More visually inventive and cleverly told stories as well as a very rare happy ending.
Writer/Artist: Shin Mashiba
Translation: Gemma Collinge
Adaptation: Gemma Collinge
What They Say
For those who suffer nightmares, help awaits at the Silver Star Tea House, where patrons can order much more than just Darjeeling. Hiruko is a special kind of private investigator. He's a dream eater. And he'll rid you of your darkest visions - for a price.
WordsDreams on the menu in this volume: a treasure's whereabouts depicted in a manga, a destiny controlled by the roll of the die, a nursery rhyme that is more than just words, a neighbor whose walls keep crashing in, a dog being tormented, a girl who isn't sure of her true self, and a haunting photo that isn't what it seems.
The first thing to do with this book is just flip through the pages. The quality of the art is just as good as in previous volumes, but there's a difference here. Mashiba, driven by the demands of the stories, delivers some different art styles that not only present the respective objects, but shows them in the style the period demands. There is also an increased use of commingled 3D and 2D in the dream panels. Unlike some animation where mixing 2D and 3D has eye popping effect that doesn't reconcile visually, Mashiba makes these panels visually believable space, enhancing and distinguishing the other worldly quality of these panels. This series is consistently attractive and inventive.
Mashiba returns to the nightmare format for this volume, leaving readers somewhat up in the air with respect to the situation with Hiruko and Mizuki instigated by the baku, Tsukishiro, that closed out volume 6. However, readers will quickly put this behind them once they experience the two exceptional stories that open this volume. In the first, a man plagued by a recurring nightmare, triggered by a manga sent to him by an incarcerated friend, seeks Hiruko's help in resolving the conundrum that his dream presents. This involves Hiruko entering the dreamer's nightmare as usual, but the novelty here is that the dream Hiruko enters is a manga, and he enters in 2D format and in a style that would be expected of a comic of the period. This manga within a manga is elegant in concept and in execution. The puzzle itself is smart, and as often occurs in a Nightmare Inspector story, the resolution of the nightmare provides a measure of justice in accordance with this particular dreamer's guile.
In the second story, one that seems to be departure from the tenor of the typical Nightmare story, "The Forty-Third Night...Board Game", a dreamer presents Hiruko with a nightmare that manifests itself as a board game, emblematic of the dreamer's indecision about an important upcoming event. As he does in entering every nightmare, Hiruko plays Virgil to a Dante's particular version of Hell. However, in this dream, he really is more of a guide than a participant, revealing to the dreamer that, while certain unhappy events are inevitable, one's individual nature can change "fate". This is perhaps the only story in the series that presents a glimmer of hope to the dreamer and a very satisfying one.
Most of the individual dreams in the series are hells that are brought on the dreamer due to their own greed, selfishness, delusion or any number of human failings of character, and the resolutions meted out feel just and right even if one feels some sadness at their execution. Volume 1 presented an exception to this in that the nightmare involved an innocent child, a situation that Hiruko rectified in what seemed uncharacteristic at the time. "The Forty-Sixth Night" is another exception, but the dreamer is an animal, a stray Akita. (And yes, reference to the loyal Hachiko is not amiss here.)
Maru is a stray that had kept Natsuko Namatame's grandfather company for years, and upon the grandfather's death had come to experience nightmares, a situation that concerns Namatame's family. Much as Hiruko does, the reader will question why the family should care about a dog's dream, but after an initial suspension of disbelief, the story does justify itself and becomes a rare example in this series of how it's more important that the innocent not suffer than the guilty be punished. Hiruko (and Mashiba) provide Maru with a resolution that is a fitting reward for his faithfulness. Readers accustomed to the sometimes queasy justice of this series will be as happy as Maru at the outcome.
Additional Nights involve some lighter stories as well as one that has a very crafty puzzle cleverly depicted by Mashiba. Not to worry though, Mashiba ends the volume with the type of cautionary tale we come to expect.
Series readers will be very pleased with this volume; it feels as if Mashiba has upped the ante here with the type of story and how the story is artistically presented. This volume is surely a standout in the series. Highly recommended.