Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
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Praise for Dark Horse

American Publisher of MPD Psycho, Gantz and Ghost Talker's Daydream

by McCamy Taylor

??? Dark Horse, publisher of Frank Miller's Sin City series, is not afraid of grown up manga. By "grown up", I mean stories that have a lot of violence and nudity that is necessary for the plot . Well, mostly necessary for the plot. For example, they have released seven volumes of the twelve volume plus series MPD Psycho written by Otsuka Eiji and drawn by Tajima Sho-u. MPD Psycho answers the question "What do you do when you are a police detective and the serial killer you have been pursuing decides to send your dismembered but still living girl friend to you in a box?" If you are Kobayashi Yousuke, and you have a barcode on your left eye just like the barcodes on the eyes of Japan's worst serial killers, you switch personalities so that you can exact your revenge. And then you change personalities again, so that some other guy has to serve your prison term. This manga starts out as suspense thriller, with Kobayashi's super cool and collected detective persona, Kazuhiko Amamiya solving all the toughest murder cases and his scary, Shinji Nishizono personality tidying up the lose ends--like what exactly do you do with a guy who likes to open up living women's heads so that he can plant daffodil bulbs in their brains? In later volumes, the story takes a sci-fi turn, as the secrets of the barcodes--and personalities that are shared by multiple people--are revealed.


Another notable title that Dark Horse has recently brought to the U.S. is Gantz , by Oku Hiroya. In this manga, the nudity is not necessary for the plot. The author just likes to hand out fan service in the form of scantily clad women who are featured on the cover pages in situations that never actually happen in the story. The characters of this one, two high school kids named Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato are much too busy fighting for their lives to have much time left for fun. Gantz answers the question "What do you do, when the mangaka was silly enough to kill off his two main characters in the first scene?" If you are Oku Hiroya, you offer them a real life reset button in the form of a black sphere named Gantz that issues such statements such as "Your lives have ended. What you do with your new lives is entirely up to me." Gantz's idea of a good time is having people from all walks of life--kids, old women, even a dog and a panda--battle "aliens" that come in a variety of forms. Each adventure is tougher than the one before. If you fail a level, you die. Gantz is unusual in that you can not predict which characters will win (i.e survive) and which ones will lose (die) based upon their strengths, weaknesses, likeability or any other quality. Everyone in this manga dies. And dies again. The question becomes "Which ones are worthy of being brought back?" The other question--still unanswered after 25 volumes--is "Why the hell is Gantz playing this game?"

Ghost Talker's Daydream , written by Saki Okuse and illustrated by Sankichi Meguro features a female hero, who is a dominatrix by trade and an exorcist by calling. Since this is manga, Saiki Misaki is a dominatrix who also happens to be a virgin--because all Japanese men know that the hottest women are always virgins. That does not stop her from providing the fan service herself, in the form of bondage gear that she wears even when she is battling ghosts. Misaki hates both of her jobs. An albino devoid of body hair below the neck, her greatest hope is that she will one day grow pubic hair. This manga answers the question "What do you do when ghosts won't stop talking to you and perverts won't stop stalking you?" Only one of the ten volumes has been released so far in America.

The writers and artists of these three highly improbable stories make their manga work by developing their characters. Each series features interestingly flawed protagonists along with a wide assortment of colorful side characters. Unlike some Japanese titles, which emphasize story over illustration, the black and white artwork of all three series is first rate.

Thank you, Dark Horse, for daring to bring three risky titles to America.

© 2009 McCamy Taylor

Bio: C'mon. You know who McCamy Taylor is... Former Aphelion Assistant Short Story Editor, now Serials and Novellas Editor, author of many stories in Aphelion and elsewhere. Use Google to catch up on her more recent work. It's worth the effort.

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