The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
What's It About?Yuri Honjo turns around and comes face-to-face with a masked murderer in the process of gruesomely slaughtering a man. Utterly confused, Yuri makes a run for it, only to discover all the stairways leading down in the building in which she finds herself are blocked off—leaving her with no choice but to escape to the roof. There, she sees she's not in Tokyo anymore, but in a non-descript metropolis filled with nothing but high-rise buildings. Her only escape is from one rooftop to the next on rickety, perilous rope bridges. Outrunning the masked killer, she manages to get a hold of her older brother on her phone and discovers he's trapped in this world, too—as are other hapless victims. The masked murderer after Yuri is only the first of many mindless, resilient masked villains she encounters, and though her determination to survive is strong, Yuri eventually realizes that the only way to get these killers off her back may be to take a leap off a high-rise and end the suffering once and for all.
High-rise Invasion omnibus volumes 1-2 (6/12/2018) is an original manga written by Tsuina Miura, creator of Ajin, and drawn by Takahiro Ōba. It will be available in paperback for $19.99 from Seven Seas Entertainment. The digital version is available as separate volumes for $9.99 each on comiXology.
Is It Worth Reading?Amy McNulty
High-rise Invasion is trash—but it's compulsively readable trash. As the reader is tossed into the middle of Yuri's first few moments in this alternate dimension of endless skyscrapers, there's little time to get to know this schoolgirl and empathize with her as a character. Even the cursory explanation of what led up to her being transported does little to satisfy—the mystery of what this place is and how people can hope to survive it is frustratingly vague. However, that proves less bothersome as the events unfold and the reader is caught up in the breakneck pace of killers lurking around virtually every corner. As is true in many dystopian fiction, even other human survivors aren't always trustworthy, assuring Yuri can hardly ever let her guard down. By the end of the second volume—even by the end of the first—Yuri has developed into enough of a strong-willed, rational survivor to make her feel like more than just the bishojo thrown this way and that for some gratuitous panty shots. She does what it takes to keep going and will work with others and work to save others so long as it doesn't put herself in too much danger—even managing to make a friend out of Nise, the sociopath schoolgirl who sees nothing wrong with slaughtering other victims to ensure her own survival. The fact that even Nise seems empathetic by the end of this omnibus collection thanks to Yuri's influence is impressive.
Despite the thus-far shallow backstory, Yuri's fixation on finding her brother—though it does give her an external goal beyond survival—becomes grating as the series goes on, as does the manga's refusal to show his face, practically telecasting that he's going to show up as a villain and the reader won't know it at first since we don't know what he looks like. (Based on some hints, perhaps he's shown up already.) Reuniting with a loved one in such a situation isa noble goal, but there are hints of an obsession-level of squick in this brother-sister relationship.
Oba's art is brutal and but not uncompromising, showing off plenty of blood but rarely going into too much detail with the gore. Yuri's design doesn't particularly stand out, but the fact that the masked serial killers all have their own unique designs (other than the mask) give the character designs some appeal. Backgrounds are limited to the endless skyscrapers and sterile office-like interiors of the buildings, but they're never underused, establishing this world as something like an inescapable office from hell.
High-rise Invasion omnibus volumes 1-2 is not for everyone, but survival horror enthusiasts will find themselves quickly flipping through the pages. Characterization starts shallow and there's a thin layer of gratuity when it comes to sexualization and violence, but by the end of this collection, the characters will have grown on the audience. High-rise Invasion may not be great art, but it more than adequately entertains.
Here's an isekai series that leaves the fantasy setting behind in favor of a fast-paced thriller. High school girl Yuri finds herself transported into a city where the only way to go is up. Unable to escape to the ground level, she's pursued by masked murders with simple bludgeoning weapons on the rooftops. Writer Miura creates a simple but sinister game for Yuri to navigate; find her brother while avoiding her potential murderers or jump to her death. The story continues to test Yuri's psychological limits as other displaced people meet their deaths all around her.
Yuri herself though is scrappy. She's determined to find her way out and survive and also reunite with her brother who is somewhere among the high-rise buildings. The story keeps its details close to its chest; the mechanics behind the killers is initially only hinted at and Yuri's encounters with other survivors quickly establishes that not all the dangerous people are wearing masks.
High-rise Invasion is like a pulpy B-horror movie. There's a fair amount of sexual leering from frame to frame and artist Takahiro Ōba takes his fair share of opportunities to angle the artwork so viewers get peeks underneath Yuri's skirt. This does culminate in an attempted sexual assault in the first half. The story isn't above putting its heroine the way of sexual violence to serve its high-tension stakes, but it felt like a low point overall. The manga might center around a female character, but it's pretty clear that she's framed to entice male readership overall, right down to her big brother complex.
Even though I couldn't get into Yuri as an overall character, I did find the premise and fast-paced chapters easy to get sucked into. The idea is certainly different than a lot of the “over world” stories we're getting right now, and so long as it doesn't fall apart trying to make sense of its strange circumstances, High-rise Invasion is a popcorn flick kind of read that'll keep you flipping pages until the end.
If there's one thing this omnibus release of the first two volumes of High-rise Invasion has going for it, it's its heroine Yuri. Yuri may be scared out of her mind, a little too attached to her older brother, and drawn like she's always listing to the side, but she's also remarkably good at thinking things through. Even when she does have a moment of panic and comes close to losing her head, she's able to talk herself down and snap back to a more reasonable state of mind. Not only is that a good trait to have in a survival horror story, it's also one that's often in short supply when the lead character is young, cute, and female.
It's also especially good because the base story isn't anything particularly special – people somehow whisked away to an alternate world that's either game-based or an actual twisted game where they're encouraged to kill themselves by jumping off of the skyscrapers they're all trapped on. If they don't want to die on their own, there are people in creepy masks with various deadly weapons willing and able to kill them instead. That the masks are other people brought to the world who found “Angel Kits” is an interesting twist, especially since we know that shortly after Yuri manages to contact her brother via cellphone he must have found one. If the masks can be removed, there's at least a slight chance that the wearers can be restored to sanity (although that's in serious question later on), so all may not be lost concerning Yuri's brother…but given how unhealthily attached to him she seems to be, I wouldn't pin my hopes on that happening. It feels much more likely that everyone was brought here because of some perceived issue or failing that they have that is unacceptable to or misunderstood by society at large, and if they can overcome it and survive, they'll “win.”
That's by no means a certainty, however, and it could just as easily be a “love conquers all” situation as well. If there's no deeper meaning to the world and Yuri finding her strength, then that's going to be a big issue, because there's not much going on plot-wise. Yuri encounters a variety of other people, both masked and not, who have also been brought to the high-rise world, but she learns very little from or about them before they also die. We certainly see that no one else is holding up under pressure quite like Yuri is, and that could be because she's got a dual goal here – get out AND find her brother. That this doesn't become fully clear until the second volume in the omnibus makes it a good choice to have chosen this format for publication; while the first volume is decent survival horror, the second is where you start to actually get invested.
The art deserves credit for not delighting in fanservice elements, either by sexualizing Yuri (we do see a few upskirts, but she wears a covering camisole rather than a skimpy bra under her shirt, so that lessens the exploitative elements) or with excessive gore. There is blood, and there are plenty of scenes that imply terrible violence, but the book isn't drenched in it. I think this may be one of those titles that gets better as it goes on, so if you're a fan of the genre, it's worth checking this out.
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