Nakoshi can see things in a crowd. The crowd isn’t wholly human, but something else.
I wouldn’t know if it’s accurate to categorize this manga as horror, but I am filled with it. It’s not so much the psychological mutilation that I see the characters undergo, but for two main things: the unreliable narrator that forces me doubt what I’m perceiving but not in an annoying, contrived way, and the deprivation in the fifth and sixth volume that is just too significant to spoil. Intense stuff, and excellently illustrated.
This begins as the story of a drifting character Nakoshi Susumu, 34 who spends his time with the homeless in a park in front of a big hotel. He sleeps in his car, and doesn’t count himself among the homeless, who tolerate him as a pathological liar because he ponies up for alcohol. Manabu Ito is a medical student who approaches Nakoshi with a rather indecent proposal: Y700,000.00 for a medical experiment – he’ll drill a hole in Nakoshi’s skull to see if he’ll awaken supernatural powers.
Soon enough, he starts seeing things, as if some – many people aren’t humans, but some kind of monsters. Only he can see these monstrous forms. I don’t want to spoil how this looks like for you, because it’s really worth seeing for yourself. Instead I’m going to ask you to use your imagination for a bit, but not without help:
The above image perhaps is how the trepanated Nakashi would see 21stcenturydigitalboy and myself had he encountered us on some Arctic beach, and if we were actually homunculi. As to what our homunculi forms say about ourselves, I can’t tell you, but I think you’ll have an idea once you’ve read deep into the manga.
It’s not difficult, because the layout is very straightforward, the paneling is mostly vertical, and the actual panels are quite large which is great because unlike the image I prepared, Yamamoto Hideo makes superb illustrations. Perhaps I can compare him to Asano Inio in terms of the cityscapes he makes, though Asano is more prone to write poetry with his illustrations as if to make love to his Tokyo, but Yamamoto is no slouch at all. I’d easily prefer Homunculus over Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph overall, not even close. But I’m not knocing Asano here, his drawings are gorgeous.
I would have to comb the manga to get equally striking cityscapes by Yamamoto, but the following images should indicate his skill.
The Christmas tree image is a nifty study in perspective, albeit not up to the level of the first example from Asano, which takes the perspective game to an extent of simulating a camera lens effect that plays with our depth perception.
I find that photorealistic illustrations work very well in communicating horror and dread. When something truly weird shows up, it really breaks with our notion of reality that the manga lulls us into and makes for a striking contrast – something that isn’t supposed to happen is happening. But as I said, it wasn’t the illustrations and the style that horrified me. It’s the dialogue-driven exposition, mainly how the characters in words and actions go beyond the very bones of each other and exposing the lies, deceits, inauthenticities that distinguish us from all the other animals.
13 volumes out of 15 are scanlated, and I’ve read them all, something like The Sixth Sense almost meets Mushishi meets The Picture of Dorian Gray almost meets Onani Master Kurosawa. It doesn’t go too far in becoming any single one of these works, but it is an interesting monster all on its own. Read it and get back to me. Those of you who have read it, let’s talk (just put SPOILER WARNING if you want to go deep into the bones of things – I do!).