to save the day. Yamazaki also takes risks with settings and pacing. This makes it much easier to read the book cover to cover without feeling a strong sense of déjà vu.

 

This volume is a bit heavier-handed with horror-themed violence. A few stories are much darker than any of the offerings in the first book, and have the gore that was previously nowhere to be found in Mail. Volume two is not for children or the very faint of heart.

 

The stories themselves are a bit uneven; some are fairly forgettable, especially the final story involving a painting haunted by the ghost of a little girl. The first story in the volume, centering on a possessed baby doll, fails to make up for the lack of originality in its premise. "Cottage" — a tale about three girls staying at a cabin in the woods — has a lot of potential, but is too short and suffers from poor pacing.

 

One story in the collection really stands out as an example of great story telling. "Graduation" opens with Akiba as a passenger picked up while hitchhiking. The woman driving is visiting her hometown in the country, but when her car's navigation system mysteriously malfunctions she and Akiba must face the skeletons in her closet. This story strays the furthest from the formula Yamazaki tends to use in Mail, and is far and away the most successful. It's engrossing, well paced, and really shows the writer's talent for ghost stories and the potential of this series.

 

For fans of Housui Yamazaki and of well-written horror manga, Mail is a nice treat. More thoughtful than many books in the genre, and less gore-filled, the series seems to be growing more interesting as Yamazaki is more willing to experiment with the stories and characters. Hopefully this trend will continue; if it does, Mail is destined to become a classic. | Elizabeth Bolhafner

 

Click here to read a 4-page preview of Mail Vol. 2, courtesy of Dark Horse!

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