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- Kamisama Kiss
Kirie Goshima, daughter of a potter, attends Kurozu High in the city of the same name, a place known for its whirlwinds and dust devils and, according to her boyfriend Shuichi, a place cursed by spirals. Although Kirie initially dismisses his theories, too many strange things directly related to spirals begin to happen for her to ignore the connection for long. She watches as dangerous obsessions with, and fears of, spirals lead to the gruesome destruction of various individuals, and how the smoke from a crematorium turns into spirals itself. A friend of Kirie's who's always had success with boys due to, she believes, a scar on her forehead find herself in trouble when that scar turns into a spiral, and spirals become a factor for young lovers separated by warring families, too. Even Kirie herself get directly affected when her hair starts to take on spiral curls, drawing her unwanted attention and even seeming to develop a mind of its own.
Is there something inherently creepy about spirals, about the way they can make you dizzy if you stare at them for too long, or the way they always draw your attention towards the center? Manga-ka Kunki Ito certainly seems to think so, and does his damnedest to try to convince the reader of that, too, in this Eisner Award-nominated manga which has already seen its own live-action adaptation. Though not especially graphic and certainly not gory (at least not in the conventional sense), Ito still does what he can to gross people out with disturbing distortions of the body and manic obsessions.
Its effectiveness, however, will be widely varied. For all the effort Ito puts into making spirals seem sinister, some readers are going to have difficulty buying into it because much of what happens here, if looked at in a different light, is rather silly. The last chapter, which focuses on Kirie's hair going nuts, is a particular eye-roller that is just a little too preposterous to be at all scary or unnerving. The first two-chapter arc, about the man who becomes so obsessed with spirals that he tries to turn himself into one and his wife going insane with her fear of them, works far better, with the scene involving the tub being the title's hallmark moment, but only sporadically afterward does the volume regain that level of intensity.
Though Kirie is the main character, with the exception of the last chapter she is more at the center of events, and an observer to them, than an actual participant, with boyfriend Shuichi functioning more often as the outsider regularly drawn into the mess. Each of the five loosely-connected stories spread across these six chapters actually focuses on different citizens of Kurozu, with Kirie being the only story feature player to survive her ordeal – and even in her case it could be argued that another girl is actually the real spiral victim. The brevity of the stories forces the writing to quickly realize the characterizations, but in this area Ito shows great skill.
Ito's visual style favors busy artwork featuring heavy lines, ample dark shading, plenty of detail, and lots of shouting. It may not be the cleanest or most refined manga artistry you'll see but still look good and fits the horror overtones. Kirie makes for an attractive lead but also has the simplest design and least definition of any of the characters, who each have their own distinct looks that invariably include properly-proportioned eyes (except when they are bugging out, of course). The most visually disturbing content also gets the finest detail, and despite the Teen+ rating it never even comes remotely close to offering any fan service.
Viz Media's production of the title features a sharp all-black cover with a glossy outline of Kirie that can only be seen face-on. (Special Note: The profile of Kirie in the actual cover art is a mirror image of what is shown above.) It translates all of the sound effects and includes both an “About the Author” page and an illustrated two-page Afterword where Ito describes his research into the mysteries of the spiral. Its first four pages are also all done in full color.
Some horror fans will undoubtedly find this collection of loosely-connected tales about a town seemingly cursed by spirals to be to their taste, but its lack of a consistent compelling edge prevents it from being a great work. Despite a sharp cover, its appeal is likely to be limited.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Sharp cover, good character design, some true gross-out moments.
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