In the curious town of Utsuwa, where spirits know as ayakashi roam, lives Yue, a sheltered boy born and raised at the local shrine. On the night of the winter festival, Yue descends the mountain for the first time and encounters two boys. Though Yue wants nothing more than to become friends with his new acquaintances, Mikoto, the master of the shrine who rules over Utsuwa, declares that Yue must choose one of the boys as his “Meal”! Faced with this incomprehensible decision, what will Yue do?!
Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi Volume 1
Story by HaccaWorks; Art by nanao
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
I love titles with yokai, so I was very interested in Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi when it was announced, and the mystery element only added to it. But there can be too much of a good thing, as the mystery elements overshadowed everything else, leaving me to ponder what I had just read instead of making me excited for the next volume.
Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi revolves around Yue, a boy who has been living a sheltered life at the local temple, so much so that he doesn’t know what money is when he tries to buy something at the town’s Winter Festival. It is his first time among humans, which look like shadowy fox beings to him, until he meets Akiyoshi and Tsubaki. He is drawn to them, and spends the remainder of the volume trying to befriend them.
The three boys, Yue, Tsubaki, and Akiyoshi, are interesting in their own ways. Yue is the most likable. His innocence about the world is sweet without being annoying. He truly wants to be friends with the other two, and worries about what making a “meal” of one of them really means. Akiyoshi comes off as the comedy relief. He is overprotective of Tsubaki to the point of looking like a stalker, and is constantly getting into arguments with Kurogitsune, Yue’s guardian who appears as a black dog or fox. Tsubaki is the aloof boy who is caught between them. He is rather distant with his classmates, but very warm and affectionate to his little sister.
All three boys have their own mysteries surrounding them as well. Yue is the main mystery with lots of questions surrounding him. Who is he? Is he human or yokai? Why doesn’t he know about the “meal,” and why doesn’t anyone want to tell him? Akiyoshi is the son of a local priest, and his obsessive protection of Tsubaki even though they don’t appear to be friends is strange. Yue inspires in Tsubaki memories of a man who appears to be a shrine priest, that he had a relationship with but is now gone. Even the town Utsuwa is shrouded in mystery, as it seems invisible to the rest of the world, and the temple yokai talk of a “he” who may be awakening. And then there are the “spiriting away” of people in the town.
And herein lies the problem I had with this volume. There are too many mysteries being thrown out at once. The mysteries of the boys and the disappearances would be enough to start. Add in the mystery of the town itself and the unknown “he” and things get overly complicated. This title is based on a visual novel, so the abundance of mysteries is understandable, but too much was crammed into this first volume.
The art by nanao is pleasing. All the boys are appropriately good-looking, and most of the yokai are easy to identify by their eyes. I really liked the way humans are portrayed through Yue’s eyes. They appear as dark fox-like figures dressed in clothes and standing upright. It emphasizes how different his perception is from the others.
Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi is intriguing enough that I will come back for volume 2. Yue and his friends are all likable enough, and I love a good mystery. I just wish this title had held some back for a slower roll out.