Publisher: Yen Press
Author and Artist: Tomoki Izumi
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Mieruko chan, is a supernatural horror with some light dashes of comedy throughout to keep things from getting too dark. In this first volume we follow seemingly ordinary high school student, Miko Yotsuya as she goes about her daily life – which would be ordinary if it weren’t for the fact that she can see ghosts. Not just any ghosts either; these are terrifying monstrosities worthy of Junji Ito, and they appear with increasing frequency as the story progresses. These ghosts are drawn with startling detail and genuinely are quite scary to look at, even when you’re expecting them. They’re drawn in high contrast compared to the more gentle lines of the rest of the artwork, and this makes them stand out as being something completely other and out of place on the page. The ghosts are extremely diverse in nature too and despite how terrifying they look, each one has a lot of personality in their designs, even if they do very little other then look scary and moan.
The comedy then comes from Miko herself (the manga’s title actually being a pun on her name and the Japanese translation for ‘can see them), and her deadpan reactions to these ghosts. Deadpan only in appearance however – inwardly she’s freaking out but Miko reacts in the way she thinks best… by trying her best to not react at all. Her reasoning is that the ghosts only seem to cause harm if someone can see them and this theory is somewhat tested throughout the volume’s nine short chapters. Yes, the ghosts are invasively close and look aggressive but ultimately they do very little to Miko herself. You feel tense watching, feeling the fear that Miko obviously does but ultimately the ghosts themselves are there for the scare alone. Still, there always feels like there’s a very real threat of them attacking Miko and the people around her, especially given her best friend Hana is revealed to be something of a magnet for them. This goes some way to explain the sheer ridiculous number of apparitions that appear.
If the series looks somewhat familiar to you, it’s because Mieruko chan has also received an anime adaptation this season. The anime has already made a few changes to the order of events in the original source, but aside from an increase in fanservice scenes, it’s remaining pretty close to the atmosphere of the manga. It actually favoured a slow reveal in the first episode rather than leading with Miko being able to see the ghosts around her, which amped up the mystery and foreboding more.
In this first volume, the chapters feel rather short and there is more of a focus on small slice of life sequences and mini stories then a larger overarching storyline. Generally many of the chapters follow daily random occurrences that Miko deals with, from chatting with her friends at school to helping find an owner for a lost kitten. The latter in particular was one of the more memorable scenes which also showcased the message of not judging a book by it’s cover. It works well even set apart from the series as a whole, and many of the chapters within this don’t feel like they need to be read in any particular order at all. Despite the darker subject matter (really there is more horror, than comedy), it does keep the pacing quite light and breezy, breaking it down into small bite size chunks to digest. It also helps make the series something of an easy read and more enjoyable for that too. The final chapter in this volume however set up a surprisingly shocking twist which really tugged at the heart strings and it was a really strong end which made me more interested in carrying on the series.
The art style of this series works surprisingly great for both the slice of life and the more creepy elements – Miko’s facial expressions in particular are very well done. The side characters like Miko’s brother and the fortune teller who appeared in only a chapter each were also really very characterised, and despite the short length it manages to pack a lot into each of the volume’s chapters. Overall, this first volume of Mieruko Chan is off to a really strong start, and is a must for any fans of horror – that really is where the manga shines the most. Miko is a great protagonist and seeing her determinedly struggle to pretend the ghosts around her don’t affect her is really different from most other horror stories which makes her something of a unique lead. Whilst there doesn’t look to be a an overarching storyline at the current time, the vignettes we see are engaging and works well for this series.