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by MrAJCosplay,

Dark Gathering

GN 1

Dark Gathering GN 1

Keitarou Gentouga is a college freshman who hates ghosts. Unluckily for him, he has a knack for attracting spirits. Two years ago, this connection had led to him receiving a spiritual injury on his right hand, with his friend getting caught in the crossfire. The event caused him to become a shut-in, leaving him with very poor social skills. Fortunately, Keitarou is slowly starting to mingle with society, thanks to the help of his childhood friend, Eiko Houzuki.

As part of his rehabilitation, Keitarou takes on the part-time job of a private tutor, and his first pupil is none other than Eiko's cousin, Yayoi Houzuki. Besides being a child prodigy, there is another peculiarity regarding Yayoi—she has a spiritual constitution, just like Keitarou. However, in contrast to Keitarou, she yearns to encounter spirits, hoping to find the ghost that took her mother away. As Keitarou is dragged along by Yayoi and Eiko to haunted spots, his part-time job seems to be straying further and further away from its original purpose.

Dark Gathering was translated by Christine Dashiell and lettered by Evan Waldinger.


When I looked at the cover of this volume and saw a cute little girl with skulls in her eyes, I thought I was going to read a relatively light-hearted story with an edgy, dark aesthetic. I could not have been more wrong because what I ended up reading was somewhere along the lines of a Junji Ito story mixed with some kind of supernatural action series! Ok, maybe that's going a bit too far but I mean it when I say I wasn't expecting to be genuinely off-put and terrified from reading Dark Gathering. Make no mistake, this surprise isn't a downside because the fact that this story was able to genuinely unsettle me is probably the highest praise I can give it considering that that seemed to be the story's intention from the beginning.

A lot of that comes down to the book's aesthetic and style of presentation. While most of the character designs can come off as rather generic outside of our mascot character Yayoi, Dark Gathering makes up for that with some unsettling and twisted supernatural encounters. The artwork can get surprisingly detailed when it wants to be and portrays some rather believable acts of body horror from hands with exposed nerve endings to one of our leads nearly suffocating by having hair jammed down his throat. The actual impact of a lot of scenes is portrayed in a very visceral way to the point where I genuinely winced after turning certain pages because of the blood that was shown and what was being done to some of the characters. Plus, while many of the character designs are very basic, there were some facial expressions that helped leave a lasting impact.

His artwork helped portray a rather cruel and visceral tone. Don't let the cute girl with the skulls in her eyes fool you, this is a rather violent story with characters nearly dying from being strangled, blood being shown rather casually and everyone presenting themselves with this surprisingly subtle sense of twisted cruelty. This is a book where characters can joke about a little girl seducing a young adult in one scene while having that same little girl torturing an evil spirit by putting it through excruciating pain in the next. Granted this can result in some emotional whiplash (not helped by the fact that each chapter ends with a sort of outtake gag), but it's not nearly as severe as I thought it would be since the tone never feels too light-hearted. The focus is primarily on Yayoi's desire to seek vengeance on the spirit that kidnapped her mother and Keitarou's undesired role in this entire story.

In fact, the way that Dark Gathering handles its character portrayal is probably its biggest strength since it's able to straddle that line between making the characters likable while also making me genuinely afraid of what they are capable of. There is this air of mystery revolving around what everyone's intentions are when it comes to the supernatural, whether it's how far Yayoi will go to accomplish her goals, how Keitarou really feels about all the supernatural stuff that he attracts, and how Eiko seemingly allows all of this violent stuff to happen around her. The book does cheat a little bit with some of its narrative reveals by keeping some character names vague in some scenes when it really has no reason outside of deliberately withholding that information for the sake of a dramatic reveal later on. But aside from that, I was pleasantly surprised with the story's ability to hit me on multiple levels of engagement in a very organic way.

Dark Gathering was a pleasant surprise. As someone who doesn't immediately go for stuff that falls into the horror genre due to my own squeamishness around body horror, I'm not sure how quickly I'll jump into the next volume when it becomes available. But the fact that someone like me couldn't put the book down once its tone was made apparent is a testament to just how engaging of a story this was. While I do think that some narrative points could've been revealed a bit more organically, the book's sense of style and unsettling atmosphere did feel warranted. Combine this with characters whose motivations genuinely kept me guessing and what I was left with was a book that kept me on the edge of my seat in all of the best ways.

Overall : A-
Story : B+
Art : A

+ Very visceral artwork that can feel very unsettling, characters kept me guessing regarding their interests and motivations
Some emotional whiplash when the story tries to be cute or funny, the story cheats a little bit with some of its reveals

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Kenichi Kondō
Licensed by: Viz Media

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