Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Night Beyond the Tricorner Window
Mikado works in a bookstore, trying hard to ignore the dead people he sees on a regular basis, mostly because they scare him. He becomes unable to ignore them, however, when a man named Rihito Hiyakawa comes to the store, looking to hire him to help with his “cleaning” business – Hiyakawa is an exorcist, but he needs Mikado's sight to truly succeed. Against his inclination, Mikado ends up working with Hiyakawa on cases both private and for the police, and the two men discover one very disturbing theme – multiple cases involving a girl named Erika Hiura. But just like Hiyakawa, there's more going on with Erika than meets the eye, and Mikado may be in over his head in far too many ways.
The Night Beyond the Tricorner Window is hardly Tomoko Yamashita's first English-language release. Other titles have been translated by DMG and Netcomics, but this one, slated to (as of this writing) soon receive an anime adaptation along with a live-action film, seems to be regarded as her best. Whether or not that's true, it is a fascinating series that leans much more into mystery and horror themes than romance, BL or otherwise, which may make it an easier read for those who aren't necessarily BL readers.
The story follows Mikado, a semi-hapless young man working at a bookstore. He has what some cultures refer to as The Sight, meaning that he can see ghosts, and he would give almost anything not to be able to see them. This is because, unlike the protagonists of most supernatural manga, Mikado is terrified of ghosts – the mere sight of one is enough to send him into a panic. In large part this may be due to the fact that to him, they basically look like the living; unless they met a violent end, ghosts aren't gruesome at all. Unfortunately this has put him in the position of looking like a weirdo to others, and when that starts in middle or high school, it becomes ingrained in your view of yourself. Fortunately Mikado does have a clever workaround: he's near-sighted, but if he takes his glasses off, ghosts remain perfectly clear, no matter what distance they are from him. He'd much rather have the world be a comforting blur than not know if the person he's looking at is alive or dead.
Sadly for Mikado, but fortunately for the story, his days of avoiding the supernatural come to an end in chapter one, when a man named Hiyakawa solicits his help. Hiyakawa is a self-taught (he claims) exorcist, and his spiritual gifts do not include sight as sharp as Mikado's. They do, however, include the ability to project his spirit and to join it with Mikado's, enabling the two of them to share their psychic powers. Even better for the author, it allows her to indulge in a truly impressive amount of double-entendres that make it sound a lot like Hiyakawa and Mikado are talking about having sex when they discuss sharing skills. This, and the attached discussions about how good soul-touching feels, are about as far as the BL elements go in these three volumes, at least in terms of the obvious. That does not make Hiyakawa's increasingly possessive attitude towards Mikado any less creepy, of course – it just isn't overtly romantic at this point. Rather, it feels like the clearest sign that Yamashita gives us that Mikado has gotten in way over his head in being involved with Hiyakawa at all.
Who is Hiyakawa, and what's his actual deal? This becomes the central question as these three books unfold, and it is enough of a mystery to keep the story moving all on its own. Hiyakawa admits that he doesn't know himself in the third volume, and that could be for any number of reasons right now. But if we take Erika Hiura as the base example of a character with more to her than meets the eye, the possibilities do become a little frightening. Erika's name first surfaces when Hiyakawa and Mikado investigate a serial killer for the police and stumble across her as a person of interest the cops can't look into due to lack of evidence; later she turns up during a private investigation of a girl at a local girls' high school who has been cursed. But Erika isn't so much inherently bad as she is at the mercy of bad people, and her handler in the cursing business, a man known only as The Professor, could have ties to one of our leads as well. Could Hiyakawa have been in a similar position at some point? Or is he actually the dangerous individual a fortune teller warns Mikado he might be? The only things that are certain where he's concerned are that he's shady as hell, knows a lot more than he's saying, and is dangerously attached to Mikado for reasons he may not have fully disclosed yet.
That's not a combination that bodes well for Mikado, and the more dangerous (as in toxic and possessive) elements of the story almost all come from their relationship. While we can read it as romantic – and the wealth of double-entendres suggests that we're meant to – it also plays really well into the horror-mystery themes of the books, almost better than it works with the romance plot. (Unless, of course, your preferred flavor of romance is “dangerous.”) Because Hiyakawa's investment in Mikado is so tied to his vision, there's a sense that he may be using the pleasure of soul-touching less as a tool to tempt him into a romantic relationship and more as a means of binding Mikado to him for business purposes. Yes, he gets something physical from it as well and he does spend a lot of time touching him even when it isn't strictly necessary, but there's always an edge to this that suggests that he's more invested in what he can get from Mikado than in Mikado himself. That's what makes their partnership (if we can really call it that; there are a few things that should give us pause on that front) so alarming. Hiyakawa isn't really letting us know what's going on beneath his surface, and that risks putting Mikado in the same position Erika is in: forced to dance to the tune of someone who has everything but his best interests at heart.
The Night Beyond the Tricorner Window's first three books introduce us to a world where nebulous evils and curses lurk just beneath the mundane surface of the everyday world. It has a creeping terror element to it that eclipses both the mystery and romance plotlines while still having them be present enough to appeal to fans of both, with its greatest strength being the nagging feeling that if we could just find that one missing piece of information, we'd suddenly understand the big picture of what Hiyakawa is getting Mikado into. Whether you're normally a BL reader or not, this is a fascinating story and worth checking out before the anime (or the film) hits the screen.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ Strong mystery/horror plot, impressive use of double-entendres. Real sense that we've almost got the whole picture while still missing a major piece.
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