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by Rebecca Silverman,

Mysterious Disappearances

Volume 1 Manga Review

Mysterious Disappearances Volume 1 Manga Review

There are many signposts in this town, but the one that should concern everyone is the simple yellow diamond with a single exclamation mark on it. Not that everyone can see them as they proliferate in ever greater numbers, but these signs mark where a Mystery has taken place. Ren and Oto Adashino, siblings from another world, can see them, and Ren is trying to investigate the Mysteries that cause them. Things get personal when his coworker Sumireko falls prey to a book of poetry that functions as a grimoire, cursing her with the ability to de-age herself. At first, this seems like a treat to Sumireko, but Ren knows that every Mystery comes with a price…

Mysterious Disappearances is translated by Deniz Amasya and lettered by Brendon Hull, with an adaptation by Molly Tanzer.


What does the original manga version of Mysterious Disappearances offer that the anime does not? Nipples. Specifically, Sumireko's nipples, in both adult and child forms. (Notably, in her youngest form, they're less detailed.) This may seem like a silly thing to mention, but in all honesty, it makes the fanservice work a lot better because it adds just enough realism to Sumireko's overlarge breasts to make them feel less gratuitous. Make no mistake, they're still there for prurient reasons, and it could be argued that the addition of nipples makes that more obvious. But what can I say? Nipples exist on breasts, and I like that creator Nujima took the time to put them in. And now that I've talked about nipples more than I'd ever anticipated in a review, let's move on.

One of the more striking elements of the manga compared to the anime (which beat the manga into English-language print, at least in graphic novel form) is that the focus is more on Ren Adashino than Sumireko. She's still a significant part of the story, but the manga clarifies that Ren is the protagonist, while Sumireko is the Watson to his Holmes. This allows us to see very early on that his easygoing persona at work is just that: an act he puts on while working in a local bookstore. He leans into Sumireko's assumption that he's at least ten years younger than her, playing it up alongside a goofiness that may be a part of his genuine personality but isn't normal. He seems much more comfortable when he's with his sister Oto or actively investigating a Mystery because both of those are when he's working towards his goal, which, as of this volume, appears to be buying tickets to Darkness, the otherworld where he and Oto seem to originate.

The station he's buying tickets from is important: it's Kisaragi Station, an urban legend in Japan. The mysterious station was first mentioned in a 2chan post in 2004. It has since been used in multiple forms of entertainment, including a film in 2022 and the Otherside Picnic franchise, where the heroines encounter a troop of American soldiers stationed there in the otherworld they're exploring. The station appears to be staffed by a tiny manatee (or sea mammal of some stripe; the art makes it hard to tell), who presides over the ticket booth from beneath a dangling noose. The station's sign is mirrored when seen from the outside, with the text backward, and although it is hinted at, it's uncertain whether the Adashino siblings are living there. If they are, the bunkroom-style living space indicates either a past as a bomb shelter or that the station has been serving as a hostel between worlds. Also worth noting is that the first conversation between Ren and Sumireko is about her reading up on Kisaragi Station, which he pooh-poohs as an urban legend.

However, he can't keep hiding his legend-powered world from Sumireko. She is given a "reverse shoplifted" book (a text shelved at a store that doesn't stock it) that turns out to be a powerful grimoire. Sumireko's backstory as a child author who won acclaim at age fifteen but hasn't been able to publish a book since makes her unusually receptive to the book's curse: it can regress her body back to childhood. Since her sense of self-worth and writing ability are intrinsically tied to her childhood, this effectively lifts the blocks in her mind against writing; she's concluded that she can only write good books if she's valued for her youth. When she's in a child's body, she can suddenly summon her creativity again – but as Ren tells her, she's not actually de-aging, she's forcing her body mass into a smaller package. And that, as you might expect, is dangerous. The story, which makes up the first two chapters of the volume, is an interesting discussion about how youth is valued, how damaging that can be, and whether Sumireko is willing to die for her young body and art.

The second story, which only officially starts in the fourth and final chapter (although the third is very much leading up to it), brings Ren's sister Oto more firmly into the story. She has noticed the tell-tale signs of a Mystery like Sumireko's book around her school—literal signs, as victims' falls are marked by yellow warning signs, which Ren sends Sumireko in to help since it's a girls' school. We don't know much about the Mystery apart from the fact that it causes victims to drool rivers before collapsing, but it seems to be tied to Uname-sensei, a teacher at school who sees bullies around every corner, whether they're there or not. Like Sumireko's writing issues, Uname's too-credulous bully-hunting seems to come from someplace inside her; she's painted as the over-eager young teacher trying too hard to do her best and tripping over her own feet in the process. Since some jokes have a fine line between funny and hurtful, this should be an interesting case to follow to the end, especially when determining if Uname's motives are as self-serving as Sumireko's desire to hold onto her youth.

The art of the book is good, although it can be deliberately off-putting with Ren and Oto's odd eyes and the use of bodily fluids. There is fanservice, largely just of Sumireko, but it feels like the anime adaptation decided to dial that up to an eleven while the manga flirts with it. The camera angles are much less sexualized, and Sumireko's clothes only burst off of her once, which means that those interested in the story but turned off by the fanservice of the anime may be happier with the manga. Nujima isn't the greatest artist, but they do a good enough job, and the book is easy to follow.

Mysterious Disappearances' first volume probably won't blow you away. But it is an interesting premise, and the way it plays with urban legend and classic Japanese literature in Sumireko's chapters hopefully hints at more interesting usages to come. It may not leave you screaming for volume two, but it makes you want to read it, and that's not bad.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-

+ Interesting use of urban legends, tantalizing hints about the Adashino siblings. Feels a bit less sexualized than the anime.
Art sometimes has trouble with perspective, Ren and Oto's eyes are off-putting. Transition between two plots is a little clunky.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Nujima
Licensed by: Seven Seas Entertainment

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