This next-to-last volume still pleases in spite of a few missteps.
Writer/Artist: Shin Mashiba
Translation: Gemma Collinge
Adaptation: Gemma Collinge
What They Say
Dreams on the menu in this volume: a childhood friendship that has lost its innocence, Kairi caught up in his own delusion, a sinister trap set for a Baku, an inn with deadly secrets, a sea of drowned memories, a mother's forgotten item, a man who can never leave the confines of an elevator, and Hifumi's family affairs.
As the penultimate volume in the series, volume 8 gives off closing vibes, and a few of the short stories comprising the nightmares brought to the Silver Star Tea House seem wanting, almost as if these stories weren't included earlier because they weren't up to expectation. After the variety and quality of the stories in volumes 6 and 7, a few of those in volume 8 are slapdash, nonsensical (even on Nightmare Inspector terms), and feel unfinished. And some of the stories in this volume seem a little more "out there" in terms of real world plausibility. This is something that the Nightmare series had navigated well; for all the oddities in the dream state, real world repercussions had sensible closure.
The opening tale, The Forty-Ninth Night...Madness, which could be called "The Three Faces of Souda", is interestingly explored in the dream state, but the neat resolution that one expects isn't there. The explanations that one expects weren't forthcoming and I have to admit to wondering how the outcome would be handled by the inhabitants of the Silver Star Teahouse in the real world. This is a story that one simply has to accept for what it does offer and suspend disbelief for the rest.
Nightmare Inspector has always had its share of silly stories to lighten up the tales of retribution for sins moral and ethical, and this volume has two of the silliest. In the first, "The Fiftieth Night...The Delirium's Owner", Kairi, the proprietor of this site where dreams are made reality, gets lost in the Delirium's many doors looking for a loo after a bout with a mightily upset stomach. (And no, I'm not kidding.) This sends Kairi's young assistant, Shima, into the real world to look for help from Hiruko. What transpires lets the reader in Kairi's powerful ability to fantasize, but the story has no real point and isn't really amusing enough to be able to get away without one. Even the chaotic and frenzied needs some sort of logic to connect with the reader. This story doesn't have it.
The second absurdity concerns Hifumi, the wealthy member of the baku "rumor group", who has taken up residence at the Silver Star Tea House to observe the Baku, and of course, be close to Mizuki. This story of Hifumi's arranged engagement to his doppelganger lets us in on the odd relationships in Hifumi's household, but at this late stage in the series, it seems to just take up pages rather than enrich the story. This would have been more successful introduced earlier and with subsequent elaboration. Hifumi has been an amusing and useful sidekick for Hiruko and it would have been nice to know more about him earlier in the series.
However, there are still enough stories of the type and caliber we have come to expect, so these small disappointments don't overwhelm. In "The Fifty-First Night...Flow", there is the return of Tsukishiro, a baku whose motives and modus operandi are miles apart for the strangely empathetic and upright Hiruko ("...you should go to the guy at the Silver Star Tea House. He's much more sympathetic than I am."). But Tsukishiro shows he's very the much the match for an usually deceptive dreamer and the results are satisfying.
Additional nightmares involve a haunted inn, a tale that will appeal to fans of the Nightmare Inspector's visual puzzles; a hairdresser with resentments of the past; a young woman with a compounded guilt; and an unusual May-December relationship.
After the excellent compilations and arc of volumes 6 and 7, this volume is a bit of a letdown . The stories are not as tight or neatly wrapped up as previously. But the tales are still entertaining if a bit uneven and the beautiful Taisho era inspired art never disappoints. Still highly recommended.