Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
In These Words
Asano Katsuya is a US-trained psychiatrist working as a profiler for the Tokyo Police Department. Assigned the case of serial killer Shinohara Keiji, a sociopath who says he will only speak to Asano, the doctor begins having strange nightmares about a captivity and rape he doesn't think he remembers. What happened in his past? And what does Shinohara have to do with it?
Every so often a book comes along that is completely serious when it says that it is for mature readers. 801Media's release of Guilt/Pleasure's In These Words is one of them. Filled with explicit sequences of rape – one per chapter – and details of brutal crimes filtered through an overall sense of grim foreboding, this is not a book for the faint of heart.
The story begins unusually, with a text prologue. In these ten-odd pages, Asano meets a strange but well-dressed man several times at different cafes. He doesn't know who the man is, but clearly his pursuer knows precisely who Asano is. The prologue ends with the doctor awakening in a run down room after having been drugged, and the following pages, in manga format, give us the details of his capture, at least loosely. They also begin the sequence of Asano's rape by his unknown assailant, a man who claims to love him. These pages, and all of the rape scenes that follow, are disturbing. They are, for starters, clearly rape and not rape fantasy romance, although some four-panel comics in the back of the book make it unsettlingly clear that perhaps there is supposed to be a romantic element to them. Asano is being attacked sexually by a deranged predator, and there is really no way around that. If this makes you uncomfortable, or simply disgusts you, then do not read this book.
At first it is not obvious that these are dreams – something more pieced together from the back copy than the actual events of the story – but with that idea, the general miasma of doom takes hold even more firmly. Asano's assignment is to get a full confession from Shinohara, who is being held under guard – a single guard – in a house somewhere in Tokyo. During the interrogation, Asano must, for some reason, be completely isolated from the outside world. To facilitate this, he is housed in an empty police dormitory in a run-down sector of the city...that automatically locks when the door is closed. When added to Asano's troubled dreams, the overall atmosphere of the story works to create a real sense of foreboding and secrets kept just beneath the surface. There is an impression that Asano is in real danger and that he may be the only one unaware of the fact.
The art in In These Words is far and away superior to the writing, although the two do work well together. Done in varied shades of gray, the men run the gamut from excruciatingly handsome to dangerously unbalanced yet still attractive. Expressions are well realized and figures are reassuringly solid, making it clear that these are full grown men, not gangly boys, something that feels important given the explicit subject matter. Backgrounds are sparse, but that works for the unreal feeling of impending horror, giving everywhere a panic room feel that enhances the displaced feeling Asano has. The color pages in the front are beautiful, proving that the artist has just as deft a hand with colors as with black and white. The writing is at times stilted, eschewing contractions where they would have helped to make the dialog sound more natural, and has a few odd turns of phrase; both unusual traits in a DMP release. Nothing is enough to detract from the overall presentation of the story, however.
Read as a horror piece, In These Words does quite well. It is only when it slowly dawns on the reader (or perhaps on this apparently naïve reviewer) that there is meant to be an element of homoerotic romance in the story that it becomes disturbing and distasteful. Asano is clearly not enjoying being raped by his faceless attacker and just as clearly finds the killer he is interviewing dangerous and unattractive sexually. The uncomfortable element of Stockholm Syndrome that this introduces into the story does work for a crime drama, but absolutely does not for a romance. While rape fantasy is a recognized off-shoot of the romance genre, it is rarely as brutal as this. So read Guilt/Pleasure's first official offering with that in mind, because no amount of beautiful artwork can fully erase the more unsettling parts of this grim and dangerous story.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : A
+ Beautiful art, a good air of foreboding is quickly established.
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