Title: Otodama: Voice From the Dead
Author: Youka Nitta
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (Doki Doki)
Volume: Volume 1 (of 3), $12.95
Vintage: 2007 by Shinshokan in Japan, February 2010 by DMP
Genre: Mystery, psychological
Kaname Otonashi has a heightened sense of hearing. This near superhuman sense is both a blessing and a curse. For some time, he used this skill as a member of the police force to help solve crimes. However, Kaname’s ears pick up more than just sounds too quiet for others to hear; he can hear the screams of the dead. Along with his partner Yasuhide Nagatsuma, Kaname was a well respected member of the force, and they solved an incredible amount of cases together. About three years ago, both Kaname and Yasuhide left the force after too much red tape caused them to fail and someone to die during a certain case. Now, Kaname is a sound man who creates master tapes of music, and Yasuhide runs his own investigation company called “Stalker Busters.” Yasuhide frequently comes to Kaname for assistance, and they work outside of the regulations of the police force, where Yasuhide believes he can act freely. Yasuhide’s recent case, however, crosses paths with a string of murders being investigated by the local police, forcing him to work with his twin brother, Senior Superintendent Nagatsuma, in order to save a woman’s life and stop the killer. Unfortunately, his only evidence that something is seriously wrong is a mysterious voice Kaname hears over a phone recording. Yasuhide believes him, but it’s not so easy to convince the police. They already have a suspect, after all – a reclusive photographer who always seems to be one of the first to spot a corpse, and whose home is filled with gruesome photos of them. Nagatsuma follows up regardless, and they are just in time to save the life of the murderer’s next victim. Realizing that Yasuhide is struggling to support himself, Kaname invites him to move in with him, which will also allow him to help on Yasuhide’s cases more often. There’s no time for things to settle down, however, as a strange email arrives in the inbox of several ranking police officers threatening action unless they recruit someone the sender is looking for. The department psychoanalyst, Superintendent Tadashiki, realizes the sender has some knowledge of Kaname, but before the link can be investigated further, Kaname is kidnapped by the strange photographer from the previous case. When Yasuhide returns home, he immediately realizes something is wrong and sets out on a desperate search to find his friend. Oddly, the photographer, Shoei Kodama, insists he kidnapped Kaname for his own safety, claiming that he is able to see the shadow of death in any location, though he cannot tell who will die there or when. Meanwhile, Yasuhide manages to find a lead, and quickly asks his brother for help in tracking down the owner associated with a license plate. Nagatsuma agrees to look up the information, but not to pass it along to Yasuhide, a civilian. Frustrated with the slow pace of the investigation when his friend’s life could be in danger, Yasuhide eventually takes things into his own hands and rushes off to Kaname’s rescue. Shoei’s true motivations are just beginning to be revealed when Yasuhide busts in and saves Kaname, but the case isn’t closed yet. It’s clear Shoei isn’t the terrorist sending the strange emails, and the true culprit is not someone anyone would expect.
It’s unfortunate that this book wound up buried in the bottom of a basket under other volumes of manga, because I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It’s about time I got around to it. Had I realized it was by the same creator as White Brand, I might have gotten to it sooner. Curiously, this volume was released in 2010, and no other volume of the series has been released sense. I shot an email to someone at DMP, and was told the second volume has not been licensed yet, but that they’re working toward it. This is good news! Because this book has some great character interactions, and I’m itching for more. Characters like Kaname are not exactly uncommon, but they’re usually written as weak (physically and emotionally) characters who can’t get by without a strong friend by their side (see: The Betrayal Knows My Name, Night Head Genesis). It’s true that Yasuhide comes to Kaname’s aid more than once in this volume, but Kaname isn’t completely useless without him, either. He’s kind of careless, and very susceptible to lingering emotions (specifically the voices of those who died tragically), which can result in a frequently weak disposition, but he also seems able to fend for himself. He’s also well built (meaning, not frail looking), and has no problem voicing his opinions, even when he’s in danger. He’s got on just fine for three years without Yasuhide around, too, after all, aside from the random interaction when Yasuhide comes to him for help. There’s no question that Yasuhide is the muscle, though, but Kaname is just as much an asset to him. Their friendship is rather nice; though Kaname obviously gets annoyed by Yasuhide’s loud and boisterous nature, he trusts him and values his company, if for no other reason than he knows Yasuhide is a pure person unclouded by the darkness that permeates so much of the world around him. To Kaname, whose heightened sense of hearing causes him immense grief, painful headaches, and sleepless nights, a man like Yasuhide, with no darkness swirling around him, is a breath of fresh air. Yasuhide is a genuinely good person. He’s also just about the only person who believes Kaname without question when he speaks of the things only he can hear, and he makes an effort to understand the pain this ability causes him. They’ve also been through a lot together. Whatever happened in their past, the event that made them cut their ties with the police force together, has forged an unbreakable bond between them. Yasuhide’s twin brother was also involved in that incident, and he carries the consequences of that even now. He believes in the regulations that must govern an organization like the police force, and he is not one to break or twist them for his own use. Unfortunately, going through the proper channels, while the official way to do things, isn’t always the fastest way. He struggles with his work ethic every time Yasuhide comes to him for help, wanting to help his brother, to make up for what happened in the past, but unable to compromise with the rules that bind him. To Nagatsuma, nothing should be done outside of these rules; he believes they’re in place for a reason. Yasuhide feels trapped by them, although Nagatsuma tries to impress upon him that there are some things he simply cannot do on his own. Limitations of working as a civilian without the resources of the police department. Youka Nitta works these main relationships very well, making them real, intense, and interesting to read about. Hopefully DMP will snag the license to volume 2 (and then volume 3!) soon.