A consumer warning. That’s about all this manga deserves. A radioactive label to keep potential customers away from this glistening turd.

But here’s a synopsis for those of a more masochistic disposition: A nerdy, bespectacled student becomes a kind of psychic detective after a near death experience. Saved through the intervention of a girl companion, he achieves a kind of mystical insight (funneled through his artistic abilities) and staves off the clutches of death by helping his school mates through their various childhood traumas.

It should be noted that this comic is produced by one of the more respected alternative cartoonists working in manga today. Usamaru Furuya was first introduced to the English speaking world through his groundbreaking (apparently) but thoroughly underwhelming “Palepoli” in Secret Comics Japan. His most highly rated work in the West may be Garden, an extended meditation on Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, the attractions of which lie in its extended foray into strange imagery.

This is undoubtedly Furuya’s chief asset as an artist and he deploys this in spurts throughout the work at hand. Furuya’s approach is akin to a type of popular surrealism which owes much to Dali and Magritte, a vision which suffers immeasurably when the personal symbolism at work in them is deciphered and interpreted over the course of his narratives. The following image, for example, portrays a familial misunderstanding about home finances…

…the next some run-of-the-mill introversion as well as a false perception of a female classmate.

I’ve highlighted the latter image because of its connection to Furuya’s single most interesting perversion. The male high school student who is the focus of this particular adventure mistakenly believes that his classmate has been forced to pose for an S&M Lolita magazine because of financial difficulties. In reality, she has willingly acceded to it at the behest of her photographer father. In other words, she’s a happy and well-adjusted girl.

[Not from the manga]

Any parental misdemeanors are shrugged off with a bit of finger (and tongue) wagging in the following panels:

“A father wouldn’t usually do that to his daughter. He must not have any common sense.”

This is probably the height of deviance which Furuya achieves in this comic which was serialized in Jump SQ (a shonen magazine, in case you can’t tell from the age of the protagonist), a kind of artistic premature ejaculation tinged with incestuous longing; a fantasy which still pales in comparison to an aberrant reality where Dario Argento joyfully directed his daughter, Asia Argento, in a rape scene in The Stendhal Syndrome when she was 20.

This furious undercutting of his illustrations with the most insipid of explanations would seem to be Furuya’s acquiescence to commercial dictates; the plodding plotlines the mark of a regurgitating hack. Other stories in this first volume include a standard issue tale of sibling rivalry and another related to some mental trauma due to the loss of a pet bunny in childhood. Both of these tales reflect Furuya’s arid imagination, his inability to cope with any form of long form narrative and his very low opinion of female psychological make-up. Overdosing on television trash like Ghost Whisperer would be preferable to this. Avoid.

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