Mail Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, January 25, 2007
Release Date: Friday, December 01, 2006
Translated by:Douglas Varenas
Adapted by:Carl Gustav Horn
What They Say
Private detective Reiji Akiba has a theory about those awkward moments and weird coincidences we all encounter in life. They are actually encounters with the dead-their way of sending us a message. But you may not want to open such strange mail from beyond-not unless you can see the ghostly attachment, like Akiba can. And not unless you carry a gun that can kill what isn't alive, like Akiba's aptly named Kagutsuchi, "the tool between God and earth" . . . digging a divine grave to lay to rest the evil dead.
Somewhere between Duke Togo (Golgo 13) and Columbo lies private detective Reiji Akiba; a sleuthhound for the living, assassin for the dead souls who linger.
If you read Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, the packaging here is essentially the same; it's gorgeous. Cover designer Bunpei Yorifuji puts together another slick and unique cover, not just with using cardboard material but all the graphical elements as well. To go with the excellent cover design is outstanding print reproduction as well--sharp, distinct, and perfectly aligned.
Like KCDS, Yamazaki's artwork is very clean and well put together. His realistic character designs may be a bit flat, but the panels are filled with nice detail to give it depth. I also love the large, full page (and double page!) panels that he pulls off during the crucial moments; sometimes with great surreal style. He keeps the mood dark and creepy, with the illustrations perfectly matching the pace of the story.
SFX are translated using a glossary that contains the usual copious amounts of editorial commentary that is standard for a Carl Gustav Horn adaptation. So don't just ignore them and make sure to flip back to get some good info once in a while.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Somewhere between Duke Togo (Golgo 13) and Columbo lies private detective Reiji Akiba; a sleuthhound for the living, assassin for the dead souls who linger. Okay, so Reiji's dress and quirky personality definitely puts him more in the Columbo camp, but there are times when Reiji swoops in at the last moment with his 1939 revolver, named Kagutsuchi, loaded with specially inscribed bullets to bury the lost souls, much like aforementioned Golgo 13 only no political figures involved.
As you may have already surmised, the stories in MAIL are largely episodic and are mostly based on creepy urban legends or horror tales you most likely have already experienced. Check out Mail #5, a story very similar to The Ring only this time dealing with digital cameras. However, that's not to say Yamazaki's stories are not entertaining, as they most definitely are even with the predictability. No, this is neither your typical shock horror nor an edge of your seat thriller; it's just merely creepy. And with a little imagination, creepy can go a long way.
Two of the best stories actually are the ones where Reiji is only present at the very end as he jumps in Golgo style with his spirit gun. Mail #2 follows a new tenant as she discovers her apartment is haunted while reading a letter from the previous tenant. The story unravels slowly, in time with the letter, and it is because the reader is expecting the clichid black-haired ghost child to show up at any moment that makes it an engaging read. Mail #4 features a great car chase type sequence while a trunk-dwelling ghost terrorizes a female driver while she's driving on the highway, with Reiji showing up on his scooter to assist her via cell phone and make the kill.
Finally, the final chapter of the book does add a nice layer to Reiji with a bit of history about how he entered the spirit sleuthing business. Ghost stories are all well and good, but when you can actually create a character that is more than a 2D clichi, the stories are that much more enjoyable. As a bookend to this first volume, it leaves the reader wanting to know more about Reiji as well as his future endeavors.
MAIL is definitely the type of episodic storytelling that I would expect would do well in a primetime network TV slot. Everyone loves the supersleuth, the investigation, and of course, the catch, ala Columbo, right? That is essentially MAIL, only with a supernatural bent that has our detective sending the souls of the dead to the next world with his Kagutsuchi.
I think most will find that the stories in this first volume are definitely familiar, riffing off of urban legends and horror stories told in movies/books before, but in a way it works towards Yamazaki's favor. Knowing something possibly frightening is around the corner makes for a fun, engaging reading experience. And Yamazaki's clean artwork and moody, creepy sense of style really is just manga gravy. Good stuff!
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
Orientation: Right to Left