Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: Tousei Gensou Hakubutsushi

Tousei Gensou Hakubutsushi, by Shuu Katayama. Grade: B+
I was first attracted to this manga by the cover art. It looked elegant in a historic kind of way, and after reading the Manga Fox description, I kind of wanted to see what a Showa-era mystery story would be like. The title translates to "Modern Illusion Natural History Magazine", but it's not really a good indicator of what the story is about.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.
Image taken from Manga Fox.)

Things start out very similar to the Witch's house in XXXholic, with the youth, Shinobu, working his father's second-hand shop. A neighbor receives a weird telescope from a shady character, and while looking through it, sees a person's soul escaping their body. The neighbor gives the item to Shinobu, and he solves the case much like the Witch of Time would. The next few stories follow a similar trend, with strange items being given to Shinobu, and his discovering ways to diffuse any extant dangers. With time, we learn that he does go to school, but has to be told how to act like a normal person. His father is a recluse, locked up in his room, and will go into rages if the boy takes risks of harming himself, or forgets to take his "medicine" (in place of regular food). It's pretty obvious halfway through that Shinobu is not human in the regular sense, so the rest of the tale revolves around what he really is, and how he came to be this way.

There's a lot of lighthearted humor in with the grimness, and the thin veneer of reality is often pulled back to the show the strangeness that lurks just below the surface of 1920's/30's Japan. Towards the end, the detective stories that were featured in the beginning, are completely gone, and it just becomes a struggle for Shinobu's continuing existence.

The artwork is a bit crude and inconsistent, but the backgrounds are good, and the characters are interesting. I especially like the super maid who doubles as Shinobu's bodyguard. The series only runs 25 chapters (or 3 volumes) and number 24 just hit Manga Fox in the middle of March. So, if you want to see everything from the beginning to the end in one sitting, you should be able to pretty soon. Personally, I would have liked to see more of the mysteries, and for this title to continue for at least another 2-3 volumes, but, hey, what can you do? If you like the metaphysical aspect of XXXholic, then you'll probably like Tousei Gensou. Recommended.

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