It's all about the necrophiliac photographer cowboy. No, really.
Writer/Artist: Youko Nitta
Translation: Sachiko Sato
Adaptation: Sachiko Sato
What They Say
Kaname Otonashi is gifted with a super-hearing ability, so much so that he can even hear voices from the "other side" - the dead. Having once worked as a top-notch detective specializing in Sound Engineering Investigation, Otonashi resigned to work as a private investigator. His partner, Yasuhide collaborates with the police department to take on unsolved and mysterious cases.
Surrounded by a string of mysterious deaths, the police turn to Kaname's findings to identify suspects... but can Kaname handle the non-stop screaming of the dead?
Youka Nitta's art, usually so vibrant, is surprisingly lifeless here. The character designs are attractive and the drawings clean, but there's no energy within them. Otodama is not an action title where dynamic activity splashed on the page would be expected, but its pretentions as a cerebral police procedural shouldn't mean that it just lie there flaccid on the page either. The dialog reads well and the reader will be encountering a lot of it since this title tells the readers rather than shows them.
As on-line read, discussion of presentation quality is outside the scope of this review.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Kaname Otonashi is an acoustical analysis genius and a former audio researcher with the police who, though an undisclosed incident within the department that forced him to resign, now operates as a private investigator with his former department partner, Yasuhide (Hide) Nagatsuma. Much of the early volume is taken up with describing Otonashi's particular gift(?) for hearing the voices of the dead, its utilization, and those measures that he takes to protect himself from the ambient assault on his sensibilities. Much of this is done via some very dry exposition. And because of the necessity to cocoon himself from the outside, Otonashi doesn't make much of an impression in these first chapters, not that he makes much of one later either. For all of his purported idiosyncrasies, he's rather dull. A bit more energetic is Hide, the more active member of the partnership. It's Hide who does most of the legwork and is the liaison with the police department where his older twin brother is superintendent.
In their capacity as private investigators, they also interact with and for the police, and this volume has them taking on the search for a serial killer. The mangaka gets credit here for attempting a more complex mystery than would be expected. Seasoned mystery readers will see through the "red herrings" right away, but those new to the genre could find some surprises. (Although some things will surprise everybody since they're completely unmotivated and seem to come out of nowhere.) The cases in this volume are mostly complete with the mangaka adding to the intrigue with hints on Otonashi's dismissal from the force. And, of course, there is the matter of necrophiliac (purported), photographer and cowboy, Shoei Kodama, a shadowy figure who has designs on the person and/or life or Otonashi. Youka Nitta tantalizes the reader with this character and his motives for pursuing Otonashi. It's a good thing, too, because this is about the only thing that Otodama: Voice from the Dead has going for it.
Hercule Poirot has his "little grey cells", Nero Wolfe has his orchids and never leaves his apartment, and Philip Marlowe is streetwise, cynical, and lives in L.A. Mystery writers have always given their detectives personality quirks, flaws and distinctions that motivated and assisted their work and made them memorable. It's not that making Otonashi an genius audio researcher cursed with aural hypersensitivity is such a bad idea, it certainly sounds good (ha!) on paper. However, Youka Nitta doesn't really deliver the goods here. She certainly uses sound clues to develop her mystery, but one has to wonder whether this approach is all really necessary. Since the reader can only be informed of these clues from the characters themselves and doesn't get a revelatory experience, it all seems distanced and second-hand, much more of a gimmick than an integral part of the mystery. And having Otonashi secluded and disconnected from so much of the action is more suited to a supporting character, not one of the leads, all of which doesn't help with the chemistry between Otonashi and Hide. There isn't any.
There is, at least, some satisfaction in the supporting cast. In addition to the kinky Shoei Kodama, there is Tadashiki, a smart and beautiful woman who provides a more psychiatric approach to the department's detective work She certainly knows how to put the elder Nagatsuma in his place, something she does frequently and with style.
This is a nice departure from boys' love for Youka Nitta. Even though the attempts at layered and nuanced plot comes off as obvious and unmotivated at times and the aural sensitivity thing forced and shoe-horned into the basic plot, it does lay the groundwork for a solid series if the mangaka can get Otonashi into a more active lead position and demonstrate that Hide has some kind of meaningful connection to him. Youka Nitta fans will find this interesting.