Youka Nitta, 2010, Digital Manga Publishing

I was worried about reading this manga. The first and perhaps most “reasonable” reason (or, well, maybe not) is that I was frightened by Embracing Love as a child. At least, I was kind of turned off by the football player necks when the first volume came out, and I’ve stayed away ever since. I’m starting to think that might have been a mistake, but I can’t fix it now because the series is out of print and some of the volumes are woah!-surely-nobody’s-actually-paying-a-hundred-bucks-for-this-no-matter-how-good-the-sex-is expensive. The perhaps slightly less reasonable reason (again, this is obviously something of a judgment call) is that I hate starting a series and getting left in the lurch. I am immature and have abandonment issues and perhaps ought to consider Prozac (well, Fluoxetine Hcl, since my insurance insists on the generic), but I have a pathological fear of falling in love with a series and not being able to finish it. Or, you know, becoming somewhat interested in a series. Whatever. And a series by Youka Nitta is high risk, as far as abandonment goes.

Ms. Nitta left the industry for a while after an art-copying scandal in 2008, leaving several much-loved series on hiatus or dead or something. Nobody knew. Well, she is back (or so her new English-language Web site indicates), so maybe she’ll start working on Otodama again – but who knows? It’s unclear how derailed her career is. Not utterly, I hope, because damn it, I like this book (yes, it’s all about me). There’s apparently one more volume in Japan (which is not yet slated for publication in English, so far as I can tell – Doki Doki’s site doesn’t have any scheduled releases posted past summer 2010, which might just be a minor glitch but does nothing to ease my mind), and that volume does not conclude the storyline.

Only tangentially related aside
But in checking that out, I discovered that June is going to publish Ayano Yamane’s Target in the Finder series this summer! Holy shit, this is good news! I have the first two volumes in English but didn’t get the third before it went out of print, and I have suffered for years over this egregious lack of judgment. I even bought it in German because – well, we will not speak of that, but my German is only very slightly better than my Japanese, so I still need the English volume.

Back to the post
Speaking of Doki Doki (yes, we were), that reminds me of my only real objection to Otodama – no sex. (Doki Doki is DMP’s sex-free line, damn their eyes.) In discussing this sort of thing, people often say things like “it was so good, I didn’t even miss the sex,” and brava, I say to them, for they are obviously mature about their comics reading in a way that I am not. Because Nitta is an artist and author who is deservedly famous for her explicitly sexy yaoi, and I want her to put out, damn it. This is an enjoyable supernatural police story, and no, the utter lack of sex doesn’t leave any gaps or anything – but the setup is sexy, and this is Youka Nitta! There could be lots of hot sex! Why wouldn’t I want that? And the series might never be finished, so if she was building up to it slowly, we might never get there! Arrgh!

Sigh. Life is cruel, but we will try to go on as best we can, despite our lack of inner resources. (“We” meaning “me,” of course, although you should feel free to overly identify.) This manga – Otodama, the book about which I am ostensibly writing – is really very enjoyable. The story is solid – batshit crazy, but solid – and the boys are pretty. Their necks are not overly thick, you’ll be relieved to know.

The setup is ridiculous. The first chapter is called “Aural Hypersensitivity.” Which is pretty funny all on its own. The details are good, too. Kaname (the pretty blond without the stubble or cowboy hat, as opposed to the mysterious Shoei, the pretty blond with the stubble and the cowboy hat – and boots – and, um, chaps, WTF?) has hearing so acute he can perceive things nobody else can, including voices of the dead. He was once a forensic researcher who was known as “the ears of the police” and was “famous throughout the agency for his good looks.” He is now an “acoustical analysis expert” and naps in a sound-proof shelter. This cracks me up, all of it, but especially the sound-proof shelter. Non-stubble blond sometimes works with Hide (the one with spiked dark hair and no glasses) a private investigator, former police detective, and brother of the senior investigator, Superintendent Nagatsuma (the one with the non-spiked dark hair and glasses). Unstubbled blond and spiky brunette did a lot of police work together but resigned over the same case, several years ago, all of which becomes increasingly important and germane as the story progresses. (If the story progresses. Wah!!! The uncertainty! The humanity!)

Ahem. Anyway. I have decided against outlining the plot. There’s a lot of plot here, y’all. Too much plot to capture in a few hundred words. Which is nice, especially since you can actually follow it, and it makes sense (in a batshit crazy way, obviously). There are two stories in this book, the first one kind of independent of the second one, except for all the setup (and there’s so much setup it gets kind of awkward, but it pays off eventually). The second one is longer, and it develops a lot of what the first story alludes to. And the crimes are solved very scientifically. A cherished example: unstubbled blond listens to a recorded cell phone message the police weren’t able to make anything of, and he announces, “Your client’s voice is coming from behind the suspect… From the atmospheric reverb, I’m certain they’re in a car. From his voice, I’d say the facial structure is unusually narrow… He’s young, too, no older than thirty. He’s short, and I don’t hear any stress, so he may be unemployed.” That last bit is what seals the deal for me. That is quality pseudo-forensic babble.

There’s also a female character who serves a structural role in the story and is insanely hot. I see this as an unexpected bonus. Kinukitty does not read yaoi – or sort of implied boys love, in this case – for the female characters. This is not because I don’t like female characters. Far from it. I’m just not much good at multitasking, and when I’m reading yaoi, my focus is on the guys. Perhaps the near-tragic lack of physicality between any of the guys has allowed me to appreciate Superintendent Tadashiki.

Nitta’s layouts aren’t the star of the show, but she does provide lots of nice details in the art. When Acoustic Man puts on his headphones and slumps forward, listening to police recordings, he looks pained in a way that makes you want to give him a cookie and put him in bed for a nap. Or in his lounge chair in the sound-proof shelter. And when spiky-haired brunet watches him suffering, you feel his pain and discomfort, as well. There are some interesting visuals, too.

I like the legs progression, although I can’t see any reason for it. It doesn’t flow very well into the next page, where spiky-haired brunet is anguishing. (Twice.) I do like that image, though, on its own. The art pulls its weight in telling the story.

So, was it worth it? Did my Otodama experience justify all the angst? Er, yes. Thank you for asking. The story isn’t a cliff hanger, so, hysteria aside, it really does kind of work as just one volume. There’s a lovely and, yes, fulfilling connection between the two characters. It’s enough.

Would have been better with sex, though.

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