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Published: December 15th 2015 by Yen Press
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Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi (Vol. 1) was so bizarre that I’m not even sure where to begin. I found the book at a small Japanese snack shop in Union Market in DC. It was sitting by the checkout counter, and I can’t resist buying books. So I brought it home and started reading.
The book begins as a sheltered boy who grew up at a shrine makes his way down the mountain with his fox spirit friend to attend a local festival. He isn’t really supposed to have left the shrine, but couldn’t resist the call of adventure. And as Yue explores the festival, we can quickly see that he isn’t used to interacting with humans, but nobody seems to notice anything amiss or pay him any attention. He meets two boys while he is out, and they are the only people who seem to notice that Yue even exists. Upon returning to the shrine, Yue is told that one of them shall become his Meal.
The art and writing are dreamlike and surreal. We hear a lot about the Meal, but never enough to know exactly what it entails. We know that it’s special for those at the shrine, and is seen as a rite of passage. It’s described in the kind of way you’d expect to hear about menstruation or a first sexual encounter, in a “you’ll know when it’s time” or “you’ll understand when you’re older” and “don’t worry so much about it, everything will be okay and make sense when the time comes” type of way. But making a Meal out of a person has sinister connotations, and the interplay between the innocence of childhood and the thought of potential murder/cannibalism contrasts in such a delightful yet ominous way. We see Yue wanting to grow up and fit in with his older acquaintances, but also fearing the future and what it might bring.
This is the kind of manga that’s fascinating, but when you finish the volume, your main thought will be, “…what the hell did I just read?”
Verdict: If I see another volume on clearance somewhere, maybe I’ll pick it up, but I’m not sure that I’d seek it out at full price. It’s bizarre and surreal, but it doesn’t pull me in the way that some of the other manga series that I’m reading do.