Hyakkiyakou Shou (Selected Pandemonium)
by Ima Ichiko
Ritsu is a high school student with unfortunate gift of supernatural sense inherited from his grandfather. Either it’s an unfinished business of his late grandfather or simply those who are attracted to his supernatural prowess; his life is surrounded with supernatural beings almost every time and everywhere. With the aid of his youkai subordinates and his cousins, he tries to make ends meet between his normal life and otherworldly life.
In a sense, I would say this is a “slice of life” of the horror genre, as it goes in chapters that could be read as standalone stories. This is not a manga in which the hero has certain mission to accomplish. This manga describe a very down to earth approach on how people with such ability live, and how their ability affects their way in interacting with other people. In each story, Ritsu is not always the hero that saves the day. He could be the unlucky passerby who happens to interact or attract the other being, and even in some stories his sole purpose is how to escape the situation intact. To me, “The Ceremonial Guests” – the prologue story – is a story that summarizes and sets the tone of the whole volumes. I like that the horror does not lie in the thrill of exterminating youkai, but more in the unpredictability of the situation itself. The boundaries between worlds are so blurry sometimes that before you know it you have already step your feet on the other world.
As a story with surrealistic theme, it has very realistic characters. Ritsu’s portrayal as somewhat secluded (if not creepy) person and lacking in real-life achievement is very normal. I mean, how would you expect to be able to concentrate if every 5 minutes there seems to be youkai diverting your attention, asking you to do this-and-that or simply trying to lure you to their tricks? The youkai character is also interesting. They are depicted with as little sentimental attachment to their human masters. Their bond is simply based on the fact that the certain human is able to defeat them, so in order to not to be killed they devoted themselves to the human. My personal favorite is Blue Storm (Ritsu’s guardian). When being asked by Ritsu if Blue Storm ever wanted to kill him despite his oath, he answered: “My pact is with your grandfather, so if there is anyone I want to kill, it’s him”.
As always, Ima Ichiko never fails me with her thorough characterization. Though in Hyakkiyakou Shou there might be little development, since there is no grand plot in which to put the chapters in a specific conclusion. But I would not mind if this goes on, since Hyakkiyakou Shou is a enjoyable manga to read. If there is any downside, it is the art. Having read many of her manga, her characters is hardly bishounen and bishoujo. As avid manga reader, I admit not finding a handsome guy/girl on the cover of manga is quite a turn-down for prospective readers. Again, Ima Ichiko is classified as “josei”, so the lack of bishounen is forgivable. Anyway, the overall background illustration – the house, the kimono, the youkai – is very nicely done.
It has been years since I’ve been reading this manga, but due to my personal preference not to review ongoing series, it stayed on my shelf as “to be reviewed” until very recently. Partly because I think if it is still ongoing after 23 volumes or so in Japan now, I think not much of the storyline will change so it is safe to review it as it is. If you like horror manga and are tired of over-prolonged manga with grand plot that does not seem to be finished anytime soon, Hyakkiyakou Shou is a good distraction.