On a city night lit up by beautiful fireworks, office worker Megumi strolls the streets of Seoul without a care in the world…until she senses a stranger following her every footstep! When a greedy old woman named Gyouanja suddenly appears and tells Megumi to seek out a mysterious dancer at a pavilion, she heeds the crone’s words and finds herself in the midst of a ghastly showdown between light and darkness, shadow and substance. Does Megumi play a key part in this freakish and fantastic pageant…or is she simply losing her grasp on reality?
I’m not normally a fan of horror manga. I get squeamish seeing gore and internal organs spilling everywhere. But, I will make some exceptions. The work of Hideyuki Kikuchi is one such exception. I’ve been enjoying the Vampire Hunter D manga (for the most part), and this new title, Taimashin: The Red Spider Exorcist, seems to be heading in the same direction.
This first volume centers on ordinary office worker Megumi, who is being pursued through the streets of Seoul. She seems to have stumbled into the world of the supernatural as both her pursuers, and the man she seeks protection from, a dancer named Akamushi, are not human. The pursuers appear to be some sort of insect demons, who are led by a female bat demon. They appear human, but their shadows show their true nature. Akamushi is different in some ways. He is for the most part, a good-looking guy, except for one side of his face that is badly scarred. He uses a fan to try to hide the disfigurement, but more out of deference to other people than his own vanity. He has spider-like powers which he uses not only against Megumi’s pursuers, but also to keep track of her.
The story so far is intriguing. There is a mystery surrounding Megumi that seems to be tied to her fate. Something happened to her before she was being chased. There have been tantalizing hints dropped, just at the end of the volume, but still we know only as much as Megumi does. Why do the demons want her? And why is Akamushi so willing to protect her?
The characters are well written and developed, adding to the appeal of the mystery. Megumi has been a good lead so far. Even though she is constantly in need of saving from Akamushi, her reactions to her situation have been realistic. She doesn’t understand what’s happening to her, so she tries to write it off as a dream and return to her normal life with her boyfriend. She’s trying to keep ahold of reality as she knows it, despite all the supernatural things going on around her.
Akamushi has a lot in common with Kikuchi’s other character, D. He is mysterious and very powerful. Almost absolutely nothing is known about him so far, and it appears that he can not be killed. He seems to be working with the also-mysterious Gyouanja, who first directs Megumi to seek Akamushi’s help. She adds a bit of comedy relief to an otherwise intense story. She is willing to help, for a price and will even negotiate during a fight!
Art is well done. It’s very clean, without a lot of screentone, and all the characters are drawn realistically. Even the demons are recognizable as the creatures they are supposed to be. There isn’t a lot of gore. Mostly it’s just in the battle scenes, where body parts fly, but there’s nothing intense, unless you don’t like spiders. There is one scene of sexual torture. It’s not overdone, but neither is it necessary. But since this is written by Kikuchi, I guess it isn’t unexpected either.
I’m really interested to read more of Taimashin: The Red Spider Exorcist. The mystery surrounding Megumi and her fate, as well as finding out more about Akamushi keeps the interest level high. The horror aspects of the story seem more for atmosphere, and the gore is incidental rather than the focus. Even if horror isn’t your thing, I would give Taimashin a look. The story is worth the chance.