Shaenon gets competitive with the fan-favorite card-flinging romance manga Chihayafuru.
Reviewby Melissa Harper, Oct 29th 2006
G. Novel 1
Private Detective Makoto is assigned a mysterious case: find a wiccan witch. No information is given except that the target will be a passenger on the 5 o'clock bus. But when Makoto boards the bus, he finds out that there is more to this case that he was originally led to believe; much more including a hijacked bus full of witches, witch hunters, and a mysterious contest to survive.
Innocent W, by Kei Kusunoki, is a breathtakingly well-told story. The pages almost seem to turn themselves as you rip through the first installment of this gripping tale of horror and suspense. From the very first page, the reader is sucked in; trapped nearly as much as the contestants in the bizarre game of the story.
The novel opens to a scene of gruesome terror; there has been a bus accident, and many of the people on the bus were horribly wounded. It then flashes back to the story of how one particular passenger ended up on the bus. Makoto is a private detective with an almost supernatural ability to find people. He is asked to find a person, know only that they would be riding the five o'clock bus. Shortly after boarding, he discovers that he's not the only passenger on the bus with talents. In fact, every passenger on the bus turns out to be involved in some sort of witchcraft. This is of course not a coincidence; someone wants them on that bus for a horrible reason.
Each of the characters involved is on the bus because she, or in Makoto's case he, is a witch. Each is a different sort of witch, and there is an excellent level of diversity in the characters. Each one has her own area of expertise, and a unique personality to match. One girl is a famous tarot card reader, who doesn't accept the consequences for her interpretation of the readings. There are twin girls, one who can see and the other who can hear the dead. Also in this makeshift maven is a mysterious girl with an inability to be harmed, a charm specialist who claims to only heal injuries done by dark magic, and a medium who can only read the future when she is asleep. This medium turns out to be the most helpful plot device in the entire story; without her, no one would know anything about the witch-hunt at all. She is the most seriously injured on the bus, and in her delirium, she speaks for the hunter, identifying his purposes and the obstacles that lay ahead. A very handy character, both in the story and for the author!
The characters all look good too; each one has a look befitting the personality ascribed to her, and the artwork is never uneven or sketchy. Much detail is given to the clothes and hairstyles of the characters, and their faces also manage to have some uniqueness as well. The designs may not be the most original, but everything is done in a clean and articulate way.
The art in this novel is all excellent quality. Along with the superb character designs, backgrounds are also surprisingly detailed and well rendered. Sometimes there is a little too much detail in darker scenes, which makes it difficult to actually see the details, but on the whole, the detail is both gorgeous and well suited to the panel that contains it.
Scenes of horror are among those terribly detailed panels, and there are plenty. Once the bus wrecks, the passengers are immediately thrown into a contest for their lives, and there are hunters enough to take them. There are enough hunters, actually, to dispose of four of the girls. While the pace of the novel is thrilling, Kusonoki could have easily drawn out the rate at which the deaths occur, which might be slightly less thrilling, but more suspenseful, and more satisfying.
Another negative is the initial back-story on Makoto. While it is a perfectly fine scene with some good information as to what the hunters are like, it is the only scene in the novel of any length that takes place outside of the events of the witch-hunt. It just feels out of place, and takes the reader out of the moment set up by the fabulously abrupt opening of the novel.
On the whole, this is one excellent horror novel that also delivers on suspense, mystery and all those little things that make a book great. From the opening page, covered with mass carnage and chaos, volume one of Innocent W starts, and ends, on the right foot.
Overall : A
Story : A
Art : A
+ Gripping story, excellent artwork on characters and background details.
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